First day of Beer School

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I sat down with a couple of friends that you might describe as beer novices.  They tend to drink the same beers and are hesitant to explore others. I wanted to talk to them to find out what keeps them from trying different beers, what they like and dislike in beer, and to drink a Half Pints Dead Ringer with them and get their opinion on it. So, let’s get to it.

Frank and Jason are average beer drinkers.  Frank tends to go for an Alexander Keith’s while Jason will often go for a Miller Light.  They go for these beers because they like the taste and they are refreshing.  Jason said he likes Miller Light because it is “smooth and refreshing” and he likes to have it after working out or doing work in the yard. While both of them have had a number of different beers they both tend to stick with these two beers of choice.

Frank and Jason are both willing to try new beers they just have some difficulty with experimenting and are looking for beer that they like to drink.  Jason likes to drink good quality union made beer that is a value, or a beer with some history.  Overall they both want to drink beers that are refreshing and that you don’t have to “work” to drink.

Frank enjoys “being able to drink the whole thing and something that tastes good cold. I don’t like bitterness in beer.” While Frank is pretty clear on what he doesn’t like, Jason doesn’t really know what he doesn’t like.  He just knows that he doesn’t like it because it’s “really strong”.

We ended up getting into a conversation about styles of beer. Both Frank and Jason didn’t really know very many different styles and Jason said “I never refer to them by style, I don’t know enough.”  Even so, Jason has recently gotten the “strength” to try different beers.  He says that the growler bars have been a big help in that for him.  He is now loving Sultana Gold and drinks that along with his Miller Light.

After getting this basic information down, I cracked open the bottle of Dead Ringer.  We talked about what style of beer it was, what they should expect in the taste and what IBUs were. I’m doing this with them as a means of education and to help them navigate beers they may not otherwise try. After a short conversation we started drinking.

Jason really liked it but said it isn’t something he “would have if [he] was out for wings.”  Frank also liked it thinking that it wasn’t overly bitter and thought, if he could get it, he’d drink it. Frank lives outside the city and relies a lot on the beer vendors which really limits his beer choice.  They both described it as a “sipping beer”.

Talking about the beer itself Jason raised some really interesting points. He said that he probably wouldn’t have bought this beer if he saw it in the Liquor Marts because of the label and the fact it has “strong beer” written on it.  Not being familiar with IBU, styles, and what to expect, he would be turned off by the “skeleton on the label”.

Jason said “A lot of what stops me from trying more is cost and fear of knowing what it tastes like. I like going to beer fest with someone who knows what they are talking about. I think sample packs are a really good way to try new beer”.  Jason has kids and doesn’t go out that often, so he relies on the Liquor Marts for his beer.  He is hesitant to try new beers because he doesn’t want to spend the money and not like it.  So, for now, his fridge is 15 miller light and 8 sultana gold.

Out of this experience I learned a few things. I learned that being knowledgeable about beer is important.  Without some sort of general beer knowledge, it might be difficult to take that first step into trying a beer you’ve never had before.  Jason wants to try different beers but he doesn’t know anything about them and doesn’t want to waste his money.  Having the opportunity to try the beers before buying them or having someone who is knowledgeable about beer to help him make his decision would be helpful.

Jason said that he was thankful to have a friend who know about beer.  We attended Flatlanders together and I was able to help him understand the various styles of beers he was trying and explain things about the beers to him before he tried them. Having this conversation made him more open to trying beers he might not otherwise try.  I think having good knowledgeable staff and opportunities for beers to be tasted would go along way into helping people take that first step.

We dubbed this evening “Beer School” and I think we are going to continue it.  Jason and Frank both were really interested in learning about Dead Ringer and talking about the style of beer.  So, we are going to continue down this path trying beers from different styles and talking about them.

Defining Craft Beer in Canada

Whenever I am talking to people about the virtues of craft beer there is invariably one question that I get asked: What is craft beer?  To answer that question we really need to look at what a craft brewery is.

This is a question that seems very difficult to answer right now.  While there are craft beer associations popping up across Canada (Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and New Brunswick, Nova Scotia) they do not necessarily represent all of the local breweries in their area nor do they seem to offer a clear definition of what craft beer might be.

