“Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.” – Napoleon Hill
A F-18 Super Hornet screams overhead as we walk from the parking lot into the White Labs yeast production facility. Being located across the street from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego (a.k.a. Fighter Town, USA - made famous by the movie Top Gun) already makes the typical run-of-the-mill industrial park a little more exciting. I’m not sure what to expect from a beer tasting at a company known for making yeast, but as a recent homebrewer, with only a couple not-very-good batches under my belt, I’m curious how to make my beers a little bit better.
I’m with my roommate David, whose idea it was to come here in the first place. While David helped me with brewing once, I could tell he was more interested in drinking the final product than learning the science behind it. To my surprise, the tasting room opens up to a 40-foot bar with no less than 30 taps on the wall behind it. There is a large menu of beers, all made on-site, separated by style. I’m fascinated as the bartender explains to me everything I didn’t know about yeast, which turns out to be everything: all yeasts are either ales or lagers… ales ferment at room temperature and tend to give off a fruity flavor, while lagers like to be cold and are more “clean” tasting…lager yeasts sometimes smell like rotten eggs when fermenting…the word lager means “to store…”
David has had enough of my questions and the bartender’s in-depth answers, and orders the Wheat Ale Flight. I get the hint that it’s time to start drinking and order the IPA Flight. The beers on each flight are exactly the same with the only varying ingredient being the yeast. Same grain, same hops. Each beer tastes completely different!
My mind is blown! The taste of clove in Belgian ales…the banana flavor in Hefeweizens…I’m hooked! We each get another flight. I’m on the third one down on a Lager sample board; the Mexican Lager Yeast.
“The best one yet,” I tell myself in a mumble under my breath.
As a homebrewer, lager beers are tougher to make since they require a dedicated refrigerator, and buying a fridge for something that you do a few times a year was not exactly in my grad school budget. So in my mind, I table the idea of using my new favorite yeast for a time when I have a little more means. But, the chase to find new beer flavors was just getting started.
Fast forward: It’s November 2017, and Able Ebenezer has been open for almost three and half years. Carl and I go through the financials and realize that we’re in a position to buy new brewing equipment. It took seven years, but finally, I have the means to buy that lager refrigerator. My excitement finally boils over with a “we should do a Mexican Lager!” Understandably, this is met with confused looks from everyone in the room. Hops and IPAs dominate most beer conversations these days.
Nobody knew that I’d often buy Mexican Lagers after work, or that it was a Mexican Lager yeast that fueled my desire to make beer in the first place. But once they saw how serious I was, they jumped on board. They could see that desire and wanted to be part of it.
I knew the traditional grain used and I had the yeast I wanted, but I needed help getting the lime-already-in-the-bottle flavor that I thought beers in the style lacked (nailed it with the right combination of hops). I also needed help coming up with name and story that conveyed a Mexican attitude that goes beyond relaxing on the beach. Needless to say, we - the Able Ebenezer team - pulled through.
From this experience I’ve realized that nothing is more infectious than desire. People are drawn to its authenticity. So go ahead and show it; chances are you'll inspire those around you and they'll help you take it farther than you ever could on your own.