Category Archives: Interview

Get To Know A Brewer – Berhard Wieland

lbj-1
Kevin Selch (L) and  Bernhard Wieland (R)

The speed at which things to be progressing in our brewing community is fantastic. We are seeing more breweries begin to reach that final point in their construction. Brazen Hall and One Great City seem to be almost ready to open their doors and Nonsuch recently brewed their first batch. I can’t wait to see what things look like at this year’s Flatlanders’ Beer Festival.

I sat down with Bernhard Wieland, Brewmaster at Little Brown Jug, for my continuing “Get to know a brewer” series. Bernie is a really interesting guy who has traveled all around the world and has a passion and drive for making high quality consistently delicious beer.

Born in Brandon, Bernhard lived in Neepawa until Grade 6. This was when his first big move occurred and his family came into the big city of Winnipeg. Bernie attended various schools including St. Paul’s and St. John’s Ravenscourt before finally graduating from Vincent Massey. Rugby was a big part of Bernie’s time in school and would continue to be a big part of his adult life.

After graduating, Bernie attended the University of Manitoba where he received his B.Sc. Not wanting to work in a lab, Bernie decided to travel around the United States playing Rugby and trying out a lot of different beers. Rugby took him all the way over to South Africa where he met some friends who had jobs in marketing at South African breweries. Seeing this, something clicked. Bernie found something he could do that he loved.

gilde-braurei

He came back to North America where he attended the Siebel institute in Chicago to receive his brewers certificate. While there, Bernie hooked up with a Rugby team and ended up playing Semi-Pro. This opportunity took him to Germany where the rugby team got him his first brewing job at Gilde Braurei in Hanover, Germany. This gave Bernie the opportunity to work in various roles from delivery to brewer and get his first experience working at a brewery under his belt. Bernie stayed in this role for 6 months, or about the length of the rugby season.

Upon returning to Winnipeg, Bernie had the opportunity to work with Richard Hoeschen at Fort Garry. Initially starting off as the filter operator, he worked at Fort Garry for 3 ½ years and held the position of head brewer by the time he left. Bernie also had the chance to work with the founders of Two Rivers, including someone Bernie considers a mentor, Doug Seville. Doug was the last brew master at the Molson brewery here in Winnipeg.

After 3 ½ years at Fort Garry, Bernie headed west to Vancouver Island Brewing in 2005. As head brewer he had the opportunity to work alongside a German Brewmaster who oversaw the brewing process. Over the next 2 ½ years, Bernie honed his skills even more and learned new processes.

Bernie had always wanted to maximize his education, especially when it came to brewing, and so he returned to school, attending UC Davis where he completed the Master Brewers Program and received his master’s diploma. Having completed this, Bernie had hoped to work in the US, but given the tough climate he wasn’t able to secure a position at any of the breweries to whom he applied. So, Bernie returned to Canada to Vancouver Island where he began exploring the possibility of opening his own brewery. The timing for this wasn’t right and so Bernie moved on to his next adventure in Kenora.

lake-of-the-woods-brewing

In 2012, Bernie took the position of Head Brewer at the soon to be open Lake of the Woods. Bernie had the opportunity to be there for the construction of the brewery which gave the opportunity to be involved from the ground up. This was also the first opportunity Bernie had to develop recipes. The other breweries he worked at were not interested in seasonal beers, only brewing what was already brewed. This was Bernie’s first opportunity to explore the creative aspects of brewing beer rather than simply the technical ones. Bernie created over 20 recipes before moving on in 2014.

Bernie’s final position before arriving at Little Brown Jug was working for Half Pints. Bernie spoke with many of the new breweries looking to open here in Winnipeg but felt that working with Kevin at Little Brown Jug was the best fit for him.

In Kenora, Bernie had the opportunity to get into the Krausening process and fell in love with it. He had also had his fill of constantly working on recipe development and wanted to focus his skills on perfecting one beer and getting that recipe just right. Working at Little Brown Jug gave him the opportunity to do both of these things and to be involved in building a brewery from the ground up.

Bernie got into brewing because it was a job that combined all of the skills he had from his education and other jobs he’s held over the years. Really having to be well-rounded and getting the opportunity to do something that you love every day.

What keeps Bernie brewing is the love of beer, the joy of introducing people to quality beer, being a part of the growth of the craft beer community here in Winnipeg, and the fact that his passion has become a financial success doesn’t hurt.  Bernie also feels that Winnipeg and Manitoba have a strong history of brewing beer. Why the beer is named 1919 and why he uses Brewers Gold is to show the history that we’ve played. Bernie calls Brewer’s Gold the “Grandfather” of modern hops.

I’m always curious what beers brewers enjoy and what they like to have in their fridge. The beer that really got Bernie into beer was a good Czech Pilsner that he enjoyed while in Prague. Today though, he really likes the beer he makes, 1919, and enjoys Jerkface 9000.

It was good to sit down with Bernie and I am looking forward to seeing how Little Brown Jug grows. Thanks again for reading.

-Beer Winnipeg

Get to know a brewer – Jeff Wiebe

As I continue to delve into those who are part of the craft beer community, I continue to be curious about why brewers got into brewing in the first place. What is becoming rather clear is that a passion for beer borne from home brewing, consuming and learning seems to be the Launchpad. From here, a desire to do more and to take that passion further resulting in turning it into a career.

This week I had the chance to sit down with another such person, Jeff Wiebe. As lead brewer at PEG Beer Co, Jeff has taken the passion he had for beer and turned into his career. At the age of 27 he has accomplished a lot and has become an integral part of our craft beer community. So, who is Jeff?

