The stately lady in the above photo is my great-great-great-great-great grandmother, Susannah Woodhouse (Culverwell) Oland. If you are a beer geek, you may just recognize her as the grand matriarch of Canadian brewing. If not, you still might recognize her name from having seen it on a wall inside a pub...
There are some inconsistencies in the stories about her, details blurred by the passing of time, but she was, by all reports, a woman of indomitable spirit. A person of grit and pluck who carried her family through thick and thin. Her husband, John, along with his three male partners, may have been given the public credit for the founding of their first brewery, (The Army and Navy Brewery, named in honor of the breweries best, most thirsty customers.) but the family has always held that Susannah was the true driving force behind it all. The beer they first brewed was Susannah's, her personal recipe for a brown "October Ale", and when John died suddenly in 1870 during a riding accident, she founded her own brewery: S. Oland, Sons and Co.
John's untimely death left Susannah with 6 children to care for and in considerable financial distress. She was forced out of their company, selling the families shares in The Army and Navy Brewery. But ever unsinkable, she came roaring back into the brewing world seven years later, buying the brewery back from the remaining partners and founding her own damn company, using an inheritance she had received.
S. Oland, Sons and Co. may not have had her name on it exactly, but it did have the next best thing: her initial. This was either an acquiescence to the social pressures of the time, or a strategic move to sell more beer to late 1800's male chauvinists. It's said that it was her choice to use only her initial, a decision made as canny business move, and that would certainly fit in with what we know of her character.
Either way, we do know that Susannah found her success as an unlikely female entrepreneur of the age, and guided S. Oland, Sons and Co. into prosperity- though it didn't come easily. Fire, a major (and constant) threat to breweries of the era, struck twice over the first 8 years of operation. But both times that the brewery burnt, Susannah rebuilt. She survived, grew, and taught her sons what she had learned of both brewing and business. In 1886 Susannah Oland died, and the company fell to her sons; George and Conrad.
I can't say why, but perhaps eager to get out from under the shadow of their legendary Mother, George and Conrad renamed the company to The Maritime Brewing & Malting Co.
It would seem that business for the two brothers was mostly good- until the morning of December 6th, 1917.
The Halifax explosion was catastrophic. The blast was the greatest that the world had ever known, and it remained that way -the most powerful explosion that the world had ever seen- right up until the development of nuclear weapons. It still holds the gruesome record for the most powerful blast ever created by conventional explosives.
Nearly all structures within an 800-metre (2,600 ft) radius, including the entire community of Richmond, were obliterated. A pressure wave snapped trees, bent iron rails, demolished buildings, grounded vessels, and scattered fragments of the Mont-Blanc for kilometres. Hardly a window in the city proper survived the blast. Across the harbour, in Dartmouth, there was also widespread damage. A tsunami created by the blast wiped out the community of Mi'kmaq First Nations people who had lived in the Tuft's Cove area for generations.
As for the Olands, the disaster demolished their brewery, killed Conrad, and ultimately split the family apart. After the explosion, the family rebuilt in two places: atop the original Nova Scotia address in Halifax, and in a new location in Saint John, New Brunswick. By the 1930's, two distinct and separately controlled companies had emerged: Oland Breweries in Halifax and what will eventually come to be known as Moosehead Brewery in Saint John New Brunswick. Divided, Susannahs descendants fought bitterly over the Maritime beer market. This lasted until 1971, when Oland's Breweries was acquired by Labatt, which was itself consumed by Interbrew, which merged with Anheuser-Busch to become now AB InBev, and which will soon become Coorbrew-Global-Hyper-Mega-Corp I suppose.
In 1993 Derek Oland made the strategic decision to shutter Moosehead’s Nova Scotia brewery (Which was established in Dartmouth to compete with the cousins) in favour of focusing their efforts on their New Brunswick home. This marked the end of the family's Nova Scotian brewing tradition, begun by Susannah just over 125 years prior- but it was far from the end of the Oland family brewing tradition: Moosehead remains proudly independent and family-run to this day.
Still, somewhat sadly, the Oland name- or at least, the Oland Brands- are now owned and brewed by Inbev. Brands like Schooner Lager :
You may recognize that schooner from such currencies as: our own, and such denominations as: the flippin' dime. And well, if you don't, then it's time for another heritage minute:
What the heritage minute doesn't mention, and what many do not realize about the Bluenose, is that she wasn't just a pleasure craft. She was built to work and race, and when she reached the end of her useful working life, she was sold- just like you would do with a used work truck.