Provincial governments, who regulate liquor sales in their respective provinces, have no clear definition of craft beer in their legal frameworks.  Instead, what does exist are terms like “small brewery, microbrewery, macrobrewery and nanobrewery” in which sizes in hectolitres are used to determine the classification mostly for taxation purposes.  Even these definitions vary widely.  In Saskatchewan to be considered a small brewery you need to produce less than 5,000 HL, while in New Brunswick it is 1.5 Million HL.  The British Columbia craft beer association represents breweries that produce less than 160,000 HL each year (Source) while Ontario Crafter Brewers set their limit at 400,000 HL. (Source)

Yet none of this actually defines what craft beer actually is.  The Ontario Craft Brewers association gives a definition, similar to that of the US brewers’ association, to define what craft beer means to their members saying:

Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) are local and defined as:

SMALL – Most Ontario Craft Brewers are small and many are family-owned. The current maximum size of an Ontario Craft Brewer is 400,000 hectolitres of annual worldwide beer production.

INDEPENDENT – Locally-owned and is not significantly controlled by a beer company who does not qualify as an Ontario Craft Brewer.

TRADITIONAL – Pledge to brew traditional and innovative beers according to the

Ontario Craft Brewers’ Brewing Philosophy. The original Philosophy was signed on

April 12, 2006 and was updated in September 2013. It is set out below.

Ontario Craft Brewers must locate and run their primary breweries in Ontario, close to the markets and the communities they serve. The breweries are open to the public, other brewers and beer enthusiasts.

(Source, p. 2)

U.S. Brewers Association

Small – Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships.

Independent – Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.

Traditional – A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.

The following are some concepts related to craft beer and craft brewers:

  • Craft brewers are small brewers.
  • The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation. Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent.
  • Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients like malted barley; interesting and sometimes non-traditional ingredients are often added for distinctiveness.
  • Craft brewers tend to be very involved in their communities through philanthropy, product donations, volunteerism and sponsorship of events.
  • Craft brewers have distinctive, individualistic approaches to connecting with their customers.
  • Craft brewers maintain integrity by what they brew and their general independence, free from a substantial interest by a non-craft brewer.
  • The majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a craft brewer.

(Source)

This definition uses more than just the size of the brewery as a means of defining what craft beer actually is.  The US based brewers’ association lays out some concepts surrounding craft beer as well, which expand and start to develop a definition of craft beer – something I’d like to see replicated in Canada. Craft Brewers must meet these criteria in order to qualify to use the associations’ logo on their beer.

When we think of craft beer though, size isn’t what necessarily comes to mind.  Take Sierra Nevada for example in the United States.  Many would consider them to be a craft brewery, yet, they produce over 900,000 HL and so would not fall into the some of the size restrictions here in Canada.  What is important in respect to size limitation is that it be consistent.

With  Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABinBev) buying SABMiller to become the largest beer company in the world, I think it is important that craft beer be defined in a way that is consistent and recognizable and national.  Even more so, if we want this definition to mean something more and to protect what craft beer means and is, then this definition needs to be put into law.

This is where the conversation comes in.  There is no clear definition of craft beer that can be used Canada wide, yet, there is a great deal of opinion and anyone you ask will likely have their own way of defining craft beer.  www.hoptahouse.ca wrote an article similar to this one and cited a book from 1986 saying:

The term appears to have been coined by Vince Cottone, author of Good Beer Guide: Breweries and Pubs of the Pacific Northwest (Homestead Book Co., Seattle, 1986). Cottone had a very narrow definition in mind, saying that craft beers are produced by “a small brewery using traditional methods and ingredients to produce a handcrafted, uncompromised beer that is marketed locally.” Cottone’s definition was so strict that that he excluded pasteurized beers, as well as brewers that use malt extracts.

While this provides a good starting point for what craft beer is, it is incomplete, so I’d like to offer a definition of my own.  I want to stress that this is my opinion and I know there will be others that disagree or have a different definition.  Part of the problem I suppose, but here we go.

For me, craft beer is a locally owned brewery that produces handcrafted beers.  They are breweries who are making beer for the love of the craft, who are creative, experimental, and willing to try out of the box ideas.  A brewery that is not afraid to make a beer not everyone will like but will make beer that they want to drink.

This is an important conversation to have. With Manitobans buying 76.2 Million Litres of beer between May 2014 and May 2015, this is not a small market.  And yet, 81.5% of this market is dominated by the Macro-breweries represented mostly by ABinBev.  The market for Craft Beer has room to grow.