Jeff describes himself as pretty random. It’s obvious from talking to Jeff that when he isn’t brewing beer he loves to be out doors. He rides BMX, skateboards, rock climbs, and basically does anything outside that involves hanging out with friends and grabbing a few beers afterwards.  He was born and raised in Manitoba and developed a strong work ethic growing up on a farm. After high school, Jeff spent a year living in the Netherlands on a work-vacation program. It was here that he had the chance to expand his beer consuming horizons. You couldn’t get MGD or Bud. Instead, being so close to Belgium and other fantastic beer brewing countries, Jeff had his fill of excellent beers.

After returning to Manitoba from this experience, Jeff became interested in home brewing. He had read a lot of stuff online but, like most of us, had some concerns about delving into. Luckily for us, Jeff’s friend’s roommate was a n avid homebrewer and took Jeff under his wing. He and Jeff brewed his first beer together, a west coast pale ale, and this gave Jeff the opportunity to connect his read knowledge with the hands on experience and make those connections.

From this point, Jeff couldn’t stop brewing. After 2 ½ years of home brewing, Jeff knew that this was something he wanted to do. He applied to Olds college and Niagara College for their brewing programs. Accepted to both, Jeff took off for Niagara where he spent the next 2 years honing his knowledge of beer and brewing.  Having the opportunity to delve into sensory courses, water chemistry, brewing, and brewery management, Jeff was able to build a knowledge base that was combined with hands on experiences. They’d brew four batches of the same beer making slight variations and then break them down in the sensory courses. Overall, Jeff feels it was a fantastic learning experience and a great learning environment.

Between semesters Jeff had the chance to work for Half Pints in all capacities. From brewing to bottle washing to delivery, Jeff got to try it all. This gave him a taste of what it’s like to be in each of these capacities and helped him get a better idea for the overall brewery operations. This opportunity to put theory into practice and work on a large scale commercial system helped set Jeff up for what would be his first brewing gig, Lake of the Woods. Jeff spent six months working at Lake of the Woods before he got the nod to move over to PEG where he would setup his home.

Being brought on to a brewery in construction was really neat for Jeff. It gave the team an opportunity to put the blood, sweat and tears into actually building a brewery. This experience not only gave a sense of ownership and pride, but it also helped build a strong team dynamic that exists at PEG to this day.

As a question I always want to know what beers a brewer always has in their fridge as well as their favorite style. For Jeff, he always has Muskoka Detour (though he’d love to have Ballast Point’s Sculpin) as it’s an easy drinking, hop forward beer that his girlfriend also enjoys. When it comes to favorite style, Jeff jumps across the pond and chooses Flanders Red Ale. Certainly a tasty style as well but quite different from Muskoka Detour.

Jeff also updated me a bit on what’s happening at PEG. They just got a new shipment of hops come in which means that Life Coach will be coming back onto the menu. It also means that Soundtrack, their shifting IPA, will brewed again with two new hops.

There is also an English Pale Ale in the fermenter that will hopefully be coming on soon and Jeff dropped that they are looking at “having more fun with sours”. Since Peg doesn’t have any barrels, we know this will be Kettle Souring, but it’s exciting to hear.

I plan to continue to chat with brewers around the city as I get a chance. I know it’s a long term commitment, but they are interesting folks. I’ve got plans to follow-up with One Great City and Brazen Hall in the near future. I am also planning to check in with Little Brown Jug. Jeremy Grisim, the subject of my first get to know a brewer, has made the move over to Little Brown Jug. I’m excited to follow-up with these folks and to continue to bring you stories from the craft beer community.

Also, a reminder that this Sunday (January 29th) is the charity raffle in support of Winnipeg Harvest. It’s a chance to win some great prizes, including one of five bottles of Westvleteren 12. Hope to see you there.

– Beer Winnipeg

Little Brown Jug – Follow-Up

I stopped in to visit with Little Brown Jug this past week and catch up on their progress. I have to say that the space is looking both fantastic as well as pretty much complete. They have been working hard on getting their beer ready and they are ready to go. It’s an exciting time for beer in the city of Winnipeg.

Last week was spent really dialing in on the brew house system. It’s actually a pretty incredible setup that focuses on efficiency (both in brewing and environmentally) and recovers much of the heat from the brewing process. The kettle actually uses steam through an external calandria which allows for an incredibly quick rolling boil and a much more efficient process. They have also installed an auger from their grain room directly into the mash tun. In fact, they are able to grind into a sealed auger so that they can prepare the day before and be ready to brew. Overall the brew system is really cool and I encourage anyone interested in these things to go check it out.

All of this hard work has resulted in them being ready to send out kegs this week.  Kevin indicated that they would be sending out kegs to beer spots in the city – Quality Craft Beer Store, King’s Head, Good Will, Barley Brothers – Polo; Carbone – 260 St. Mary; and Pineridge Hollow. All of these places will have beer on tap this week with Pineridge Hollow coming next week.

They are open as of today: Wed-Fri 3-9PM and Saturday noon – 8 PM, with these limited hours to allow for people to come in and pick up the beers. As well as the opportunity to try the beer in their tap room, they are doing growler and howler fills as well as offering pre-filled 750ml little brown jugs.

The really cool thing they are doing with these little brown jugs is offering an exchange program on them. Essentially you don’t own the jug. You put a deposit down and when you come back you can either exchange it for another pre-filled one or get your deposit back, your choice. I think this is an excellent idea and it’s actually how I feel the growler system in the city should be working.

Little Brown Jug is really trying to be efficient with peoples’ time and recognize that people may not always have the opportunity to wait around for a growler to be filled. By offering these jugs, pre-filled, people can pop in, grab some beer, and head on their way. While they do have a small tap-room space at LBJ, they are first and foremost a production brewery.

