Brewers Collaborate On Champagne Of Beers

The maker of Sam Adams beer and Germany's Weihenstephan Brewery have joined forces to create a champagne-style brew in time for the holidays. Guest host Mary Louise Kelly samples the beer — called Infinium — with Boston Beer Co. founder Jim Koch.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

Now, if you want to pick a fight with a beer lover, one surefire strategy is to start arguing the merits of lager versus ale or pilsner versus porter, bitter versus bock. Well, you get the picture.

But now, just in time for the holidays, comes word of the creation of a new style of beer. It's a champagne-like brew. And it's the result of a collaboration between The Boston Beer Company - that's the maker of Sam Adams -and Germany's Weihenstephan Brewery.

Now, here to tell us a little bit more and help us do a tasting is the founder of The Boston Beer Company. That's Jim Koch. Welcome.

Mr. JIM KOCH (Founder and Chairman, Boston Beer Company): Glad to be here.

KELLY: So you have been kind enough to send us a bottle. I'm looking at it. It's called Infinium. And we're going to crack it in just a minute. But while I'm still sober enough...

(Soundbite of laughter)

KELLY: ...to pose a couple of questions. I want to ask you how this came about. You claim that this is the first time in more than a hundred years that a new beer has been created that complies with something called the Reinheitsgebot. Explain.

Mr. KOCH: Well, the Reinheitsgebot is the foundation of Germany's brewing tradition and has protected the purity and integrity of German beer for 500 years.

And it's very simple. It says to make beer you can use only water, yeast, malt and hops - the four classic ingredients. And brewers in Germany and around the world have thought that that has presented a very narrow set of constraints and that all the beers that can be developed within that have already been discovered.

And my vision when I started this collaboration with Weihenstephan was that you could in fact create a new beer. And that's what Infinium became.

KELLY: Well, let's get to the good stuff. As I mentioned, you've sent us a bottle. I've got it here in front of me. This is - it is a wine-sized or champagne-sized bottle, I should say, 750 milliliters.

Mr. KOCH: Yeah, Infinium doesn't look like a beer when you're going to see it in the store. And don't look for a bottle opener when you get it. It opens like this.

KELLY: All right. Now it's a proper cork here.

(Soundbite of cork popping)

KELLY: Ah, you've got yours. Hold on. I'm going to do mine. Now, here, before I pop that cork, here's the key question. Are you pouring into a champagne glass or a beer glass?

Mr. KOCH: I'm pouring into a special glass that we designed for Infinium, and it's high and fluted like a champagne glass, but it has a little more volume as a beer glass would.

KELLY: So like an American-sized champagne glass.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KOCH: Yeah. It's the size of a champagne glass, but maybe a little bit bigger.

KELLY: All right. Well, we brought both. We're taking this seriously. So I'm going to pour now. Hold on. Here it comes.

(Soundbite of cork popping)

(Soundbite of liquid pouring)

KELLY: Now, I'm looking at this. This is a pale golden in color.

Mr. KOCH: Yup. Before you drink it, of course, you're going to want to inhale the aroma, as you know.

KELLY: Obviously, obviously. And what am I smelling?

Mr. KOCH: I get a lot of fruit, some apple, pear. And then I get some orange fruit, mango, apricot, maybe a little soft citrus note.

KELLY: All right. Well, here we go. Prost. Definitely does have that fruity sweetness. And we should note this packs quite a punch. This is 10.3 percent alcohol. That's more than double a normal beer.

Mr. KOCH: Yeah. The alcohol - and really the entire sensory experience - is more like what people would associate with champagne.

KELLY: It sounds like from this description you're not going for the manliest beer here. I mean, this is not a beer that's ever going to win over Americans who when you say beer they say Bud Light.

Mr. KOCH: Yeah. This is not a beer that, you know, you wish it came in a can that you could crush on your forehead.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KOCH: This is a different experience. This takes beer into the realm of sparkling wine.

KELLY: Well, I have to say I kind of like this, although I'm a fan of champagne myself. And, you know, beer or champagne, you know, drinking during the work day is not something that most people would turn down. So this has been a lot of fun. Thanks so much for taking the time and for raising a glass with us.

Mr. KOCH: Oh, it's no problem. I don't have to do this sober.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KOCH: Thank you for your time.

KELLY: That's Jim Koch. And he's the founder of Boston Beer Company. The new beer Infinium hits stores next month.

(Soundbite of music)

KELLY: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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