Yet we have seen craft breweries in Canada and elsewhere purchased by ABinBev as they try to get their foot into the craft beer market in an attempt to halt market share loss.   Canadian micro-breweries now have 4.2% of beer sales but have also grown by 19% in dollars and 12% in litres over the past year (Source). The problem is, does this include Goose Island (owned by ABinBev) and Mill Street (recently bought by ABinBev) and does that even matter?  Is non-craft beer “bad” beer?  Does being craft beer automatically make you good?  We also need to ask those questions when defining craft beer.

While there is great work being done by brewery associations in their respective provinces, and while a definition for craft beer is starting to become clearer in some provinces, without a nationwide definition and laws to support it, it’s hard to know what craft beer really is and whether what you are buying is what you think it is.  At least with the Ontario Craft Brewers and the American Brewers’ Association beers which meet their criteria and are members are identified right on the bottle.  Seeing something like this Canada wide that helps beer drinkers recognize beers as “craft beers” would be great, we just need to make sure the reason we are doing it is sound.

To conclude, I sent out a tweet asking for people to define what craft beer is to them. I didn’t get back many responses but I did get a few.  If you’d like to share how you view craft beer I’d be happy to add.  Still, I’d like to finish by sharing the definitions I did receive with you:

@ThousandThought – Going with: Locally owned and operated, committed to quality ingredients and practices, prioritizing craft before profit.

@colinkoop – Craft beer is brewed by an independently-owned brewery using natural high-quality ingredients. It is an artisanal product that can both adhere to style guidelines and bend them. Craft beer feeds back into its local economy and culture. It focuses on quality over quantity and profit. Craft brewers grow craft beer culture by respecting other craft breweries and embracing a collaborative/cooperative marketplace.

J.M. – Meticulously crafted, small batch beer. Often with particular flavours and themes not found in your typical macrobrewery.

M.S – A passion to explore the flavour and strength of different ingredients and different brewing methods.

@beerideas – Beer Ideas responded on his own blog. Check out his essay about craft beer here.

All Brew’d Up

As the last of my Spruce Tree IPA begins to dwindle down it comes time to brew once again.  This is my second batch since getting back into scratch brewing and I wanted to try another style of beer I really like.

Anyone who has followed this blog knows that Peak Organic White IPA got my top pick for the Craft Beer Advent Calendar last year.  I’ve had a number of White IPAs and it is definitely a style that I really enjoy.  I also like to be creative and try things I haven’t had before.  It’s why I got into home brewing, I wanted to try different things out, see what works and what doesn’t, and make beer I want to drink.  So, rather than the tradition orange and coriander combination oft found in White IPAs, I went with lemon and thyme.

I never did get around to posting an update to my Spruce Tree IPA.  It turned out really well.  I was very happy with it and the spruce definitely comes through. I’ve had the opportunity to share it with a number of people who I trust and overall the reception has been good. I do end up with a bit of cold haze in the beer and there are times when the spruce isn’t as strong as I’d like, but overall I am happy with it.  I did make a few of mistakes and I am trying to learn from this time.

First off, I didn’t treat my water.  For those who don’t know chlorine and chloromine are often found in city water.  It’s a way for them to ensure the water clean.  Chlorine boils off during the brew process, but chlormine does not and can interact with the proteins in your wort and make for a funky taste.  I lucked out on my Spruce IPA that I didn’t end up with a noticeable change with this interaction, but this time I treated my water to remove the chloromine.  This should improve this batch of beer.

The second mistake I made was not cold crashing.  I was new to doing this before I picked it back up and something I’ve recently learned is that you want to cool your beer down after the boil as quickly as possible.  This is a cold crash.  It also helps with the cold break to allow the particulate in your wort  to drop to the bottom so you don’t transfer it over to the fermenter resulting in a clearer beer.  As well, dimethyl sulfide is a compound which forms in wort when it is hot.  This is boiled off but if you don’t cool your beer quickly it can form again resulting in off flavours in the finished beer.   Again I was lucky to avoid any significant off flavours, but something I wanted to learn from and made sure I did on this batch.

The third (yes I made three) mistake I made was not considering the hop profiles.  I was so excited to get started I just grabbed a few hops not even considering how they might play with the spruce.  This time around I made sure to consider this and end up using Chinook hops from Prairie Gem Hops.

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Overall, I am quite pleased with this batch so far.  It smells really good and I’m hoping that the taste will be there at the end of the day as well.  As I am still new to this, I don’t mash.  So for this recipe I used extract.  I also ended up using pellitized hops for the knockout.