Little Brown Jug is launching with one beer, a Belgian Pale Ale that is brewed with brewers’ gold (a derivative of a local hop). I for one am excited to get a chance to try another new beer to the market and I really look forward to seeing what they may come up with next down the road.

So, follow Little Brown Jug on twitter (@LBJBrewing) and while you’re at it, follow me too (@beerwinnipeg).

Tomorrow is the first day of the craft beer advent Calendar. I’ll be posting in the morning to give you an idea of what to expect but I won’t be posting about the beers until later in the afternoon/evening. Last year I inadvertently spoiled the surprise for others and I want to do my best to avoid this. So, get ready for a 24 daily posts about “New World Beers from Old World Breweries”.

-Beer Winnipeg

 

Torque – Two Months In

torque-logo

Open for just over two months, Torque has entered the craft beer market in Winnipeg with a tour de force. That they have such a large brewing capacity combined with the fact they are the first of the new breweries to can has meant they are quickly building a name for themselves as makers of a high-quality and delicious craft beer.

The taproom at Torque is under construction. John Heim indicated they hope open in the next few weeks. After the construction phase the team must install their PoS system, and determine noise levels and seating arrangements.  They are going to move their test batch fermenters into the growler fill area (I wonder why) and will fill directly from the line (after purging with CO2). Look for an announcement on Twitter as John indicated they’d likely be doing a special taproom opening event.

When I stopped by Torque to see how things were going, they were just getting their canning line setup to do 12oz cans for their variety packs. They hope to have this coming out in the near future. We can pin the blame for the delay on one of their beers: since their Helles is a lagered beer it takes eight weeks from brew to can. This means it takes up a lot of tank space and, as one of their most popular beers, they are finding it difficult to keep up with demand.

torque-canning-line

 

That said, after their first three weeks of brewing, Torque had already found themselves in need of new tanks. They’ve ordered three new fermenters and two new bright tanks to give more capacity for the brews. The need for expanded capacity is urgent as Torque has signed on to contract brew for Lake of the Woods Brewing. Torque will start by brewing the Firehouse Ale but expect to probably do more in the future. The contract is for 100 brews a year, mostly suppling Manitoba.

The popularity of Torque’s beer can’t be overstated: they’ve gone only five of the past 57 days without an order from someone. They’ve recently been put on tap at the King’s Head, Original Joes while The Keg will soon be carrying their beer in cans. Recognizing this, they are working hard to reward supporters who believed in them from the start while still growing to meet demand.

Even though Torque is working hard to keep up with demand for its four flagship beers, they aren’t going to allow themselves to get stagnant. They have a “Finish Line IPA” coming to growler bars in November. This is their Red Line IPA but done with local flower hops from Prairie Gem Hop Farm. They also have a Dunkelweizen that is planned for the growler bars in December and are looking to release a “Winter Pudding” winter warmer in January.

On top of all this brewing, Torque is looking to get their barrel program underway. Working with Ken Yost, they are looking to start doing barrel-aged sours as well as barrel-aged beers such as Russian imperial stouts and Belgian Strong beers. They also want to work with the new local distillery, Capital K, to get some whiskey barrel-aged beers on the go.

If you are interested in connecting with the folks from Torque, they are very active in the community and participating in a number of events. Coming up on November 16 they will be at Garbonzo’s (U of W) for their annual Beer Festival which runs from 7 to 10 pm. On November 17, they’ve partnered with Inferno’s on Academy to offer a Beer Dinner: a five-course meal of dishes made with Torque’s beer along with a pairing of beer. Tickets for this are $80 and as of writing they had 20 remaining. You can contact Inferno’s to book.

With all the success Torque has seen so far, they’ve added a second brewer. Torque is very happy to welcome Perry Joyal to the team. He is working closely with Head Brewer Matt Wolfe as they continue to expand their operations.

Overall, things are moving forward at a lightning pace for the folks at Torque. I hope they are able to keep up with their demand as I have been enjoying all of the beers I’ve tried thus far. I’m anxiously awaiting the opening of the tap room and looking forward to trying some of the new brews on the way.

You can find Torque’s beer all over the city, but especially at Liquor Marts and beer vendors like Quality Craft Beer Store on Pembina.

-Beer Winnipeg

One Great City – Follow-up

OGC Logo

It had been a while since I spoke with the guys from One Great City. Given they’ve been working so hard on getting their space prepped, I dropped in to visit for a bit of news and a beer.

Originally, One Great City had hoped to be open by October 2016. Due to some delays, including the installation of a new electrical panel, this was not possible. Thankfully, all the building permits have now come through and Tim and Jon are hard at work getting things ready as quickly as possible.

While covering the rise of craft breweries in Manitoba, I’ve learned to not ask for an opening date; they’re very hard to accurately predict. That said, the One Great City team hopes to have their doors open in the first quarter of 2017. All the equipment has been ordered, the beer development is moving along swimmingly and the food menu has been finalized.

The OGC team has been busy since Flatlanders perfecting the recipes they spotlighted there: Tipsy Cow milk stout and Monkey Trail pale ale. They’ve also been developing other styles of beer, including a Belgian Wit, an extra-special bitter, an American blonde and a double IPA. All of these styles will be served alongside a “gastropub” menu featuring traditional food with updated twists. “Adventurous yet accessible” as the guys say.

Jon and Tim have been doing the lion’s share of the grunt work getting things prepared and organized for the trades-people on the project. New floor has been poured and is being ground down to give a “terrazzo” look. This type of flooring is easy to clean and low maintenance, making it ideal for food preparation and brewing once it’s sealed.

 

The plumbers have completed the underground work and are now running supply lines. A new HVAC unit will be installed in a few weeks, which gives time for the electricians to run conduits. Overall, progress is being made and there are high hopes OGC will be able to meet their goal of opening early next year.

