Archive for December, 2012

OLD FACES IN NEW PLACES: A BEER QUEST WEST UPDATE

“Brewing is a fluid business.”

That’s what one self-styled humourist remarked, referring to the liquid nature of the product. He could also have been referring to the profession itself. Breweries come and go; brewers move from one place to another

Since BEER QUEST WEST went to press just over two years ago, four Alberta or B.C. breweries or brewpubs have closed shop; over a dozen have opened up. And a number of brewers have taken their talents to new places. In this post, we’ll talk about two long-time western Canadian brewers who are now practicing their art in new places. In our next post, we’ll profile two new brewers in old locations.

HOYNE BREWING, VICTORIA

Paul Hoyne, who originally came to the West Coast to study Irish Literature at the University of Victoria, has been an important figure in the Island microbrewing scene for over two decades. In 1989, he developed the beers for Victoria’s Swans Suite Hotel; and, in 1996, became the first brewer at another new establishment, Canoe Brewpub, which was just a block and a half up the street from Swans.

“Four 23 years, it had been my dream to open my own brewery,” Hoyne, whose brother Paul owns Victoria’s Lighthouse Brewing, told me on a recent trip to Victoria. “I’d developed a reputation for making good beers, and so when I decided to start my own brewery, I decided to use my own name.”

In the spring of 2011, he left Canoe. The first step was finding a location for a production brewery. There was space available at 2740 Bridge Street, just across the loading dock from Driftwood Brewery. Then, he leased equipment that had been part of the now defunct Hugo’s Brewpub. And he set about creating new recipes, having left his earlier recipes behind.

“I wanted to produce beers that were of the finest quality and that were very  approachable, very drinkable.” When Hoyne Brewing opened just under a year ago, Sean had created over a six pack of beers that ranged from Hoyner Pilsner, designed to rival eastern European styles, to the Dark Matter, a porter.

In between were three pales: Devil’s Dream IPA; Wolf Vine, a wet hopped IPA, and Down Easy, a Northwest Style IPA, which the brewer compares to Sierra Nevada; Summer Haze Honey Hefe, a German wheat; the Big Bock, and Voltage Espressio Stout. The porter and the pilsner are the top sellers.

“We’ve been so well received,” Hoyne reflected, “in Victoria and Vancouver. Beer drinkers have really taken us in. Liquor stores are having to wait for some of our beers; the demand has been so great, we have to work very hard to keep up.” In recognition of the response, the brewery’s special Christmas beer has been named Appreciation.

Hoyne’s beers can be found in 650 ml bottles as private liquor stores on Vancouver Island and on the mainland.

*****

THE NOBLE PIG, KAMLOOPS.

In 1995, David Beardsell opened Bear Brewing, the first brewery in Kamloops since the late 1920s. His English style beers, in which each beer was named after an appropriately colored bear, were so well received that, in 2001, Calgary’s Big Rock Brewing, seeking to establish itself in British Columbia, took over the brand, along with Whistler beers. The bear, unfortunately, became extinct, Big Rock retreated to Alberta, and Beardsell acquired an old school bus, converted it, and spent two years travelling with his wife and children.

But brewing was in his veins. He’d always enjoyed visiting places that paired good food and good beer and noticed more and more that restaurant goers were interested in the best of both. And so he returned to his old stamping grounds and, in 2010 opned The Noble Pig, a brewpub in the heart of downtown Kamloops at 650 Victoria Street.

He explained that the name referred to the noble hops so important in the brewing of German beers, to the fact that the pig is really a noble animal, and was also a tribute to a well-known New York bistro he admired: “The Spotted Pig.”

Beardsell studied brewing in England and Germany and professed his fondness for the styles from the two countries. “I’m a malt guy,” he remarked, “I haven’t got caught up in the hop stuff.” He noted that when he opened the Noble Pig, it was very difficult to sell an IPA. “I kept the bitterness units low,” he said, then confessed, “but I’m increasing the hops a little bit with each batch I brew.”

