By Ted Potrikus
Add one award-winning Master Brewer and one Football Hall-of-Famer to make eight — EIGHT beer, that is, a joint project of Cooperstown’s Phil Leinhart and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman that jumps into the jam-packed craft beer market later this year.
It’s a brew more than two years in the making, Mr. Leinhart said, made with no sugar and featuring Hallertau Taurus hops.
“They’re a variety of Bavarian-growth hops that are heavy in antioxidants,” Mr. Leinhart said before traveling to New Orleans to supervise the first packaging of the new lager. “We’re using these high-alpha, xanthohumol hops that carry the highest level of antioxidants that we could find.”
He got involved with the project on the recommendation of Doug Campbell, former president of Brewery Ommegang — where Mr. Leinhart was Brewmaster.
“Doug found out I had separated from Ommegang after the pandemic hit and that I was consulting for different projects,” he said. “He knew some people out there with an original idea for a low-calorie, low-carb beer that fit into a more active lifestyle. They had no experience in brewing.”
“I’d worked with Doug before at Anheuser-Busch,” he continued. “We were there when they started Michelob Ultra so we have a long history.”
He said he and the brewers paired with the Food Science and Technology program at Oregon State University in a two-year research and development project diving into developing a brew he says is “more along the lines of an American pale lager.”
“All the grains are organic,” he said. “There’s no corn sugar and an all-malt beer.”
Having the Cowboys great on board brings big visibility to the endeavor.
“This was a lot more on his part than just putting his uniform number on the label,” Mr. Leinhart said. “Troy Aikman was hugely involved in the process. We had plenty of Zoom calls over the past two years with Oregon State. They’d send us samples along the way and we’d meet over Zoom to taste and discuss and tear it all apart to get to where we wanted to be.”
Mr. Aikman himself told Yahoo! Finance that he’s “all in” on Eight and, now that the 2021-2022 football season is coming to a close, he’ll devote more time to the work.
Northeast beer aficionados may not get a taste of Eight for awhile — a market filled with craft brews of all sort throughout the country pushes initial roll-out of the antioxidant lager only into Aikman’s home state of Texas for the time being.
“We found a brewery in New Orleans that had the capabilities we needed to put this beer out the way we want it,” Mr. Leinhart said. “We’ll start in Texas and see what happens from there.”
In the meantime, Mr. Leinhart continues his work as a senior advisor at First Key, consultants to the brewing industry around the world.
“Whenever you get a high-profile project like this it’s good,” he said. “There will be more to come.”