She was no mere racing ship, but also a general fishing craft that was worked hard throughout her lifetime. She fished cod and other kinds of groundfish, and at least once won competitions for largest catches of the season and similar awards.
Fishing schooners became obsolete during the 1930s, displaced by motor schooners and trawlers. Despite efforts to keep her in Nova Scotia led by Capt. Walters, Bluenose was sold to work as a freighter in the West Indies. Laden with bananas, she struck a coral reef off Île à Vache, Haiti on January 28, 1946. Wrecked beyond repair, with no loss of life, she was abandoned on the reef.
Still, the people of Nova Scotia mourned the loss of the Bluenose, and in 1963 Oland's Breweries had a replica built of the celebrated vessel; the Bluenose II. It was built using the original Bluenose plans, at the original shipyard, even with many of the same shipwrights. The Bluenose II was primarily a promotional tool, but she was also used as a pleasure yacht for the Oland family, right up until 1971, the year of the Labatt's buyout, when the family sold the Bluenose II to the government of Nova Scotia- for one dollar... or 10 dimes.
"Wait" I can almost hear you thinking, "Victor, if you're a part of this yacht-owning family, this national beer dynasty, why did you start a tiny contract brewery, instead of, you know, anything else??" Well, the simple answer is: I'm not. I'm a North. (and very proud to be one!) But we Norths have no particular claim to brewing. Remember how I mentioned that Susannah is my great-great-great-great-great grandparent? Well, we all have a lot of those. Mathematically speaking, we ought to have around one-hundred and twenty-eight, in fact. Look hard enough into that crowd, and there ought to be at least one or two exceptional people in the mix. Wait but Why has an excellent post that explains genealogy (which can be found here) and in it is an illustration which explains my situation within the Oland family almost perfectly:
I've always thought that what we choose to be is so much more important that what our ancestors were anyway. I am a brewer because I chose to become one, and that is what counts at the end of the day, no? As Kurt Vonnegut wrote: "We are what we pretend to be".
Still, I do draw inspiration from my Great5 Grandmother Susannah, her determination and her resilience, and the resilience shown by her descendants. I take a measure of pride that beer runs in my blood (increasingly more so, after several beers!) It's a source of reassurance to reflect upon when the going gets tough... which it has. I'm afraid that this brings me, at long last, to the point of this story. I have some sad news: I'm sorry to tell you that we've run out of runway, and we're going to have to stop brewing for the foreseeable future.
It's no secret that contract brewing is a difficult way to start a brewery. Local beer writer, Jordan St. John recently wrote that "Contract brewing has proved to be a grueling, merciless, low margin, joyless and difficult way to make your way in the beer industry." which was such a remarkably pointed and insightful comment, it made me wonder when Jordan ran a contract brewery!? The low margins he mentions are key: the margins are very thin indeed, so unless you are contract brewing on a rather large scale, these small margins mean that you are unlikely to break even, and making money becomes an unrealistic goal.
The true goal with contract brewing is typically to build a brand, develop some brand equity, or prove a concept. The entire exercise could be thought of as a marketing expense; the money you lose bringing your product to market, attending beer festivals, and operating your company is essentially money invested towards building up the idea of your brewery into a real and respectable thing. This is done in the hopes that you might be better able to access funds that perhaps would not have been available to you otherwise, say, if you were simply a dreamer with a well-thumbed business plan. That was our thought anyway, of course I can't speak for every contract brewer. There are lots of folks out there taking the same route as us, and many seem to be doing rather well! Perhaps we have simply been doing it wrong. (That seems quite likely actually, given the circumstances!)
Regardless, we simply didn't have the money to chase this dream but we wanted to chase it anyway, so contract brewing was the method we picked to jam our foot into the door. It's not something that is sustainable for very long. You either open the door, or it gets painful pretty darn fast! The idea, typically, is to move past contract brewing -and do so quickly- before you lose your shirt! (or foot!)
There is a simple reason why most contract brewers have either a part-time or full-time job in addition to their business. But that job presents a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem familiar to any entrepreneur: you don't want to quit your job and go all-in until your business is actually no longer losing money, but that is unlikely to ever happen if you don't commit your full time and attention to the project. Once I left my position teaching at the College to focus on Garden Brewers, I was making that commitment and taking that chance- and I set the clock ticking. We began to really focus on growing into a bricks-and-mortar company, but we also began to really lose money. I genuinely thought that we would beat the clock -and the odds- but we now find ourselves in a position where we are unable to continue.