They have developed their tables and stools that will be used in the restaurant portion of the brewpub. They plan to have a nice big patio out by the back parking lot with an entrance from both the front and back to allow for greater parking and accessibility. Overall, the layout looks really good. The next steps for OGC are getting the walls put up, painting, getting the fixtures and bar installed – and then setting up the brewing equipment.

one-great-city-plans

It was good to follow up and see how much progress has been made since we last spoke. Part of what I love about writing this blog is tracking projects as they begin to take shape. When I last spoke with OGC, this whole thing was still in development, but now you can reach out and touch it. Exciting times indeed.

-Beer Winnipeg

 

Shrugging Doctor

To begin: when I went into this interview I didn’t know what to expect. Shrugging Doctor has intentionally kept their business under wraps and has done a good job keeping folks curious. Shrugging Doctor is not a brewery. They will not be producing beer at opening and so aren’t something I typically write about. Still, they have a unique idea that warrants a bit of exploration, even if there are some concerns.

Shrugging Doctor wants to innovate people’s access to booze. While it is possible to order alcohol delivery through the MLCC, this requires forethought and time. It’s not something you can do on a whim or if you realize you’ve run out of your favourite beverage. Shrugging Doctor seeks to fix this problem by taking the pizza delivery model and applying it to booze. They want to be your on-call source for booze in the city, with home delivery within 60 minutes.

What will they be selling? To begin, they will focus on sugar wine (a smooth and sweet 20% alcohol), coolers (made from the sugar wine), apple cider and mead. The target audience for Shrugging Doctor is 18 to 25 year olds looking for potent, sweet tasting booze at a reasonable price. This makes sense given the gentleman behind this company. Chris Willows, a 20-year-old entrepreneur, moved out at the age of 18 and found he had bills to pay. With a business mindset – something he says he had since he was nine – he decided to start his own business and solve a problem on the minds of his peers: how do I get cheap booze delivered to my home.

While Shrugging Doctor is going to produce their own product, which they hope to sell in 23 Liquor Marts around the city, the service they plan to provide is the biggest part of their business plan. Offering city-wide deliver of their products. The product is produced by Zach Isaacs. He has been making wine and other alcoholic drinks for several years, investing a great deal of time and money in perfecting his recipes. Willows told me many of his friends have stopped buying coolers because they’d rather drink Shrugging Doctor’s offerings. (I had the opportunity to try the sugar wine and it is certainly potent but incredibly sweet.)

While they do not plan on having beer at the beginning, Willows does respect the craft beer market and would love to add those drinks to their catalogue in the future. For the first nine to ten months, however, they will focus on producing their wine-based products. With four 500L tanks, the starting capacity is quite small, only 10HL, but as they start capturing profit they hope to expand capacity not only add beer but also partner with vineyards to move away from fruit and sugar wines to producing grape wines.

I had the opportunity to view their online ordering system, which will allow people to place orders for either a bottle or a box of their wine, coolers, etc. The wine starts at $10 a bottle and is $35 for a 4L box. The wine is packaged using a 10-plate filtering system, a semi-automatic bottler that fills the headspace with nitrogen for better shelf life, and capped using stelvin caps (the twist offs).

If Shrugging Doctor takes off, Manitobans who are buzzed and unable to drive for more drinks will have an option to top up their supplies. While this certainly solve some problems, it raises others. What assurances will there be that customers (and their guests) are of age? Or that they’re not at dangerous levels of intoxication? Since they are seeking to follow the pizza delivery model, they will be hiring delivery drivers who will be paid using the deliver fee and tips. How will these drivers be trained to recognize when they should or shouldn’t deliver the product? There is also a matter of theft and safety of the drivers that needs to be considered.

Chris Willows told me that their delivery drivers will all carry their “Serving it Safe” certificate and will therefore be trained to recognize when someone may need to be cut off. As for the insurance that all are of age, unfortunately that isn’t something as easy to accomplish. What they will ensure is that the person to whom they deliver the alcohol is of age. Chris also assured me that they would be trying their best to comply with all laws and regulations.

While I admit the convenience Shrugging Doctor offers is very appealing – and potentially the base of a lucrative business model – I am not sure if the pros outweigh the concerns. While I’m not in their target market, they’re likely to appeal to a younger demographic who could still be learning their limits. It’s my hope these young entrepreneurs factor safety into their business plans even as they enthusiastically fill an obvious service gap.

 

 

 

Trans Canada Brewing Co

transcanada-exterior

I chatted with Matt Tallman, President and CEO of TransCanada Brewing Company this past week. He invited me to their space at 1290 Kenaston, gave me a tour and shared details about what you should expect from TCB when they open.

Matt has been working on this project fully since April 2015. It’s been a journey to get to this point and it was really interesting to hear Matt walk me through the process.

Matt has always dreamed of opening his own business. When he graduated high school in ’09 he took a business program at UNC. After a couple of years of traditional classes, he spent a semester at sea through a university in Virginia. The ocean-spanning classes gave him a chance to travel and see a lot of neat stuff.

He eventually transferred to University of Western Ontario’s ivy business program – the HBA. While digesting a lot of ideas there, Matt was exposed to Ontario’s rich craft beer scene. Though he took another semester at sea to get some more travelling under his belt, he returned to Canada with a purpose, having explored the beer industry in many different countries across five continents.

When Matt rolled back into Winnipeg he had a vision to expand local beer offerings. (At the time only Half Pints and Fort Garry were operating, with Farmery just starting.) Matt felt, like many others, there was a need for more local brewing in the city and he wanted to create a truly world class venue in Winnipeg. After setting his mind to this he spent a time working through vision and decided to start the project in April of 2015. Matt feels that there is a lot of opportunity in the market and that people are more interested in where their food and beverage come from, who makes it and how it’s made.

