Yankee & Kraut
Going into business with friends can lead to good things
Friday 12 July 2019
This article is from
Down the Danube
Share this article
When an American homebrewing fanatic and a German beer enthusiast started toying with the idea of opening a brewery, the first thing the American did was plan to enter a prestigious competition with his first ever dry-hopped beer.
Bryan France, the “Yankee” in Yankee & Kraut, had previously only perfected the beers he loved most – wheat beers, the toast of Bavaria. But then again, he’s never really done anything the conventional way. He started brewing at home in Reno, Nevada when he was just 17.
“It was pretty much impossible to get a decent Bavarian wheat beer in the US,” says Bryan. “I started making my own when I was 17, which is way below the legal drinking age, but I’d been trying all kinds of different beers since I was 13. My mum would help me get hold of them so I could try them.”
Of course, College came around, but for Bryan this meant even more opportunities to try beer. And where better for that in the USA than Colorado?
“When I went away to school in Colorado to study biology and chemistry, I did a bit of brewing but the culture there is insane. I more or less just enjoyed the beer there, rather than brewed it myself.”
“When I moved back home to finish my studies, that’s when I went insane with it. I went directly out and bought two chest freezers to convert – one for controlled fermentation and one for a six tap kegerator. This was all in my room at my parent’s house, and I usually had at least four beers of my own on tap.
“Then I moved out and rented a place, and I still always had a six beers on tap. It became a tradition to have everyone round for Sunday Fun Day, cooking some food and drinking the beer I’d made.”
Once Bryan’s studies were over, he had some serious future planning to do, and brewing had become way more important to him that he ever thought it would.
“I was supposed to become a dentist, but after travelling and making friends all over I decided to throw that idea out of the window. I moved to Ingolstadt in Bavaria where I could live on a friend’s couch for free. I learned German, got a job teaching English, and I’m still here now.”
That friend with the couch was Max Senner, who puts the “Kraut” in Yankee and Kraut. Bryan would talk about setting up bars or brewing for real and Max would go along with the fantasy, talking in more and more detail about the places they’d run and the beer they’d make.
Then one day, Bryan came to the end of his patience with his steady job.
“I said to Max, if we think we could do this, let’s just do it. And he said, ‘okay’. I called up the University of Weihenstephan the next day to join their brewing course and quit my job. That was that.”
That wasn’t enough pressure for a brewing virtuoso, however – that’s when Bryan decided to enter the prestigious brewing competition, run by a top German brewery, as per the recommendation of a guy on his course.
“Within the first two weeks someone convinced me to partner up with him to enter a competition. He told me it was good for experience and as he hadn’t really brewed much I didn’t think much of it and signed up. I found out later that it was a very formal comp at Weihenstephan Brewery.”
As you do. Later on, Bryan also found out that he had to present his recipe to the judges and sponsors – 30 minutes before he had to do so. Had he written one? What do you think?
“I wasn’t expecting any of it, so I kinda threw a recipe together and went down there. Luckily they liked it and we were allowed to take a place. After that we did well in the first round, and made it to the finals, which was the highest you could get in that comp.”
The recipe was for a dry-hopped IPA, the first Bryan had ever written, and the first beer of that style he’d ever brewed.
“It’s really absurd. When I was in the US, IPAs were developing. Having a ton of bitterness was the aim – people were trying to say they had 2000 IBUs even though we know that’s chemically impossible, and I didn’t like that. Once I moved over here I enjoyed getting more aroma from the hops and I liked that other breweries were experimenting with that too. It’s kind of embarrassing that I didn’t experiment with hops before I got here!”
Flauting the Reinheitsgebot
Yankee & Kraut started contract brewing on the 25th of February 2016. Now well into its third year, Bryan and Max have developed a few philosophies to live and brew by.
“We don’t want to brew anything we don’t want to drink,” says Bryan.
“Also, we don’t actively try to keep costs down – we overdo everything anyway, and we don’t want to skimp on anything. It keeps it fun.”
The pair are also committed to using local ingredients, from their malt to their hops, which are grown by a local farmer who’s even developing his own unique pellets to maximise the aromas Bryan and Max crave. On top of this, they almost have the pick of breweries they can brew at, in a part of the world that values beer highly.
It’s not always easy being a craft brewery in Bavaria though, as Bryan explains.
“It’s tricky. We’re actually from the Reinheitsgebot and trying to brew craft beer. The Reinheitsgebot is still law in Bavaria actually, so what we’re doing is often technically illegal. I could go to jail.
“It’s crazy actually, a bunch of synthetic things like PVPP (used for binding phenols) are allowed but wild strawberries – no effing way.”
Even so, Bryan’s ready to develop the brewery into bricks and mortar.
“We definitely want to build our own brewery, but we’re waiting until the perfect opportunity falls into our hands,” Bryan says. And despite his impressive beer credentials, both Max and Bryan split their workload right down the middle.
“Max studied something totally different, but he’s really smart and passionate, he picks it up quick and studies it all,” says Bryan. “For a partner who had nothing to do with brewing he’s developing recipes and really making great beer.”
“We’re great friends and usually you shouldn’t go into business with a friend, but I don’t think it would work with anybody else.”
Share this article