Don't worry about us though. I've already been offered, and accepted, a job. I've been brewing for a little while now at Black Oak, and I'm happy to be in such good company while we figure out what comes next! In the coming weeks and months, Garden Brewers will be winding down and selling our remaining kegs of beer. We will then be collecting the empties, and selling the kegs themselves as well. Unfortunately, we'll have to sell any physical assets of the company that we can, in order to help cover some of our start-up loans. From there, it's harder to say. I would like to say "We'll be back!", that this is simply a temporary setback and we will still open our brewery someday, but the reality is that we don't see any way forward at this time.
Still, Hamilton's bylaws are changing, the industry is growing, and the rules around beer and alcohol are slowly being liberalized and modernized in this province. There may be a way for us to make this work yet. After all -if Susannah and her descendants could overcome deaths in the family, brewery fires, and utterly devastating explosions- maybe we can find a way to deal with our little problems, eh?
Until then, we wish you well. We hope that you have also enjoyed our beers, and the time we spent together at bars, beer festivals, and at our special events- however brief it was. May you always have a clean shirt, a clear conscience, and enough coins in your pocket to buy a pint!
I can certainly drink to that,
-The Garden Brewers
We have a new "Now In Bloom!" beer to announce: Ever-Green! An Imperial Juniper American Brown Ale. This beer pairs the piney and resinous notes of American-type Hops, with the similarly woodsy and citrusy notes of Juniper berries! Rounding out the flavor profile is dark malts (which have been cold-steeped to extract the most gentle coffee & cocoa notes possible) and higher-alcohol (which adds a drying decadence, and contributes to overall balance).
The risk with American-Style dark or brown hoppy-beers of any type (from American Brown, to American Porter/Stout, Cascadian Dark, Black IPA, what have you...) is that by using a combination of dark malts and bold American-type hops, you can achieve a pretty unpleasant clash between the hop character, and the burnt and astringent malts. At its worst, it can seem extremely harsh... at least to me. The cold steeping/sparging process was our way around this issue!
Of course, the rest of the mash was warm-steeped and hot-sparged in the typical fashion. The grain bill was 100 kilos of Pale Ale Malt, 75 kilos of Vienna, and 5 kilos of Brown.
As usual for this series of brews, we made our own label image by carving a relief print! This time, we used an actual piece of wood:
This was the last woodblock that I had hanging around from a trip to Japan many, many years ago. You don't go to Japan, and not visit at least one art supplies shop, not if you're me at least! I've been out of the art game for so long, I've been able to coast off of the fumes of these old supplies for awhile! Now that they're finally all used up, I have an excuse to go spend some time and money at our local independent Art Store here in Hamilton: Mixed Media. It's always nice to indulge in some lovely art things without feeling too guilty about it, yes?
This was a simple, but fun, one to carve. It wasn't extremely challenging, but I hadn't carved an actual wooden block in some time, and had forgotten how the grain does pose a bit of a challenge! Still, it all went very quickly.
After carving and printing the image I experimented with many different colors, but eventually settled on a brown background, because I think it reflected the actual beer best. You can see below the three leading colour choices, and if you think I was wrong to settle on brown, then I might just agree!
The beer itself came out very nicely! It has a firm backbone of bready-toasty malts which supports a dark-roasted oily-coffee character, with notes of sharp dark chocolate! These flavours are decidedly present, but do not clash with the Hopping/Juniper. The beer was hopped to 22 IBUs via a small first-wort hopping of Magnum, and an extended whirlpool hopping of a mix of hops; including equal amounts of Amarillo, Citra, Northern Brewer, Willamette, and the interesting Huell Melon. It was then dry-hopped with a generous amount of Citra, Amarillo, and Juniper Berries. On the pilot batch the Juniper Berries were a bit too subtle, so we increased the amount, and instead of just lightly crushing them, we completely pulverized them in a blender. We essentially made a Juniper Berry puree!
The Hops and Juniper were added loose to the fermentor, and allowed to sit warm for about a week, before we cold-crashed and filtered the beer to sparkling clarity!