A lot of people are curious about the name behind the brewery. Matt said he is often asked “Why TransCanada?” Initially he went through piles of names and had lots of ideas. One day Matt just had TransCanada pop into his head and felt it was so uniquely Canadian that it fit what he wanted the brewery to embody. With its historic and modern usage and the fact that on an average day you’ll hear it mentioned in the radio or see it written on your drive, Matt felt this was a name that was timeless.

The branding for TCB is Canadiana, with design elements pulled from an earlier era (1950s-60s) to give a taste of nostalgia. While referencing the period, TCB’s branding is also meant to be timeless – something that won’t expire or go out of fashion.

As a local brewery, Matt is very excited to produce beers with local ingredients and work with local suppliers and producers. His brewery concept is very Canada centric and he wants to explore different Canadian symbols and events in history. Overall he hopes TCB will be a celebration of Canada

Matt spent eight months looking for a site before settling on 1290 Kenaston. He explained it had been a very long process and he is excited to finally get started. If all goes according to plan, TCB will open in Q2 of 2017.

transcanada-interior-3

The concept behind TCB is interesting. While they will have a taproom they are looking at doing pizzas and will have a dedicated pizza space, pizza oven and kitchen. Matt explained the plans were being discussed before recent taproom legislation came into effect. After looking at the legislation and taproom license, he decided it made more sense to do manufacturing, restaurant and retail. All components are part of one business. The idea is not to be a brewpub but a production brewery with a taproom attached. This is very casual meeting space with no assigned seating, servers, etc. It’s a place to come and hang out and chat, enjoy the beer from the brewery and have a pizza or a beer-related snack from a set menu.

Between the taproom and the brewery there will be a wall featuring 20 ft. tall windows. These windows will stretch almost floor to ceiling. Matt wants people to see what’s happening live during the day or have a nice brewery backdrop in the evening. He plans on having some funky lights shining on the brewhouse and tanks to create an ambiance for the taproom.

At the bar area, Matt plans to have 16 taps. He would like one of these taps to be local/craft brewery rotating guest tap. As I hinted above, the taproom will be decorated with Canadiana. As well, there will be a private function room for events and parties. It will have the same taps as the main bar area to optimize its use for any event. This room, too, will have windows letting you see down into the main taproom and there will be A/V equipment for meetings.

Right now, Matt is the only employee of TCB but he does have two others helping out who will eventually join him full time. First is Thomas Schneider. This head Pizzaiaolo (pizza guy) has been in the pizza industry for a number of years. He’ll run a dedicated Pizza area within the taproom called “Timmy Toms Pizzeria” and produce a very unique hybrid pizza. It’s close to New York style but with twisted dough prepared for individual-size orders. When the team decided pizza was the way to go, they took a trip down to San Francisco to meet pizza guru Tony Gemignani. He runs the International School of Pizza where the guys took a week-long course on making, baking, serving and selling pizza. Matt is really excited about the pizza – both the variety the can bake and the special release combinations they can curate.

Also on board is Jeff Wirt. His future role will be accounting and administration but he is currently assisting with everything – a true renaissance man. Thanks to a lot of hard work, they’ve just posted the job to round out their team and hire a Head Brewer, with the ambitious goal of enticing a world class brewer to come and prepare the best beer possible.

On the production side of things, there will be an overhead door separating the taproom and brewery to allow for them to hold open houses and for easy movement of kegs to the taproom.

The main brewhouse is built by Specific Mechanical from Victoria, BC. It is a 35hl four vessel brew house with state of the art technology operated by touch screen controls. It has a 5 HL pilot system fully integrated into the one brewhouse.  It’s fully capable of any style of beer and can do decoction mashes, kettle souring and multi-stage mashes. There are essentially two separate brewhouses, fermenters and bright tanks at TCB. For the small batch system, Matt plans to have six 10 HL fermenters and two 10 HL bright tanks while there will be six 70 HL fermenters and two 70HL HL bright tanks for the big system.

This will allow for the production of small and large batches. Matt tried to automate some of the brewery to make it easier to flow and to expand in the future. To accommodate this, he is going to install a grain silo just outside with an auger through the wall that will go directly into the surge hopper and then feed to the malt cracker, grist case, and then into the mash tun. It’s a hands off approach for base malt and all of the spent grain will be augered to silo before being trucked out for feed. While specialty malt will have to be added by hand, this allows for some automation with the largest quantity malt.

The brewery is designed to be scalable, adding more tanks if there is a need. The space allows them to double capacity if necessary, following a flow pattern Matt designed to be sustainable in the future.


Matt really wanted the ability to produce sour beers. As part of TCB’s design a dedicated space has been set aside as “the barrel room.” This climate-controlled room, with closely monitored humidity and temperature, will house 40HL Foeders from France made from oak as well as additional barrels. A glycol system will allow for precise temperature control within the room itself as well as overall temperature control. The room will act as an aging and conditioning room where, thanks to the Foeders, TCB will have the ability to really experiment with sour beers and barrel aged beers. It’ll be a slow start, but Matt is very excited about the potential.

The main packaging line from German company Markl will allow them to bottle their main beer in open carriers of 355ml bottles and 650ml bombers. They’ll also have the ability to do cork and caging on a specialty packaging line they will use exclusively for 750ml bottles of beer from the barrel room. While Matt said they don’t plan to can, they do have the ability to add a canning line.

When I was walking around the space, everything was nice and open now, but it will be quite full when all the equipment is in. You just have to use a little bit of imagination.

