Welcome to the Steroid Era

Baseball fans, remember the late ’90s when home runs were blowing out of ballparks at record rates, thanks to the bulging arms of the Bash Brothers, Sosa, and the king Barry Bonds? Purists hated the Steroid Era, but real fans just sat back and enjoyed the fun. Well, we’re bringing the Steroid Era to beer! 

Over the past few years, there have been a number of new innovations on the market for brewers to play with, including tetra hops, cryo hops, and special enzymes to manipulate residual sugar! Now, courtesy of Berkeley Brewing Science (BBS), we have yeast that’s genetically engineered. BBS is splicing genes from edible plants into beer yeast. 

The technique produces aromatics during fermentation that mimic hops, and in some cases are completely unique. The yeast may also allow us to use less hops in each brew without sacrificing quality or flavor. Hops require a lot of land and water to grow, and using less could lead to a more sustainable brewing industry. So many new toys!

At Drake’s, we’re relentlessly experimental, so when these different products came out we took some time to play with them. Some of the experimental brews even made it into our full-time lineup (Brightside Brut IPA), but I don’t think any single innovation has been as exciting for us as genetically engineered yeast from BBS. The yeast strains they’re creating are truly unique, and allow brewers to create new beers that astound and delight!

Now for the nitty-gritty. For this project we selected a particularly aromatic yeast strain from BBS called High Sierra. Then we determined how it would work for us on a commercial scale and brewed the first beer, Weird Science, with a very simple recipe, just pale malt and hops for bittering only. All the aromatics in that beer were yeast-derived. 

During the next step in the project, we assessed the aromas in Weird Science, and selected hops that would best complement them. We decided to open up the selection process and actually crowd-sourced our recipe, giving customers a chance to assess the yeast aromatics, while smelling a variety of different hops. Then they voted on their favorites. Their choices, in order, were Chinook, Simcoe, and Bavaria Mandarina.

Meanwhile, as we were launching this project, our friends at HenHouse Brewing heard about it and wanted to collaborate. They thought we should go all-in with science, by using tetra hops, cryo hops, mash enzymes, and whatever else we could find to “science it up.”  That sounded cool, so that’s exactly what we did. 

We brewed a Brut IPA and called it Steroid Era. It’s made with a variety of hop products, featuring the crowd sourced hop varieties, and was fermented with the genetically engineered yeast. This beer is in the tank right now and smells amazing! It’s unique, interesting, objectively fantastic, and will be released in 16 oz. cans.

-John Gillooly, Drake’s Brewmaster


Steroid Era will be released in 16 oz. cans at Drake’s Barrel House on August 16, at Drake’s Dealership on August 17, and at Drake’s the BARN on August 21. The beer will be available on draft and in cans while supplies last.