Recipe:

5.25lbs pale malt extract
2.5lbs wheat malt extract

2oz dried chinook hops (Praire Gem, 60 minutes)

5 oz dextrose (30 minutes)
whirfloc tab (30 minutes)

1/2 oz dried lemon peel (5 minutes)
1 oz fresh thyme (5 minutes)

Centennial (knock-out)
Willamette (knock-out)

wyeast 3787 (High gravity trappist yeast)

Now I just play the waiting game.  I’ll let you know how this one turns out.

-Beer Winnipeg

Prairie Gem Hops

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As a beer drinker and a home brewer I am always looking for good quality beer and ingredients. I think it is important to support local farmers and industries so that our businesses in our province can thrive and be successfully.  I’m a huge supporter of local farms and buy from them as often as I can. So when I heard that there was a hop farm just outside the perimeter I had to check it out.

Sandra Gowan and Paul Ebbinghaus started Prairie Gem Hops and have been growing in Manitoba since 2009.  Sandra was a gardener and grew a variety of vegetables and plants and was always interested in pushing the limits of what can be grown in the Manitoba climate.  After reading an article about the hop shortage she decided to begin researching hop growing and eventually decided to give it a try.

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Her and her husband started with 3 varieties of hops to see how they would fair.  After a successful grow season they started adding varieties, moving to 12 and eventually to 18 different hop varieties. As well as a spin on a native hop (Brewers Gold) she produces many others including chinook, nugget, centennial, galena, sterling, cascade and Willamette.  All this is grown on a ¼ acres of farm land. While Sandra has 225 plants, producing hops is a little bit like making maple syrup.  You need more than you get.  From 5lbs of hops Sandra will produce 1lb of dried hops for sale.  Last year Sandra produced 280lbs of dried hops from her 225 plants.

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Prairie Gem Hops does their best to grow their plants as safely as possible.  They don’t use any chemicals and focus on composted fertilizer to provide the nutrients her plants need.  This becomes a challenge when fighting bugs, but Sandra wants to make sure her product is grown in the safest way possible and is willing to deal with them naturally.

The hops that are produced at Prairie Gem Hops are used not only in commercial beers, selling to breweries like Fort Garry, but also for the home brewer market.  Sandra sells to Grape and Grain as well as Hop and Vine and is willing to sell directly to home brewers.

Prairie Gem is harvesting now and this is the perfect time to be looking at buying hops.  Sandra is willing to accommodate brewers who are looking to make a fresh (wet) hopped beer with fresh local hops as well. This is also a great time to be growing hops in Manitoba due to the growth in the craft beer.  With all the breweries looking to open there is also the hope that they will be trying local producers to meet their brewing needs.

Sandra’s farm is fantastic.  She is passionate about growing hops and has a fantastic product. While there are a number of producers of hops to choose from, supporting local businesses is really important for me, it’s why I focus on local beer and breweries.  I’ve talked about how the brewing industry is incredibly supportive of new breweries opening their doors and I only hope that these same breweries will start to look local when brewing beer. I know that I’ll be using Sandra’s chinook hops for my next home brew and I hope others will do the same.

Happy Brewing,

-Beer Winnipeg

Interview with Oxus Brewing Company

Manitoba is pretty far behind when it comes to the craft beer scene. Our liquor laws received a complete overhaul in 2014 and the brewery scene has taken notice.  While no one has told me the laws have made it easier to open a brewery, I’ve heard that the attitude of the liquor commission and liquor and gaming authority has shifted as has the appeal.  With growler bars, tap rooms and a clamoring public it is no wonder that there are more breweries wanting to get into the game.

I’ve spoken with Barn Hammer and Peg City Beer Co over the past few weeks and this week I had the opportunity to sit down with the guy behind Oxus Brewing Company. 

The young computer programmer is an immigrant who came to Canada from Tajikistan.  When he lived in Tajikistan they had 4 or 5 breweries that brewed what’s called “Czech style” beer. Despite what you might think, it was not a pilsner but more of a “Russian style beer” as Sean describes it.  It was in Tajikistan that Sean’s desire to open a brewery really began but the process was very difficult and he was forced to put his dream on hold.

