Fresh beer is better. Exporting beer to Europe from Kentucky takes weeks to accomplish, and quality control concerns led Against the Grain Brewery to introduce a European line of beers that will be brewed in Hagen, Germany.
Brewmaster and co-owner Jerry Gnagy told Insider they would can the beers on Wednesday, ship on Thursday, and it would be about five weeks for the beer to make its way to European shelves.
But when the owners traveled to Europe to drink the beer, they found the quality just wasn’t there. The beer did not stay fresh enough to maintain the quality the brewery wanted.
“It was just not good enough,” Gnagy says. “A Beer is the light style they would want, but it would never survive the ocean voyage. In this day and age, you can’t do that anymore. Five or six years ago, American brewers could send garbage, and people wouldn’t know any different.”
And so, versions of beers known in America as A Beer and Pile of Face will be brewed at Vormann Braueri, located in Hagen, just outside of Düsseldorf. A Beer has been reimagined as Plus One, while a Pile of Face “clone” will be called Neoanderthal. Plus One is an American pale ale, while Neoanderthal is an American IPA.
Like their American counterparts, both beers will contain German hops — a happy coincidence, Gnagy says — and other similar ingredients. But everything else will be different, at least from an image and marketing standpoint. The products inside the packages will be very similar, although not identical, to the beers brewed and sold here in America.
These are the first of a series of Against the Grain beers that will be brewed and distributed in Europe, and true to brewery’s tradition, the packaging will have its own unique flair. Each beer will serve as a sort of introduction to American styles, and each will represent an American landmark, such as the Statue of Liberty or the Grand Canyon.
A fictional tour guide, called Touri (who has a back story Gnagy says cannot be revealed), will lead beer drinkers through their American beer journey, while also playfully poking fun at them along the way.
“You will find her becoming more and more frustrated with the antics of these stereotypical characters,” Gnagy explains. “They are what an American would view a stereotypical European might do in America.”
Originally, Gnagy simply planned to keep the names and brands intact, but a distributing partner talked him out of it, noting that beer enthusiasts will inevitably compare the two. The advice turned out to be valuable.
“It’s kind of opening a lot of doors with some distributors in other countries,” says Gnagy. “I would never have tabbed Austria, but it makes sense for them now. It’s kind of an interesting way to increase our production without producing any more. We have beer we are proud of in places where we can’t send it.”
Part of the European production arrangement is that Against the Grain will begin contract brewing a line of German beers, which will be marketed under the brand name Gegan de Stram, which loosely translates to “against the stream.”
The brewery will work with the Shelton Brothers’ Freigeist brewery on that project. Most, if not all, of those beers will be smoked versions of German styles.
There’s no set plan yet on when new styles of Against the Grain Europe beers will be rolled out to continue the American beer journey concept.
“I’m going to see how the first ones go,” Gnagy says. “I want to play on what we do a lot of. First of all, we’ll do double IPA. They need a good one, and they need one that’s Against the Grain.”