- Two Germans, working with Berlin Technical University (TU Berlin), have innovated a new beer to replace protein shakes.
- The beverage is vegan, alcohol-free, contains 21 grams of protein, 10 grams of amino acids and more nutrients essential for building muscle.
- It has a citrusy flavor, a bitter aftertaste, and is slightly reminiscent of an apple spritzer or cider.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The contrary effect drinking beer has on muscle growth is a serious First World problem — but not for much longer.
Two gym enthusiasts from Hamburg in Germany spotted a gap in the market two years ago, and quickly developed the solution for those wanting to enjoy a beer after work and yet still reap the benefits of their workout: JoyBräu, the protein beer.
Beer instead of protein shake: the idea born at the bar
The founders of the new protein drink, Tristan Brümmer, 23, and Erik Dimter, 24, explained to Business Insider how they came up with the idea of replacing protein shakes with beer.
“It all started in Singapore,” Brümmer explains. Their employer sent them to South-East Asia, Brümmer to Kuala Lumpur, Dimter to Singapore. “Erik lived in an apartment block where there was a gym. We both worked out, trained together and met regularly with colleagues at the bar after work, as you do.”
One evening after the training they were sat there — a protein shake in one hand and a beer in the other.
“Neither of us was keen on the taste of shakes and drank them more for the health benefits than the taste,” Brümmer said, “so we thought that there must be a way to combine the delicious taste of beer with the health benefits of a protein shake.”
That’s how JoyBräu, the athlete’s beer, was born in the summer of 2015.
What’s in the protein beer and how it tastes
The protein beer is alcohol-free. Unlike beers that contain alcohol, JoyBräu beer supposedly supports the recovery and growth of muscle mass.
A 0.33-liter bottle of the vegan low-carb drink contains 21 grams of protein. Of these 21 grams, 10 grams are the essential amino acids BCAA.
These are essential building materials for encouraging the muscle fiber tears that occur during training to repair themselves. Each bottle also contains L-carnitine and beta-alanine, both of which are beneficial for fat burning, explains JoyBräu founder Dimter — so the beer is even suitable for those on a diet.
The protein beer costs a little more than usual beer. The price is more along the lines of protein shakes, with a bottle costing $3.50 and a six-pack setting you back $21.
We wanted to find out for ourselves whether it tasted any good. Business Insider’s verdict? Fruity with a bitter aftertaste and, at first, slightly reminiscent of an apple spritzer or cider.
It’s certainly adequate as a summery refreshment. But real beer fans would probably be disappointed by the beverage, namely as protein beer has little of that bitter hops taste.
Yet the founders are well aware of this: “We had our product developed with our focus on summer. Our current beer is a very light beer, a bit citrus-like, with a fruity note. We didn’t bring out an extremely bitter beer, but a nice post-workout refreshment for the summer.”
Product expansion is an important topic. Brümmer explained: “We’re already developing non-alcoholic wheat. Of course, from time to time, we get feedback like: ‘It tastes more like shandy than a nice bitter beer.’
We can deal with that kind of thing because that’s exactly what we thought at the start. We must and want to respond to the feedback of our customers and expand our product range accordingly.”
Implementing the idea: ‘We never really knew if it would work out in the end’
After their flash of inspiration in Singapore in 2015, it took several years before the product was ready for the market. “We’d been tasting in my cellar for a while,” said Brümmer, an amateur brewer. “We tried to mix a little protein powder into the home-brewed beer. That, as you can imagine, went badly awry and ending up tasting pretty awful. We then realized quite quickly that if we really wanted to do this, we were going to have to get help from outside.”
They tried to exchange ideas directly with breweries. They wanted to get started as soon as possible.
“As is normal when you have a quirky product idea, you want to test it out as soon as possible and to get it on the market,” explained Brümmer.
But they hit a stumbling block here too.
“Breweries weren’t really taken with the idea,” says Brümmer.
Because German laws on beer purity are so important, it was difficult to convince anyone it was a good idea. Even those they were able to persuade had technical difficulties.
“You need analytical equipment and a laboratory,” said Brümmer, “which standard brewers don’t have. That’s why we sat down and thought of a new strategy.”
They then approached universities specializing in brewery and beverage technology, and that’s how their partnership with the Berlin Technical University (TU Berlin) came about. Yet it still took more than a year to get to the finished product.
“The biggest challenge was really to stick at it. We never really knew if it was going to work or not. But we were totally committed to the idea, did more market research, talked to more people, and the more we delved into the idea, the more convinced of it we became.”
Until the last month of development at the TU Berlin, it wasn’t clear whether it would really work and whether the two could even produce a marketable product. “Having that pressure there for over two and a half years, especially when you’ve invested all your savings in this one venture is, of course, an immense burden.”
In the end, it worked: the beer is now produced in a family-run private brewery near Kaiserslautern — and JoyBräu is just really taking off.
Fibo 2018 as a springboard
After JoyBräu won the Innovation & Trend Award at Fibo, Germany’s largest fitness fair, things really took off for the duo.
“We’d calculated conservatively that in the first year, we’d distribute via our website and would only sell to private consumers and not commercial distributors. By the second year, we’d wanted to venture into selling the product in the gyms,” Brümmer said.
At Fibo, it wasn’t just fitness studios showing an interest in protein beer; wholesalers and exporters wanted to market the product to other countries too.
“Thanks to Fibo, we were completely sold out straight after so we were left in a pickle of sorts, where people wanted more beer when we were completely sold out,” Brümmer said.
The founders have already been signed with various fitness studios that want to test the beer at their bar and in the vending machines.
Plans for the future: away from startup and into premium
JoyBräu’s founders’ ideas didn’t just go to plan — thanks to Fibo they exceeded their goals. That’s why they’re refocusing their strategy on the long term.
A big issue now is the personnel: “We need to massively expand our team,” Brümmer said. “Up until we did Fibo, there were only two of us. It meant that there were huge burdens for us in the last weeks. Luckily, we’ve already found two more team members and are still looking for sales support.”
Marketing is also to be significantly expanded, through Facebook and Instagram.
The boys are planning special promotions in fitness studios to coincide with the World Cup, with talks of “offering members a special World Cup promotion, with a cool beer instead of shakes.”