Sean has lived in Canada for the past 5 years and moved to Winnipeg in 2012.  Since arriving here, Sean, who is a programmer by trade, has been working at his own company doing software development.  Since living in Winnipeg he has delved deeper into the brewing process. As a member of the Winnipeg Brew Bombers for the past two years he has had the opportunity to learn from some really talented brewers and worked very hard at becoming one himself.  Sean, who has always wanted to open a brewery, decided that now was the time to do it.

Once that decision was made he read every book and blog he could about starting a brewery while also meeting with David Rudge of Half Pints for advice and guidance on the process.  For the past year, Sean has been working out the details and perfecting his recipes with the hope of opening up the doors of a brewery in the summer of 2016.

It is his goal is to open Aurora Craft Brewery debt free and as such will most likely be the smallest brewery in Manitoba.  He’s already purchased the brewery equipment and plans to have a maximum brewing capacity of Aurora will be 1800 h/l, though at opening the capacity will likely be about half that.

The 28 year old says that they will for sure have a growler fill station and two session beers to start.  As it is still very early in the planning process he hasn’t decided on style but he said you can bet on finding hoppy beer.

Sean decided to do some session beers (an ABV of under 5%) because he likes the idea of being able to have a few drinks without knocking your socks off.  He was emphatic that when he says “a session” he doesn’t mean a weak, flavourless beer.  He is also very optimistic that he will be able to put out bi-weekly specials similar to the test batch Tuesday done by Half-Pints.

As this is very early on in the process for Sean, he has not yet chosen a location.  He is looking in the St. James area and wants to secure a site as soon as possible.  While Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries and the Liquor Gaming Authority have both been very helpful, he needs to have a location to move forward with the licencing process.  Finding the space is crucial.

The most difficult thing Sean had to overcome was the fear that he will lose everything.  As with any business, there are no guarantees, but Sean has sunk his entire life savings into this venture and it truly is his dream.  Sean is not only passionate about beer but he told me starting the brewery “wasn’t about money.”  Although he put his savings into this and hopes it succeeds, first and foremost he wants to do something he loves and make good beer that people enjoy. Sean wanted to do something that he could call “the work of my life.”  Sean wants to “dedicate my time to making high quality beer and being part of the community.”

Sean is doing this venture alone: he is going to be the owner and brewmaster. While there might be others on the team, right now it is him and him alone.  With his passion and drive I am optimistic for what is to come.  I asked him what he would say to people who are skeptical with an opening date so far away.  He said that “I want to do something I love and I’ve put my savings into this and I am willing to take this brewery all the way.”

One thing that has become clear from these interviews is how much the brewing community relies on and respects one another.  Sean has met with a number of the people behind the other breweries and has echoed statements I’ve heard about how helpful they all have been.  He told me “it’s amazing how much people are willing to help.”  With the amount of beer being produced Sean doesn’t think that he will ever see the other breweries as competition, instead it is an opportunity to put more craft beer on the shelves of Manitoba liquor stores and on tap in Manitoba bars.

Every time I get the chance to sit down with someone and talk to them about their plans I’m excited for the future of brewing in Manitoba.

-Beer Winnipeg

Interview with Barn Hammer

Barn Hammer

This is a really exciting time for craft beer in Winnipeg.  With changes to the liquor laws making it more appealing for breweries to open, making brew pubs possible, and expansion of the growler bars, craft beer drinkers have a lot to be revved up about.

I spoke with Nicole Barry from Peg Beer Co. last week and this week I had the opportunity to sit down with Tyler Birch and Brian Westcott, the small but mighty team behind the new Winnipeg brewery Barn Hammer.

Tyler and Brian are an excellent team, bringing two important strengths to the brewery – business and craftsmanship.  Tyler owns and operates a fencing company with his father Ted.  TnT Fenceworks has been successfully operating for the past 10 years successful.  While working there, Tyler became interested in home brewing and spotted the low number of breweries in Manitoba compared to other provinces.  With his sincere love of beer and interest in brewing, Tyler wanted to do something to fill that gap and began working through the process to create Barn Hammer Brewin Co.

When the laws began to change, it made it more appealing and helped Tyler get his plan off the ground.

By chance, Brian Westcott, former production manager for Alley Kat Brewing Company in Edmonton, was looking to move to Manitoba.  Brian started brewing in university with about 6 or 7 carboys on the go at any given time.  His first degree was in Biochemistry and when he got a job in Fort St. John he found himself with a lot of time to read about brewing and decided to become a professional brewer.  He was hired by Alley Kat Brewing, but after about 18 months on the job, he wanted to learn more.  So, Brian headed back to school and as a graduate of Scotland’s M.Sc. program in brewery science worked for another 7 years at Alley Kat but was always hoping to move back to Manitoba.  (His wife is a native of northern Manitoba.)

