For us at Gear Patrol, beer has always been a conduit to gather. But over the past 16-or-so odd months, that has been difficult to do. In celebration of things opening up and it finally being safe to gather with friends again, we wanted to mark this occasion (and this summer) with a Gear Patrol first. When Burial Beer from Asheville, North Carolina called us early this year about brewing the very first Gear Patrol beer, we were eager to say it was something we had been thinking about for a long time — we just needed a friend to say: "Hey, let’s do this together."
With that in mind, we present Pursuit: a 4.8 percent ABV Helles-style Lager packaged in 16-ounce four-packs that we hope will be your companion on whatever journeys you pursue in the warm months ahead.
Water. Hops. Grains. Yeast. That’s the most basic of what’s needed to make beer. But that’s not everything that goes into a beer — it also requires dedication, creativity, hard work, expertise, ingenuity and teamwork. There's a whole chain of people that not only impact each of the physical ingredients (from farmers to delivery workers to quality control overseers and beyond), but also play a role in the intangible ones. Without each and every one of those people along the supply chain, that beer would not get to your glass.
Our discussions with Burial about this collaboration beer eventually led to the running lager series the brand has been brewing over the past six to eight months. When asked to describe the series and what it aims to do, Burial head brewer Alia Midoun had this to say: “This series focuses on tackling a variety of traditional European styles of lager to provide a crisp, clean and approachable selection of lager beer in coordination with the season.” In other words, the series aims to make delicious, easy-drinking beer in tune with the weather. Given the start of summer, we landed on brewing a Helles Lager. Known for its light and bright character, it's a beer that comes alive in spring and is enjoyed throughout the summer months.
While the Helles was Munich’s everyday drinking beer, we and our friends at Burial brewed an American take on the classic style. That is, with nearly all American ingredients sourced straight from farmers and growers Burial has spent years forging relationships with. The use of Helles malt and oats from Epiphany Craft Malt in North Carolina brings a unique element, as the German-born-and-studied American craft maltster Sebastian Wolfrum specializes in producing German grains. Pursuit also has a dab of German Munich malt from Augustiner-Bräu — makers of the category-defining Helles Lager — for good measure. Our Helles-style lager was then hopped with all American-grown renditions of European noble hops: Liberty from Coleman Agriculture in Oregon, Zuper Zazzer from Hop Head Farms in Michigan and Cascade from Segal Hop Ranch in Washington.
We also utilized traditional brewing techniques to stay true to the Helles style itself. “American brewers often try to overthink the recipe and under-think the process,” Burial COO Doug Reiser says. “So with Pursuit, we wanted to bridge the old world techniques of the beer’s origin with more modern materials and growers. Utilizing a step mash, decoction, spunded fermentation and kräusening for final carbonation added a lot of classic elements that elevate the malt profile in a way that European brewers have done for centuries.” In other words, by applying these oft-used historical techniques, Pursuit is able to achieve a malt profile with a fuller body, give a dry finish, and be naturally carbonated to help produce brighter flavors and a more consistent mouthfeel without carrying the baggage of things like caramel or extra additions to the malt base.
The result is a beer that's crisp, straw-to-golden in hue, has a medium body, provides serious head retention and is most certainly going to be more refreshing than that watered-down macro lager on a blazing summer day. We wanted to brew a beer we'd see ourselves drinking together with friends at a backyard BBQ, at a concert in the park or taking a hike through the woods.
Reiser posits that the American renditions on traditional German hops, sourced from three different American hop growers and used in the brewing of Pursuit, put it in a special category: “In this beer, heavy doses of American takes on European hops provide the difference. This adds a decisive American citrus zest, sourdough and spice character that I adore in modern lagers.” It is these exact relationships that put Burial within the upper crust of American craft breweries — though the producer's humility and kindness don't let on much.
Beer, and most any product being made, is nothing without its components. In the case of craft beer, that means ingredients that are grown properly and cared for. The brewery's location in the heart of the craft beer mecca of Asheville has given Burial a connection to the land. Not only does the producer operate a brewery and multiple taprooms throughout North Carolina, but its compound at Forestry Camp (which houses a production brewery, barrel aging facility and more) is also home to a dynamic restaurant by the same name. All of this allows for the sourcing of very local ingredients (not just for the brewery but for the restaurant) for a farm-to-table experience only breweries of this ilk can provide. The camp, as it’s referred to, was constructed as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation to house members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC utilized the camp while helping to build the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway and many other public works programs. These are Burial’s roots, and in 2015 they purchased the compound that lay nearly dormant since 1942 and began to restore and revitalize what once played a vital role in the natural world around Asheville.
While the landscape and heritage set a backdrop for everything Burial does, it is the good people that are the foundation of the brewery. Doug Reiser and his wife Jess (who is CEO) founded Burial in 2013 with brewer Tim Gormley. Jess Reiser's leadership has been a throughline on the brewery’s ability to forge new paths and be a leader in the industry for inclusion and diversity.
That most certainly includes lynchpin Midoun, who was promoted to the rarified head brewer position for a woman in an industry dominated by men in late 2020. What started as a bartending job at Solemn Oath Brewery outside of Chicago in 2012, eventually blossomed into a dedication and passion for craft beer. "While I started with just scrubbing kegs and helping on the bottling line, by 2017, I had worn many hats — from cellar work to packaging lead to barrelhouse manager and eventually brewer," Midoun tells.
After hearing the call of the mountains, Midoun got offered a job as cellar person at Burial and worked her way back to the brew deck with hard work, a keen sense of understanding and a desire to creatively challenge herself for refining recipes — it didn't hurt that she also had a penchant for exploring the five senses.
As Reiser says, "Alia [Midoun] is the better student of German beer. Our attention to detail with lagers inspired by traditional European styles has improved since she has become more involved in the process."
Being part of that process has been one of the most splendid collaborations yet for us at Gear Patrol. We are so excited to share Pursuit with you that we also made an exclusive Willi Becher glass featuring our custom-designed Pursuit logo. If you’re at home, pouring Pursuit in a Becher glass will enhance your drinking experience — the Becher glass is arguably the most versatile beer glass out there.
The entirety of our Pursuit collaboration with Burial will be sold locally at the brewery's taprooms and directly on its website. That's not all though, as Pursuit is also available on TapRm, which offers same-day shipping in our home of NYC and ships statewide through New York. Additionally, TapRm ships to another 33 states and Pursuit is available for order now in all of them. That means it's quite likely you'll be able to enjoy a Pursuit this summer, which was another one of the reasons we decided to make this beer.
“Direct-to-consumer has been the hallmark of our business plan since day one,” Reiser says. “We have always invested the vast majority of our attention in our retail experiences. We hope that people leave with everlasting memories, new relationships and feeling elevated. We want that to extend beyond our walls and into the product. And we have talked for years about building a shipping program to connect with people who visited and wished they never left.”
Currently, Burial ships to 13 states: AK, KY, NC, NE, NV, NH, ND, OH, OR, PA, VT, VA, and D.C. TapRm offers same-day shipping in NYC and ships to NY, NJ, CT, DC, MA, RI, KY, NV, NH, ND, OR, PA, VA, AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, ID, IN, KS, LA, MN, MO, MT, NC, NE, NM, OH, SC, WI and WY.
With things coming out of lockdown, we made this beer for all the pursuits you want to get back to. Whether that’s hiking a mountain with friends or just playing horseshoes in the backyard. Here is a beer, and glass, for the summer ahead to create everlasting memories.