The final product is pretty delightful, with neither Hops nor Juniper overwhelming, but both making a firm presence felt. The Juniper comes across subtly at first, with a woodsy character that builds, so that by the time you are finished your pint you have a robust and resinous flavour in your mouth. The Juniper appears to be cumulative in that way, so it is probably a good thing that is rather gentle to start. I believe that all of the flavours work quite harmoniously together, and provide a unique take on the flavour profile of an American Brown Ale- with higher alcohol serving to unify and compliment the dark chocolaty Malt, piney Hops, and woodsy Juniper. I hope you agree, and enjoy this beer as much as I do...
Exciting news- Piperales just took GOLD in the Ontario Brewing Awards for Rauchbier!! Congratulations to all the winners, especially to our fellow Hamiltonians, Collective Arts and Clifford Brewing, who took Gold and Silver respectively in Porter! Well done!! (Kinda like old homebrewing days, eh buddy?)]]>
Carobou; our English-style Barleywine brewed with Carob is back- in a big way!
This beer was first brewed four years ago for sharing with friends, family, and fellow homebrewers over the holiday season. That first batch was in back in 2011, and it was my entry into the SOB advent calendar. Check out this awesome photo of that brew by Patrick Hirlehey, another participant in that calendar:
The idea of a homebrew club advent calendar is simple- and brilliant: somewhere between 12 (days of Christmas), 24 (bottles in a case) or 31 (days in December) homebrewers sign up to brew and bottle an advent batch of beer. They bottle enough for every participant, and sometime in advance of December they get together to do a swap! Everybody gets one bottle from each brewer and keeps one of their own bottles to create a complete set. Each bottle is assigned a day, and everybody goes though them together: each participant gets to enjoy a super-unique advent calendar of beer! They also get to share feedback and thoughts with each other as a group, as the days progress towards Christmas. Carobou was my entry into the 2011 SOB advent calendar, and it also took first place in that years All About Ales Comp in Spice/Herb/Vegetable beers!
In 2012 I re-brewed it to be served at Black Oak's annual Holiday Party. I made it at Black Oak on a little homebrew system as part of their "Rubber Boot Camp" series of how-to brewing sessions, open to the public. At that time I wrote:
"I think that many brewers instincts would be to pair the Carob with Chocolate malts, but I think that would be a disservice to the Carob. It would cover the Carob up, dominate it, and place it in a flavour competition it simply cannot win. Carob, if you are not aware, is a lovely but much maligned spice. I think because it is often presented as a Chocolate Substitute. Carob may have a character that is somewhat reminiscent of chocolate, but it is no substitute. Nothing is! Carob has its own thing going on anyway, it’s different. It’s interesting! It’s good. Don’t ruin it by forcing me to think of it as a cruel and crude approximation of Chocolate. ANYWAY, this big beer is made with 100% Canadian 2-Row barley- which allows the subtle Carob character and colour to come through."
I pretty much stand by that, or at least the most important part: Carob is not Chocolate. And I think that the idea that "Carob is a good chocolate substitute" is ruining Carob. It's so unfair. Carob has a lot to offer, but it's always being put into situations where its only job is to be JUST LIKE CHOCOLATE. Situations where it inevitably falls short, and then gets told that it's crummy. It's as if Albert Einstein had a big brother who was great at hockey, Wayne Einstein, and whenever Wayne was too expensive to use or whatever, well-meaning hippies were like: "Try Albert, he's just as good!" and poor Albert just gets thrown in and then told how crummy he is at being Wayne... All. The. Time. People completely miss out on what is amazing and brilliant about Albert because they can only conceive of him as a lousy Wayne impersonator.
There simply is no substitute for Chocolate. But the same could be said of Carob, yes?
The result: everyone seems to hate Carob, when really, all they hate is how poorly Carob mimics Chocolate. (For one, Carob has none of the mood-altering mojo of Chocolate)
But Carob, when taken on its own merit, can be understood as a very interesting and unique ingredient, one certainly not worthy of universal derision.
And that is how we try to use it here- Carob for Carob's sake. We use only pale malts, to let the Carob shine. The grist bill is entirely pale 2-row barley, except for a small addition of malted Spelt, which is an ancient grain in the wheat family that I find adds a mild, nutty earthiness, as well as enhances the mouthfeel.
All of the malt created a massive mash. We REALLY hit the maximum amount here, I think.
But, we made a mistake (again): we had left the valve running to the kettle OPEN during the mash in. By the time we had crammed all of that malt into the mash tun, we had something like 200 liters already run off into the kettle! (How embarrassing!) We left that volume of wort in the kettle during the mash, where it could be kept warm, then ran it off into buckets and returned it to the mash tun as our first volume of sparging liquid. In this way, we we didn't lose any of that sweet, sweet sugar.