The timing on their move couldn’t have been better.  After meeting with Tyler to discuss the vision of the brewery, Barn Hammer officially had a head brewer and a partner to round out Tyler’s home brewing knowledge.

While Tyler has not been involved in the brewing industry at all, he has a strong business sense from running TnT for the past 10 years.  This combined with Brian’s extensive experience working in all aspects of brewing make for a dynamite combination.  Add the fact Tyler’s wife Sable is an accomplished graphic artist and this three person team has a lot of the bases covered for getting a brewery up and running.

Tyler started planning about a year ago- again, mostly due to the fact Winnipeg is so far behind the rest of the country in the local craft market.  Now he gets to work with Brian to create beer “I want to drink” while using his already honed business skills to get that beer into the hands of Manitobans.

One of the biggest challenges Tyler and Brian faced was finding a good location.  They wanted an industrial site that wouldn’t be so far away people would be hesitant to visit. They also needed a landlord who was willing to lease. Plus there was an extra self-imposed condition:  it had to be close enough Tyler could bike to work.

Luckily they found this location at 595 Wall Street and have begun renovations for their planned opening in December.

When it comes to the actual beers they will be producing, the team at Barn Hammer has some ideas, names and concepts but are really only in the test brewing stage.  With Sable on board, they have a unified label design in mind but still have to finalize their beers.  When they open in December the goal is to have two beers canned with a seasonal on tap at their brewery.  Brian told me he was just getting a Winter Ale test batch underway – a little weird being summer, but something they hope to have ready when they open.  At the brewery opening they plan to give the public an opportunity to try some of their beers on tap – an activity they want to continue as they try new things out and experiment.

Barn Hammer will be running a 15 barrel system and plan to be producing a little over 1000 HLs in the first year with the goal of moving up to 5000 H/L in a few years.  Both Tyler and Brian want to grow to a comfortable size where they can produce beer they like while still experimenting and staying truly small and local.  With their plan of having a couple of mainstays and constant experimentation, I think Winnipeggers and Manitobans will welcome this newcomer and be excited for the new brews as they become available.

As I said before, Tyler and Brian hope to have two beers in cans to start with the rest in the tap room and growler area.  Their focus for the opening will be the brewery itself, but they told me with 100% certainty they’ll have a growler fill area when they open, so we’ll be able to head in and try things out right from the get go.  I was really excited when Brian told me they would be keeping things experimental and “interesting” -Tyler and Brian don’t’ want to get complacent, they want to stay small and focus on the craft of brewing beer.

I am always interested in how those involved in brewing view beer.  It’s something that has come up in a number of my interviews and the answer, I find, is very telling.  Brian reiterated what I’ve heard from those passionate about beer when he told me beer is a “beautiful meld of science and art. Beer is one of those things where you can be as scientific as you like, but at the end of the day there is some art to it”.  Tyler said beer is a “gathering place. Everyone has different tastes but the debate and discussion unifies beer drinkers.”

The name for the brewery comes from Tyler’s experience out at the lake. Their cabin has an old Barn on its land and one summer his father, Ted, decided to try and pull it down using his truck.  The truck was not up to the task and as a joke Tyler started calling it the “Barn Hammer” and the name stuck.

Barn Hammer plans to open in December of this year with two beers ready to be canned with at least one seasonal on tap for growler fills.  Be sure to follow them @barnhammerbeer on Twitter and add them to your list of breweries to visit once they open.  I’m really excited to see what beers they have in store for us.

Interview with Nicole Barry

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I was lucky enough to sit down with the wonderful Nicole Barry.  Those unfamiliar with Nicole will certainly be familiar with the brewery she helped found, Half Pints, and have most likely heard that she is the force behind the up and coming brew pub, Peg Beer Company.

To give a little bit of a bio, Nicole is a mother of two whose professional background is accounting.  She got into accounting not to work for an accounting firm but to “be an entrepreneur and be successful at it.”  For the past year she has been working diligently to get Peg Beer Company ready to open.  The opening has been officially announced for the brew pub.  Nicole hopes to be open in December.  The brew pub will be located on the corner of Pacific and Lily.