His beers include “Fascist Pig Pilsner,” “Munich Helles Lager,” “Imperialist Pig English Style IPA,” “George”s Extra Special Bitter,” (a reference to George Orwell, creator of the novel “Animal Farm”), “Honey Badger Pale Ale,” “Belgium Peppered Ale,” in one batch of which he included sechwan peppers the chef had left over, and “Mocha Porter.” There is also a special style for each month. His helles beer is his top seller, but the IPA is gradually inching up the ladder.

David noted that he has cut down the number of TVs at the Noble Pig and hopes that he’ll be able to get rid of them all. “I want a place where people enjoy good food, beer, and conversation. More and more people are growing to appreciate the relationship between food and beer.”

The good food and beer are definitely catching on in Kamloops. Like Sean Hoyne, Beardsell has to work hard to keep up with the demand for the beers he makes. He thinks that the townspeople’s enthusiasm will continue to grow, “As long as there’s soul to the beer.”

Hoyne Brewing: www.hoynebrewing.ca

The Noble Pig:  www.thenoblepig.ca

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A NEW WAY TO BRING BEER HOME

In one of the novels I read as a long-ago English major (I think it was D. H. Lawrence`s SONS AND LOVERS), a young boy takes a bucket to the local tavern to get beer for his father. At the time I read the book, this seemed like an unusual way to bring home beer. All we had were standard brown bottles.

Things have changed since the early 1960s, the most important change being the wide-spread introduction of can. They were lighter, easier to store in the fridge, and, in places where there wasn`t a deposit for returned empties, litterbugs could throw them out of car windows without having them shatter.

Later in the 20th century, as the microbrewing movement has grown, there`s been a new form of packaging: the growler — a 64 ounce, refillable glass jug. You could take your empty to your favorite local brewpub or microbrewery tap room and have it filled with deliciously fresh beer. And when you got it home, you could, like the boy in the novel, give some to your father; but you had to be of legal age to buy it and bring it home.

Growlers have become increasingly popular as the number of craft breweries and brewpubs has grown. In Albuquerque, NM, where I spend the winter months, there are a dozen brewpubs and tap rooms. It`s become a Friday afternoon ritual for me to visit one of them and bring home a growler full of something new and different for us to enjoy as we sit in front of an open fire and enjoy homemade snacks or pizza.

Today, I learned about a new way to bring home the beer.

Earlier this afternoon, I headed to Tractor Brewing`s tap room in Knob Hill, an area close to the University of New Mexico and my winter home. I had a particular beer in mind, but when I got there, it wasn`t currently on tap. I stood, holding my growler, studying the chalk board which listed what was available. Everything looked interesting.

“What will you have?” the bartender asked. And when I explained my uncertainty, she suggested a remedy. She told me that Tractor’s tap room had recently adopted a new form of packaging which would help me overcome my difficulty. As part of the $35 membership in “The Farmers’ Co-op” (their mug club), I would receive a set of four 16 ounce mason jars and have each of them filled (for free) with a different style of beer.  The set of four glasses could be refilled (for a fee) as often as I wished.

“I got the idea from homebrewers,” Tap Room General Manager Skye Devore explained. “When they go to their meetings, they often bring samples of their own beers in mason jars. I didn’t like taking growlers home; they were too big for just one person and, besides, my husband and I don’t like the same beers. Mason jars are just the right size for one person; when the jars are sealed the beer stays fresher than in growlers; and you can bring home different types of beer. And, the jar is a glass.”

I took home four Tractor styles I hadn’t tried before: Double Plough Oatmeal Stout, Buck Eyed Pale Ale, Adebisi (named after Skye’s dog) Black Lager, and Tractober Fest.

The four pack mason jar setup is a great idea. They’ll only refill a set of four, but before the snow melts and I return to the north, I’ll probably have them refilled a few times.And, if I decide to give up the pleasure of beer and take up canning the produce of my daughter`s garden, I`ll have a headstart on the equipment.

Tractor Brewing`s tap room is located at Central Avenue and Tulane Boulevard (behind Starbucks) in Albuquerque. The brewery`s website is  www.getplowed.com.