We added the Carob as a powder, right into the kettle, before the beginning of the boil. We used 10 kilograms of Carob for this 400 liter batch, so our addition was 25 grams of Carob per liter! That is what we brewers call a "non-trivial addition", my friends.
With the beer ready, it was time to revisit the old design- which featured a Carob pod hanging unattractively above two (hopefully, public domain) images of a beer and a Caribou:
Once again, we started designing a relief print. The first attempt went pretty well, with the exception of the antlers, which clearly gave me some trouble. You know when you're painting text on poster, but you misjudge the space, and by the end you're really squeezing those last few letters in? That's how I felt about these antlers on my first attempt:
My old art teachers would have been happy about how I really "used the canvas" on this design, filling all of the available space and creating some interesting negative spaces. But after all of that fuss on those majestic antlers, they had to be cut from the final image!
We kegged the beer only a few days ago, ending up with 360 liters- or a dozen thirty liter kegs.
We've already brought one of those kegs to Project Brew, the mini beer festival staged by the most recent graduating class from the Brewmaster program at Niagara College (This particular group was special to me, as I had them as students! Congrats, Cheers, and Good Luck everyone!) and the beer was quite well received there!
We plan to put aside at least one more keg for cellaring, which leaves us with only about 10 kegs to share with our friends. Look for them to go on tap shortly!
This new 2015 Carobou is young (rather young indeed, for a barleywine) but it isn't hot; it is remarkably refined for its age, with a powerful, wonderful aroma of dried, dark (bordering on tropical) fruits, and a decadent body as well as a rich flavour, marked by an sweetly earthy, spicy character. The Carob's chocolaty notes are more woodsy than what you might expect from Cacao nibs, more like chocolate covered truffles than milk chocolate. The Carob character is complementary with the base style, enhancing and rounding out the luscious maltiness and boozy, brandy-like complexity you would expect in a big barleywine. It's a rather different- but very special brew. We hope you like it as much as we do around our home. Happy Holidays!
Cheers! Here's to 2016,
-The Garden Brewers]]>
Time for some news:
Due to popular demand, we've re-brewed our Petal-Pusher!
Petal-Pusher was our first "Now In Bloom" beer, and it is still our most popular Now In Bloom brew to date! Look for it to go on tap very soon. Our neighbors at The Winking Judge got a big ol' Firkin of this lager, specially cask-conditioned with ale yeast and extra galaxy hops! Ought to be quite interesting! Our friends at Lansdowne Brewery have already reserved 2 kegs and their own special cask! The first batch of Petal-Pusher was one of the lucky beers on tap the night Lansdowne opened their doors for the very first time, and I'm proud to say that it was the first keg to empty! It took us awhile, but we've finally got them re-stocked. We've also had orders from our long-time supporters at Iggy's and our buddies at BRÜ! Get a pint while it lasts!
We've also re-brewed the Green-Thumb, because, ah... lots of reasons, really.
I'm pleased to say that the make-up brew day went well! We'll have to see how the final beer comes out, but so far so good! Still, we did rebrew our Ginger IPA yet again... sort of. We made a small batch of the retro-recipe. That's right, the original recipe! We re-brewed The Ships Rations for the first time since 2013! We made a limited amount for a special event coming up at The Ship on Thursday November 26th!
Come try the beer that brought brewing back to Hamilton! Come try all the new beers now gloriously flooding our fine city with quality brewskis! Our pal Clifford Brewing will be there with his beers, and we'll be bringing our collaboration brew: L.O.L., a Session Flanders Red! Only 2 kegs of this beer were made, and this is the last one. We pitched some bonus Brett into this keg, and it's had extra time to get funky! It ought to be really nice. Collective Arts Brewing and Nickel Brook Brewing will be there as well, representing their collaborative Arts & Science Brewery; which has brought life back to our historic Peller brewery- empty since the Lakeport buyout in 2010.
As for ourselves, we'll be bringing our B.F.F. Porter and H.H.H. IPA, two beers made with Hamilton-Grown ingredients. Very appropriate for this event, yes? We've been saving the last keg of B.F.F. Porter for this, so for everyone who has been asking where they can get more B.F.F. in the city; this event will be your last chance! (Until next years hop harvest, I suppose!)