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I wanted to sit down with Nicole and find out a little bit about what we can expect from Peg Beer Company as well as how the changes in the laws have impacted the opening of the brew pub.

Nicole describes herself as unsuspecting.  She is a beer person, not a brewer, who knows her craft beer.  She loves the artistic creativity of brewing and has an obvious passion for it. She became involved in the brewing industry in 2002 and has seen a significant change over the years in the number of people who actually know what craft beer is.  Like me, Nicole believes that education about craft beer is a big thing.  She describes it as “the art and craft”.  For Nicole craft beer is about not only the way you doing things but why they are done that way and also giving back to the community.

Nicole has been wanting to open a brew pub ever since she visited her first one.  She had the opportunity after leaving her previous brewery and has been working full time on getting Peg Beer Co ready to open for about a year now.  Nicole says that this is about average for opening a brew pub.

When Nicole first decided to open a brewery in 2002 she called the Liquor Commission and they laughed at her on the phone.  This was a time of struggles for Manitoba breweries and while she was eventually successful in getting Half Pints open in 2005/6 she says that the climate is much different now. Not only is Nicole a known commodity but the mindset in Manitoba has changed.  Manitobans want breweries to open and they want them to be successful.

In respect to craft beer, Manitoba is still in its infancy.  While there is a much bigger demand for craft beer and people are starting to become more educated, Nicole told me that over the years she has sat down with dozens of potential breweries that never came to be. For there to be multiple breweries announcing that they are opening is a good change.

Rather than opening a brewery, Nicole decided to open a brew pub.  She was involved in helping to change the brew pub legislation and showing them why it needed to be changed by giving examples of what exists elsewhere.  In revamping the laws it helped make it easier to open a brew pub while at the same time being able to produce, package and distribute from the same location.  This will also let Nicole have other local breweries on tap rather than being limited to only serving the beer they produce.

Essentially, Nicole wanted to put her money where he mouth is.  What’s good is that the LGA wants Peg Beer Company to be successful and it gives Nicole the chance to create the atmosphere where she would like to hang out and drink beer. With Peg Beer Company Nicole is paying homage to all of her favorite places like Pizza Port in California.

As for Beer, well Nicole is a sucker for a good IPA but also likes other styles like Sours as well.  For her, beer is a form of creativity and art in a glass, not something to be pounded back to get drunk.  Yet for Peg Beer the food and beer menu design is still a work in progress.  Nicole has a theme in mind but wants to have the collaboration of the rest of the staff in designing the menus.

What is exciting is that Nicole also wants to get feedback from the community.  She said that they will not be packaging beer for the first 3-4 months.  Beer will only be available from the taps on site.  This will give them time to get feedback on their recipe design, find out what people like and what they don’t and will help them refine their beers before moving to the packaging stage.  This is fine by me, with the tank to tap system they will have I’m excited to have the opportunity to give feedback on the beer.

Nicole does have the brewing team in place but bit of information must be kept quiet for now.  Make sure to follow @pegbeer on twitter because that’s where it will be announced it officially.

Obviously along with taps and a restaurant they will be brewing on site. The capacity of the brewery on will start at about 2000 hectalitres.  They will be using a 15 barrel system and she hopes to be up to 5000 hectalitres by year 4 or 5. They will have the capacity to package in a variety of formats and sell from on site.  Nicole also has some other plans up her sleeve for the brew pub for the future but she needs to keep some mystery about what’s to come.

Nicole let me have a look at the plans for the site and I have to say the location looks awesome.  I for one am really excited about visiting there when it opens and I cannot wait to see what beers Nicole has in store for us.

The brewing community here in Winnipeg is very tight knit. In fact, while talking to Nicole the guys from Barn Hammer happened by.  Nicole is really excited about the other breweries opening and thinks that all of them are bringing the right attitude and perspective to the table.  All of them seem to really care about the industry and want to brew with integrity.

I had a fantastic time sitting down with Nicole.  Not only is she an incredibly knowledgeable person with a passion for craft beer, she was willing to give me some of her time.  For that, I’m very thankful. What I’ve learned from interviewing people so far is that beer folks are some of the nicest folks you’ll meet.

This week I’ll be sitting down with Barn Hammer to find out what their experience has been with opening a brewery here in Manitoba and to find out what they have in store for us in the near future.

Thanks for reading.

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