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A dangerous operation begins on the largest archipelago of the Canary Islands, where two daring souls devise a plan to hike Spain’s highest peak, Mount Teide, to find a seven-foot standing plant grown primarily in Tenerife that they hope will change the course of beer forever.

Unsure of the path that lies before them, Teresa Queipo and Joachim Zeisel plan a path through the base of the mountain and chart a trail through the arid, Mars-like region up-wards within the Las Cañadas caldera, a volcanic crater where the two hope to harvest a flowering plant into special Tenerife craft beer, never once before accomplished.

With aspirations set high, the two finish their notes and gather their hiking gear for a drive towards Teide Park, the eighth most visited national park in the world, with more than three million visitors each year. After a short drive, they arrive and unpack their belongings for what will most likely be their most daring hike yet.

Tenerife Beer Mount Tiede Canary Islands Spain

At the base of the mount, the two pass under large Canary Island pines and junipers that tower ahead and brush through bushes that grow underneath. Their plan to harvest Tenerife’s endemic plant, known in Spanish as Tajinaste, seems to be well on its way.

But a major problem remains: the biennial plant flowers in only its second year – often during spring and late summer – and once it flowers, it soon dies, leaving behind just a brittle skeleton of its former glory. Reaching the plant too late would mean ending their mission and having to wait another two years to conquer their dreams of brewing the herbal plant into Spanish beers. A monocarpic plant waits for no one – once it flowers, it’s gone for good, and so their journey continues even faster.

With the clock ticking and the summer sun cooling, the two aspiring brewers realize they must get to their destination quickly. The idea of missing out on harvesting the plant’s honey to brew into ales guides their steps quicker, as the two begin to pace faster through pine needles that litter the ground and through bushes that scrape and tear at their skin as they pass.

With sweat pouring and blood soaking, Queipo and Zeisel press finally through the middle slopes of Mount Teide and onwards towards the nearly void caldera, which sits some 2,000 meters above sea level. Mount Teide, at its highest point, stands nearly 4,000 meters high. They’re on their way, they know, but with a lot of ground to cover — and to cover quickly — they’ll have to pick up their pace if they’re to realize their dreams.

Leaving lush vegetation behind, the two look down upon the clouds and notice they’ve reached the halfway mark. They’re at the caldera, where thin air makes it difficult for them to catch their breath; the scorching sun blisters their uncovered skin; and the arid ground throws dust with each step forward.

Tenerife Beer Mount Tiede Canary Islands Spain

The two climbers continue their struggle to find the native plant nicknamed the Tower of Jewels, found primarily in the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco, and known by its scientific name as Echium Wildpretii.

But at first sight, they notice nothing. Traces of what could have been their prized plant scatter the ground, leaving wasted remains here and there. But not a single healthy stalk of the herbal plant stands, so onwards they go.

It’s when they’re at their near breaking point that they spot a towering stem of green and red shoot high into the sky, a clear indication that they’ve found the ever impressive and still healthy Echium.

Tenerife Craft Beer - Echium

With plant in hand and spirits high, Queipo and Zeisel gather what they can from the plant and head back towards the base of the mount. They’re shaking from excitement and vocal about realizing their dreams, praising each other on the trek back to their car about the scrapes and bruises they endured during their trip.

It’s when, however, they reach their car that they notice that what they’ve gathered isn’t at all what they need. Brewing beers from the flowering honey can only be accomplished post fermentation, and is best produced when brewed high upon the mount. And so with legs aching in pain from hours of hiking, and backs bent in despair, brewmaster Zeisel and Tacoa brewery co-owner Queipo sit with head in hands at the base of the mount without a clue as to how to realize their dreams.

But like a bolt of lightning, Queipo and Zeisel gather their thoughts and rush not back up the mountain but towards their home to build a transportable, mini brewery set; equipment they’ll use high on the mount to brew 40 liters of medieval style beers, which include local herbs and contain no hops.

Tenerife Craft Beer Tacoa

Their goals of recreating beer with the native Echium plant soon materializes; and now, after establishing easier hiking routes past bushes that don’t scrape and setting up a mini-brewery set at the Parador Hotel high up the mount, Tacoa brewery owners Queipo and Zeisel brew medieval style beers with the flowering plant for beer enthusiasts in the Canary Islands and around the world, a testament that their epic trip back when the brewery first opened in 2001 proved to be more than successful.

Be sure to try one of eight Tacoa beers in Tenerife when you visit and follow the brewery on Facebook and Twitter.

Tenerife Craft Beer Photos by Shay Meinecke, Wikimedia, Aranzazu Barrenechea, Ilya Kazakov and Sven Vee

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