How far has this city come in just a few short years?!! You can brew anything in Hamilton!
And more is yet to come. Join us all to celebrate: Thursday November 26th!
And check out this old website: http://theshipsrations.com/
It's still live! I guess we need to check our credit card bills for hosting fees more carefully!
The above painting can currently be seen on display at The Ship. Further artwork in the Ships permanent collection made by yours truly includes the two big super-hero themed paintings upstairs! I'll admit, I quite enjoy the fact that for a couple of years now, you can go to a bar in my town and enjoy a fresh pint of my beer- while simultaneously enjoying my old paintings! I mean, if you're into those sorts of things. Maybe you'll enjoy one but not the other? I'll let you make up your own mind, but you'll have to go to The Ship to decide: I don't have any photos of the other two paintings! For some reason! (And we still don't know how to download a pint! For some reason!) But the two paintings upstairs look kind of like these three:
Yup, in my artistic career, I never did hang in the finest galleries, but I did hang at the finest bars! Kind of foreshadowing, don't you think?
That just about wraps up the news for now! One last thing: we have a special cask coming up! We took some beer from the fresh batch of still-fermenting Green-Thumb (before the addition of any Ginger) and added one whole fresh Papaya:
We cut that tasty tropical fruit in half, peeled and de-seeded it, blended it into a paste, and put it all into a sterilized cotton bag- along with lots of Mosaic hops!
This cask smelled AMAZING while it was being filled! It smelt so delicious in fact, I was compelled to drag people (who were just innocently standing around nearby) over to the filling cask to have a sniff. After taking a whiff, the head brewer at Niagara told me that Papaya is called "Paw-Paw" in Australia, so I decided right then and there that we're calling this cask Paw-Paw IPA as that is adorable. Although "I-PapayA" could also work? Maybe??
Refermented using only the natural sugars of the fruit, this cask ought to be very, very flavorful indeed! Look for this special cask to get tapped this coming Saturday, right here in Hamilton, for the grand opening of Hambrgr! I understand that the plan is to kick off their grand opening weekend with the tapping of the Paw-Paw Pin around 6pm! Be there, or be thirsty!
This beer began, like a lot of beers, with a plan. But like a lot of plans this one went awry. As they say; the best laid plans of mice and brewers, right?
(editors note: nobody says this)
But they also say that close counts in horseshoes and beer, right?
(editors note: what)
The truth is, beer is an inexact science. We aren't typically too far off, but it is a good day when we hit all of our numbers exactly.
Typically, brewers do such a good job on consistency that most people are unaware that we actually have narrow bands within which we are allowed to deviate. Everything from bitterness to colour, and yes, even alcohol level is actually allowed to stray a little. Legally speaking, that 5% ABV beer that you're currently drinking? (I assume that you're drinking a beer right now- am I right?) It could actually be anywhere from 4.5 to 5.5 ABV. If I guessed wrong, and you're in fact having a, say, 7% beer, the allowable deviation goes up. That beer might actually be as high as 8%ABV or as low as 6%ABV! Are you shocked? Outraged? I wouldn't worry. To be honest, we don't deviate that much too often. If you see a beer in the LCBO with a little label stuck on it correcting the ABV, then that brew was likely found to be really out of bounds. But, again, it doesn't happen very often, and when it does it is almost always limited to special one-off brews that are not tried-and-tested. In the absence of hard data, I'll go out on a limb and say that it happens "almost never" for the vast majority of beer volume produced in Ontario.
I'm confident because production brewers who make a lot of the same beer are accustomed to blending batches to achieve an even higher level of consistency. For example, if the batch that you made first thing in the morning was a little high in sugar content -what we would call the gravity- you would adjust on your second batch to hit your blended target precisely. When doing a single batch without an opportunity to blend the challenge is heightened. Yet watching a good, experienced brewer at work is a bit like watching a good, experienced carpenter. It is precision work that seems to demand a flawless execution- but this world isn't perfect. To account for us not living in the best of all possible worlds many minor adjustments can be made throughout the day, small course-corrections, so that the little deviations that pop up are properly adjusted for and are never noticed in the final product. I believe that the difference between novice and experienced tradesmen is not in the absence of flaws, but in knowing the many ways to correct flaws. A bit more water here, a longer boil there, a pint of good ale, and the cabinet looks effortlessly flawless. That said, typically -truthfully- there are always small variations from batch-to-batch. There are always going to be minor differences from day-to-day. but it is on the sort of scale that is not noticed by the average thirsty fan, or often even by the most experienced palates. It is much more subtle, the sort of perhaps half-imagined thing that drives us brewers crazy, because we know it must be there, while everyone else around us is certain that it doesn't exist.