As for the beers, Matt wants to brew many styles of beer. Obviously a lot will depend on the Brewer who joins the team, but the brewery is designed to produce a diverse array of beers including barrel aged beers, experimental beers, and mainstream styles. It’s a flexibility that matches its owner’s tastes in beer, though go-to styles for Matt to drink are American Pale ales and German Wheat ales (hefeweizen/dunkelweizen).

The beer will be distributed to Liquormarts, beer vendors, as well as sold on site from their retail section. Some specialty beers and those produced in the small batch system will only be available on site.


It was a great opportunity to chat with Matt. I’ve known about TransCanada for quite some time and I’ve been trying to get him to give me some details. Having the opportunity to hear about the plan is exciting. I can’t wait to see how things progress and to have the opportunity to visit along the way. Matt has a pretty swanky T-shirt he’s made, and if you’re interested, just contact him through their website and he’ll give you the details on how to get one of your own.

 

 

NB Dispatch – #1

I’ve been away from Winnipeg for just over a week now and already it’s been a fantastic trip. I went down through Vermont, got me some Heady Topper and other great beers. Then it was down to Boston with my Dad for his 65th birthday where we saw James Taylor and Jackson Browne live in concert. We drove back up to Canada through Portland, passed through Nova Scotia and are now back in Fredericton. It was a whirlwind, but a good one.

I’ve been doing my best while here in Fredericton to visit some of the breweries that have opened since I was here two years ago. The craft beer scene in New Brunswick has exploded with breweries popping up all over the place. This province of 750,000 people has 25 breweries and more on the way! While I won’t get to visit all of them, here is part one of my NB Breweries Dispatch.

 

Graystone

Graystone exterior

Graystone is the most recent addition to the craft beer landscape in NB.  It opened this Canada Day and has been working hard to make beer since. While they have not received their equipment – they’re using gear at two other local breweries for the time being – they will have a 10 barrel system when it finally arrives.

The name for the brewery comes from the owner. His wife’s last name is Gray.  The stone part comes from his “lightbulb moment” for the brewery. The owner, Wes Ward, and a friend were in Patagonia hiking when they came up with the idea for the brewery.  They want all the names of the beer to reflect this origin, including the three beers they’re currently brewing (though I only got to try two): Devil’s Peak Black IPA, Basecamp ISA and their flagship Patagonia Pale Ale.  They have been incredibly successful with their beers since opening, selling 300 L of the pale ale in one day.

Graystone taps

One of the unique things about Graystone is they are the only place in NB doing crowlers.  I love the crowler because of its ability to stay fresh longer and be easier to transport.  Of course the downside is you have to drink it all in one sitting… wait, is that a downside?

Graystone Crowler

The brewery also sells a variety of other local craft beers in flight and pint form. They are unable to sell any beer besides their own in crowler or growler but they have about 18 on tap.  If you are in Fredericton, it’s a great place to go and try out some different brews. It’s also a baby friendly brewery with change tables in each bathroom, so no excuses not to visit.

Recently, there was a story in the local paper that Gray Stone had been contacted by Greg Koch from Stone Brewing about the name.  They are now in the process of changing from Gray Stone to Graystone.  While this certainly isn’t a simple task, Wes was impressed with Greg for calling and working through it with him rather than just sending the lawyers. The process has begun but will take some time.

Maybee

Maybee exterior

Maybee Brewing Company opened in February of 2016 for growler sales only and then opened up their tap room and canning line in June. This brewery is named after the owners, Paul and Mikey Maybee, and produces a variety of beers, from their pale ale to a Brett Red.

They currently employ two brewers with a third joining shortly. Paul is the head brewer and had been homebrewing for nine years before opening Maybee.  He was in the same homebrew club as some of the other owners of breweries in the city and they all got the idea to start breweries around the same time.

Maybee tanks

Maybee runs a 10 barrel system with three 20 barrel fermenters and a 20 barrel bright tank.  They sell in cans, growlers and flagons (1L swing-top bottles) and you can get flights at their tap room. They only sell their own beer at the tap room.

Maybee taps

They currently brew six beer varieties: Belgian Tripel, Birdseye Pale Ale, Elevensies Espresso Stout, Roseway Red, Workhorse IPA and Brett Red. You can get all of these beers, except the Brett Red, in cans at the liquor stores in NB, though you can get the Brett Red in a 750ml corked bottle.

I chose to visit them
But if your travel plan’s crazy
Just visit a liquor store
And grab some… Maybee.

Trailway

 Trailway exterior

When I was last in NB two years ago, Trailway had just started selling beer from the owners’ basement to pubs around the city. They spent their first two years as a brewery operating in this manner and only recently (June, 2016) moved to their location on Fredericton’s north side.

With a 10 barrel system and four 10 barrel fermenters they currently do two brews a week.  They are looking to get three 30 barrel fermenters in the fall and plan to start canning and producing more beers at that point. Currently you can only get their beer at their taproom.

 

Owner Jake Saunders told me they are looking to take a Maine/Vermont approach and only do limited canning with a schedule that’ll keep the product as fresh as possible.  With their focus being on hazy, American-style ales – and wanting to focus on the juicy hops for their beer –  freshness is of key importance. They want to be flexible as well and so will have a three day schedule with some of the beer being sent to liquor stores around the province.

The brewery is co-owned by Jake, a chartered accountant, and Dan Mason, an engineer. Dan does most of the brewing while Jake focuses on the business side of the brewery. Both are solid brewers and Jake is, in fact, the President of the New Brunswick Craft Brewers Association.

As I said, Trailway’s focus is hoppy beers. They really love the Australian hops and use a lot of Topaz and Galaxy. They also love mosaic and citra (in small amounts). They do have a couple of stouts as well; a coffee and an oatmeal stout, and Jake told me they like the two extremes.  They don’t really like sweetness in beers so they go for really hoppy ales or dry stouts. They also have a Raspberry Wheat Ale in production for the summer but will likely move it to the wayside when they start canning.

