Brewed by Aggies, for Aggies

SUDWERK BREWING CO. / COURTESY

Introducing Gunrock Lager, the official beer of UC Davis

Just in time for the warm weather, UC Davis is introducing Gunrock Lager, the school’s own beer. Developed by the UC Davis Brewing Program and UC Davis athletics in partnership with Sudwerk Brewing Company, the beer will be served at athletic events, local restaurants and at the Sudwerk Dock Store in Davis starting this spring.

Trent Yackzan, the operations manager of Sudwerk Brewing company, has worked closely with the university in developing Gunrock Lager.

“We actually did a version of the beer a couple years ago, a limited release called Aggie Lager,” Yackzan said. “It was the first collegiate brewed beer in America, super successful, but we grew apart from making it. We wanted to bring it back with a new label and a new recipe.”

This project was a collaboration between Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences Charlie Bamforth, UC Davis alumni Doug Muhleman and Jack DeWit, UC Davis athletics and Sudwerk Brewing Company. Bamforth is currently out of the country and was unable to interview for this article.

Doug Muhleman, the former vice president of Anheuser-Busch brewing operations and technology, a Sudwerk partner and a UC Davis alumnus, formulated the recipe for Gunrock Lager.

“First, we wanted to come up with a beer that was refreshing, the kind of beer you think about when you go to a football game or a basketball game,” Muhleman said. “We wanted to make a beer that was appropriate for a sporting event.”

The main goals of Gunrock Lager were to develop a beer that gave back to the university and the community while sourcing local ingredients. Alumnus Jack DeWit, who is a local Yolo county rice farmer, donated the rice needed to brew the lager.

“We decided to make a classic American-style beer with the main ingredient, barley, and a small percentage of rice as part of the total recipe,” Muhleman said. “That produces a beer that’s a little lighter on the palate, great for refreshment for going to a game on a hot day, that kind of idea.”

Yackzan explained the reasoning behind choosing a lager for the university beer.

“The main two types of yeast beer are ales and lagers, [Sudwerk] focuses primarily on lager beers,” Yackzan said. “Lagers are generally fermented low and slow, lower temperature, slower fermentation time. From the day we brew to the day we package [it’s] upwards of like 35 days. Ales on the other side are a seven to 14-day beer and are fermented at a warmer temperature over a shorter period of time. Ales are bolder in flavor whereas lagers are more subtle, crisp and clean.”

Muhleman used his classic 15-gallon home brewery to test and develop the recipe.

“I utilized the yeast we use to make Sudwerk lager beers, a special strain of yeast, and I made several different batches until I was happy with the result,” Muhleman said. “The beer itself is made with North American malting barley, Yolo county rice and some classic German hop varieties. It’s a lager, so it’s aged in cold temperatures for several weeks before it’s filtered and packaged.”

Muhleman completed his undergraduate and graduate education at UC Davis before entering a career in brewing.

“I’ve been involved with UC Davis really since I left as a student,” Mulheman said. “It has been a lot of fun working on something like this and taking it back to campus. I don’t expect for Sudwerk, from a commercial standpoint, that this is a big money maker for us. It’s really more an opportunity to continue our collaboration with UC Davis and give back to the local community.”

Sudwerk has been in partnership with UC Davis’s brewing science department since 1995 with the creation of the world-renowned Master Brews Extension Program.

“The UC Davis master brewing course is held every year in the Sudwerk brewing complex,” Muhleman said. “So we work with the students at that level and then we collaborate with the folks on campus with brewery projects, and have been over the years.”

In addition to this educational partnership, Sudwerk and the DeWit family are giving back to the school in the form of an athletic scholarship.

“The value of the rice given by the DeWit family, means that instead of the brewer paying for that ingredient, they are giving the money to the school directly,” said Rocko DeLuca, the deputy director of athletics. “It’s pretty unique given that there are not many schools that have a branded beer out there. I think it speaks to the importance, to the value that we are trying to insure which is giving back to the school.”

Aside from differing recipes, the key difference between Aggie Lager and the new Gunrock Lager is the university branding, which includes the beloved mascot Gunrock.

“We wanted to start something sustainable, over the course of time, something to help build our brand,” DeLuca said. “We just wanted to make sure that we had the right partner and having ‘Go Ags’ and Gunrock our mascot associated with the beer.”

The lager had a soft roll out for basketball season, only being served in draft form. This will continue through baseball season with an official retail release scheduled for late spring, where it will also be sold at local restaurants and grocery stores.

 

Written by: Grace Simmons — features@theaggie.org