Riegele and Sierra Nevada to start brewing collaboration

Bavarian brewing tradition meets Californian craft powerhouse: Riegele is the first German brewing collaboration partner of American craft  beer heavyweight Sierra Nevada. Helmut Adam spoke with Riegele’s marketing manager Sebastian Priller about the planned collaboration brews.

On our sister site Brew Berlin, we reported a few days ago about the plans of famous Californian Sierra Nevada brewery to develop a greater presence in Germany. We had met brewery ambassador Steve Grossman together with a few other German and Scandinavian beer aficionados and distributors for lunch in Berlin, where he told us that they were actively looking for collaboration partners in Germany. The question of who would be the first partner for joint brews, is now answered. It is not, as many may have expected, a German craft beer start-up, but a traditional Bavarian brauhaus instead.

Riegele and Sierra Nevada first got in touch back in 2001, when the Riegele team visited the craft beer brewery in California. Talking about this experience Riegele’s Priller is still amazed what kind of brewing volume in the US still passes for “craft”. While for Californian imbibers Sierra Nevada may be old news and a younger generation of beer drinkers may even consider the brand to be mainstream, it has a different image in Europe. Here, where American craft beer still is hard to get, Sierra Nevada is considered a flagship brand for the entire craft segment.

Yeast Experts Among Themselves

Riegele proudly announced this week on their Facebook page that Sierra Nevada founders Ken and Brian Grossman had spent days in Augsburg, tasting their way through “the whole Riegele range” as Riegele marketing manager Sebastian Priller explained. According to Priller the Americans were particularly fond of the heavily hopped Augsburger Herrenpils. Apparently the Bavarians and the Californian quickly found out that they had a lot in common. Both breweries “measure the degree of activity in the yeast” in order to derive the quantity of yeast required for an upcoming brew. Something “very rare in the industry”, says Priller.

The plans for a collaboration, according to Priller, started six months ago. Together they will now develop a typical Bavarian festival beer in the United States in early summer, similar to the Riegele Commerzienrat Privat,  an “ur-Bavarian style that is very little known in the United States.” The name of course is still a secret. The German craft beer lovers will miss out on this one, unless they travel to California. But in return “something with intensive barrel aging” will happen in Augsburg to hit the German market. “Sierra Nevada has a lot of experience in this area”, says Sebastian Priller.

Added Value For Both Partners?

Why did Sierra Nevada choose Riegele? Among the traditional German breweries Riegele is definitely one of the most innovative. You can find them exhibiting their Brauspezialitäten range at craft beer festivals right next to the flashy labels of young German start-ups. It’s not a huge brewery though and distribution is far from national in the home market. You still need to go to specialists stores if you want to buy Riegele in cities like Hamburg or Berlin. For the Augsburg family business the collaboration with Sierra Nevada definitely will mean a massive publicity boost.

Sierra Nevada on the other hand will develop more presence in Continental Europe. Steve Grossman was talking to a number of German distributors on his visit to Berlin from what we heard. He didn’t return our mail when we reached out to him about the Riegele collaboration. A distribution deal seems unlikely though. Riegele’s Sebastian Priller was eager to emphasize, that the partnership for this year was just about brewing.


Foto: Foto via Sierra Nevada & Riegele; Postproduction: Tim Klöcker