Trailway flight

I chatted with Jake for about an hour and can say he certainly knows his beer and has a really good mindset for brewing. The beers were all solid and they have some other ideas for beers down the line. Jake really loves sour beers as well and said they are looking to start doing some when they get their new fermenters. Interestingly, the first one will likely be a hoppy Berliner Weisse.

The currently have seven beer on tap: Primetime APA, Patio Session, Luster Session, FanMango APA, Raspberry Wheat, Coffee Stout, and AM Oatmeal Stout.

The brewery is a little hard to see from the road, but throw it into your favourite map app and you’ll find it. They have a nice taproom and lots of space. It’s another stop well worth the visit.

I still have some breweries I’d like to visit around Fredericton, then PEI when I get there. I’ll look to do another post on these breweries next week while I enjoy sand and sun (and lobster) in PEI.

As always, thank you for following along and I hope if you get a chance to come to the East Coast, you’ll make a point to visit breweries along the way.

-Beer Winnipeg

Beau’s comes to Manitoba

beaus-logo-colour

While there has been a lot of excitement about the growth of the craft beer industry right in Manitoba, there have also been some exciting changes outside the province. Beau’s All-Natural Brewing has announced they will be distributing nationwide. In fact, their beer is already available in Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, Manitoba, PEI, and New York, and will come soon to Alberta and British Columbia.

I had the good fortune of sitting down with Steve Beauchesne, co-founder of Beau’s, when he was in town last week promoting their product. Before I get to our chat, I think it’s important to say a little bit about Beau’s.

Founded in 2006 in Vanleek Hill, Ontario by father and son Tim and Steve Beauchesne, Beau’s is an employee-owned and completely independent Canadian craft brewery. Led by head brewer Matt O’Hara, the focus at Beau’s is to brew interesting and tasty beers using only quality, certified-organic ingredients and local spring water. While not the only completely organic brewery in Canada, they certainly have made a name for themselves with their business practices: they’ve won over 85 awards for their brewing, packaging design and business practices. This includes two gold medals at Mondial de la Biere (Strasbourg, France, and Montreal Quebec); six gold medals at the Canadian brewing awards, seven times “Best Craft Brewery in Ontario” and seven times “Best Regularly Produced Beer in Ontario” at the Golden Tap Awards.

As with Picaroon’s (who I’ve written about before), Beau’s is a certified B-Corporation, which means they meet higher standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.  Beau’s is also the official brewery of Ottawa 2017, the festival of events our nation’s capital is organizing to mark Canada turning the big 150.

Though Manitobans have only received their flagship beer, Lug Tread Lagered Ale, Beau’s is trying to bring more of their beers into the province. They met recently with Liquor Marts to promote Golden Vox (Rye Pale Lagered Aled), Wag the Wolf (Hopfenweisse), Buenos Dias (from their Gruit Series), and The Tom Green Beer (Milk Stout). Hopefully we will see their other beers in the province over the next year.

As I said, I had the chance to talk to Steve, co-founder of Beau’s, about expansion across Canada, the brewery, his focus on environmental and ethical brewing, and craft beer in general. One of the things I was most curious about was their shift away from a “one-day” distribution model to nationwide distribution. Beau’s previously had a commitment to only sending their beer within a one-day drive to ensure quality and local reliability of supply. Their vision of themselves being this quirky little brewery only selling their beer in their own city shifted, however, after Mill Street sold to AB in Bev. They received more traction on their Facebook post than Mill Street did and realized they were now a quirky big brewery.

So after the sale of Mill Street, Steve said he felt it was important there be an independent alternative nationwide. They had also just expanded into Quebec – traditionally a very difficult market – and had been amazed by the support they received for their beer. This gave them confidence their brand was something people would be receptive to in other provinces.

Steve does not see this expansion as an attempt to get people to ditch favorite local beers. As craft beer grows its overall market share, he feels it’s nice to have options to try different beers on special occasions – perhaps pulled from a friend’s special fridge stock or when they go out for a drink.

Having had a one-day drive mindset for so many years, Steve is still very concerned about the distribution and logistics of nationwide expansion. That’s why he invited Jeff Moore onto his team – a distribution expert with 25 years’ experience at McAuslan Brewing and expertise getting product into provinces, making sure it is rotated properly so it’s as fresh as possible. This is what concerns Steve the most: that there is consistency in the taste of the beer and that it is exceptional every time you drink it.

Beaus Retail

To highlight this, Steve made sure after meeting with Liquor Mart’s product consultants about their beer to give them his card, asking them to stay in touch with questions, experiences and feedback. This is not about dumping beer off in another province. This is about keeping the same level of quality and community partnerships they have at home with the provinces they are expanding into.

Beau’s wants to create a reason to choose their beer when you are out and about. What makes their beer compelling back home? They are a brewery that produces great tasting beer, but also an organization that supports the community. Last year they donated to over 100 charities, and have donated over one million dollars to charities over the past 10 years. Steve is excited about the potential of this nationwide expansion to start developing local community building projects in each of the markets they enter. They have the goal of donating 1% of the sales in any province they enter back into community building projects that impact that area.

“We shouldn’t just drop beer in a province and be done with it. If we are going to be part of a community, we need to be part of the community.” Steve Beauchesne.

This means Steve is planning on travelling a lot more to be present in the provinces they distribute to.  Steve considers himself the most cynical customer and constantly asks himself why people might drink their beer. This is the main reason they’ve held off expanding for so long. Beau’s has always had this concept of not shipping farther than necessary. When they first opened they didn’t even distribute to Toronto because that was too far away. As they’ve grown they’ve consistently reinvested into the brewery and have increased their distribution as it made logical sense. Though this change is a bit more dramatic as they are expanding into many markets at once, they feel that with their current distribution apparatus it’s a leap they can land.

I asked Steve about the growth of the brewery since opening in 2006. He said that every year since starting, they’ve had to do a gradual expansion on the brewery.

They started from scratch – zero money – borrowing only from friends and family to get the brewery through its first 12 months. At the end of that year they went to the bank with their profits, put it all back into the business and borrowed what they could from the institution. With this money they expanded, and a year later repeated the process. What this means is there has never been a moment where they’ve taken on some outside angel investor who drops in 20 million and fully funds a major expansion. Beau’s had to look at their business every year, identify the bottlenecks and expanded their capacity strategically. One year it might be fermenters, the next their canning line, etc.  Right now Beau’s is able to brew 75,000 hectoliters but expects to brew 65,000 hectoliters this year.

Beaus Tanks

Beau’s has a reputation in the brewing community for being the “nice guys.” They are always willing to help other breweries and this co-operative culture has helped other breweries get more distribution and grow. For example, Beau’s has partnered with Gigantic brewing to help brew La Formidable and get it into Ontario. Steve says they have this reputation because they “walk the walk.” Beyond the Pale was opening up and going through rapid growth, so Beau’s lent them two fermenters and two bright tanks to help keep up with their demand. They’ve given the bottling line they outgrew to Cassel Brewing when that business needed it. They’ve given growlers to breweries who ran out and, of course, have spent tons of time talking to breweries, handing out free advice. This has been a rewarding path for Beau’s, both in reputation and sales.

“The old school philosophy about competition, being cutthroat and hurting everyone you can, it doesn’t work. The more we help, the more we do the right thing, the more our sales grow.” Steve Beauchesne

Beau’s expansion nationwide is certainly a dramatic expansion for them. Steve told me it took a lot of soul searching and contemplation before making the decision. They had been so adamant about staying super close to home they had to come to terms with making this move while staying true to the core-principles upon which Beau’s was founded.

After my conversation with Steve I was left with a better understanding of Beau’s, their reasoning behind their expansion, and a hope they will be successful in the Manitoba market. I’m impressed with their business practice, with the commitment to giving 1% of sales back to the community in Manitoba and with Steve’s passion for quality beer.

So, welcome to Manitoba Beau’s. Glad you could join us.

-Beer Winnipeg

Follow-up with Torque

Torque Tag

 

We are halfway through the summer months and getting closer to having two new breweries begin selling their beer. PEGbeer has written they‘re close to starting to brew while Torque is inching ever closer.

I had the opportunity to follow up with John and Adam from Torque earlier this week to get an idea of when we might get to taste some of their beer in a commercial setting. They’ve been working very hard these past months, doing a wonderful job of updating their Twitter followers, and have their tanks installed and are pretty much ready to go.

Torque Brewery - Long

Adam said they hope to have interim occupancy this week and they would like to be brewing August 2. The goal is to get beer out the doors as soon as possible, so the focus will be on producing, canning and selling beer with the taproom opening pushed to early September.

John said they want to get their beer on the shelves in Liquor Marts and beer vendors soon, so people will be able to bring Torque home with them. They will launch with four beers: Diesel Fitter (American Stout), Witty Belgian (Belgian Wit), Red Line (Red IPA), and What the Helles (Helles). Each style will be available in a 473ml single serve, with a 12 pack of the Helles and a 12 Variety Pack also available in the 355ml size.  Their beer will also be available on growler bars around the city, so you’ll have a few options for bringing home some of their beer.

“We’ll also be supplying a 473ml size Witching Hour Dark Pumpkin Ale for the Liquor Marts’ Pumpkin Pod fall promotion”, says Heim.

One of the things they are still waiting on is the loan program announced by the NDP and committed to by the PCs. They haven’t heard much on this program lately but hope to soon as it will help them get their beers out to Manitobans and possibly expand in the future.

The taproom itself will be limited to a 49-person capacity. They have two long tables made from beautiful elm, some stand up tables which are being made from wood recovered from old grain silos, plus a nice long bar. They plan on partnering with food trucks to feed patrons as well as laying out Torque beer nuts and baked goods from local bakeries. They also plan to have local foodie tours starting in the fall, partnering with the Winnipeg Trolley Company.

Torque Tables

One of the things on John’s radar are Manitoba’s rules regarding taprooms. He’d like to work with other members of the Manitoba Brewers’ Association to push for changes. Right now the occupancy limit is 49, they can only be open from 9am-9pm, and beer options are limited to in-house brews. He’d like to see hours shift to 11am-11pm, so folks leaving a Jets game could visit the taproom. And he would also like to see the option of a guest tap to expand the variety of beers.

While there is still a lot to do at Torque before they hit their ideal state, they’re prepared to put in the effort to “do things right.” They’ll take extra time if it is needed to get details perfect in both the brewery and the taproom. They’re even willing to take this approach in their brewing process: if the product is not up to snuff, they won’t send it out the door until it is.

Beyond that, the guys are looking forward to building some play into their project. Torque aims to a community brewery, with charity brews available early on. They also want to do brewing events like “learn to brew” and even have some homebrewers lined up to guest brew batches of beer. Adam is also really excited about their barrel program. They’ve got a 50 wine barrels from Mission Hill winery in BC and, while it won’t be any time in the near future, they have big plans for their barrel program.

Torque Brewery - Barrels

All in all, the folk at Torque’s hard work is steadily moving pieces into place so they can deliver some fantastic beer. If the quality is anything like what we tasted at Flatlander’s, expect some great brews soon.

-Beer Winnipeg

*Torque Brewing is located at 330-830 King Edward Street in Winnipeg, Manitoba*