As commonplace as minor deviations are, major deviations are certainly a no-no. One of the points of pride in brewing is that we can, and do, achieve consistency regularly. We treasure it. It is... precious to us. We mostly lack the concept of vintages in brewing, like you see in wine. When our raw ingredients are not to our preferred specifications, we don't have the luxury of shrugging our collective brewing shoulders and simply saying: "Well, it was a bad year for grain". We need to adjust, we need to make those course-corrections, so that while the ingredients change regularly, our results remains the same. Ironically, it is perhaps this attention to our natural ingredients, this consistency that we achieve, which allows people to sometimes forget that beer is made with natural, botanical ingredients; just like wine. And just like grapes, hops and barley are subject to all the whims of the weather and every stress of the season. Now, to be fair to vintners, many wines are blended in the same manner as beer to achieve the same sort of consistency that brewers cherish. But we brewers do like to pick on those grape guys and gals, eh??
We messed up. It's a bit hard to admit, but we believe that honesty is at least as important as consistency in craft brewing- so here's our confession: We fumbled this one. We were clumsy carpenters. We had intended to re-brew our Green-Thumb (as we are running rather low!) and we decided to do so at the College, as the space was available. I scaled the recipe down for the smaller system, made my plan, but as Robbie Burns said about mice and brewers, it went all askew.
Our problems began with a grain substitution. The Munich malt required for Green-Thumb had unexpectedly run out! This happens pretty regularly around a brewery that makes so many different beers. Rather than scuttle the brew day, a suitable substitute was found. This new Munich was apparently very similar, and ought to provide the proper colour and flavour:
Unfortunately (while it didn't seem to create any appreciable difference in flavour) it most certainly provided a noticeable difference in colour. Our Green-Thumb should look a good touch lighter, like this.
Colour is very hard to correct for without blending, but it was a small difference, and not the end of the world. We continued on with the plan!
Our next problem occurred when the pre-boil gravity reading we took was WAY TOO HIGH. It was more than a full degree plato above the target FINAL gravity reading, which is taken when the boil is complete, after all the evaporation has happened and the sugar content is significantly concentrated. What that means is that our tools were predicting a beer with a final ABV somewhere over 8%! While that might be legally allowable for our 7.2% Ginger beer, it certainly wasn't allowable under our brewers pride. Especially when we could easily correct by adding water! Here's a handy calculation to jot down:
Volume of water addition = (Current Volume * [Actual gravity - Target gravity]) / Target gravity.
So, if your pre-boil gravity is too high for whatever reason- lets say it's at 19 and you need it to be at 16- and if you're currently at, say, 550 Liters, you would add about 100 liters, right? Right.
Until Segal's Law comes into play. As they say, a brewer with two watches never knows the time.
(editors note: that's it. I'm done.)
Our problem wasn't with watches, but with hydrometers and refractometers. We had a bogus reading. Actually, we had several. But we didn't know it until it was too late. Yes, the preboil gravity was high, but not nearly so high as we had thought. When we measured our gravity post-boil, it was now impossibly low- lower than before we had even started the boil!! When you get impossible measurements; get another tool.
So we did. Three different tools, three different readings. As it turned out, both refractometers were in need of calibration (they were both pretty far off, and in opposite directions) while the hydrometer was fairly accurate, it just wasn't all that accurate to read because of the physically tiny scale, which gave us an error of about a degree plato. How can we be sure? We busted out the big guns, the SBS-3500.
So all along, while we thought we were being oh-so-clever and skillful, we were like carpenters using a weird magic tape measure that constantly shifted it's size.
By the grace of Ninkasi, we had somehow still managed to come within our tolerances, even with all of our bad decisions based on bogus measurements. But we were definitely going to be low on gravity, having over-compensated by dilution. It was too late now to boil longer to bring the gravity back up, as that would add significant bitterness, and we were already over our target IBUS as a result of our earlier dilution.
A game-day decision was made: If this beer was going to be different, then by god, let's make it really different! The only hop used in the beer thus far has been Bullion. We decided to go off-book and add a whole bunch of Cascade hops to an extended whirlpool in order to increase the hop aroma a lot and the bitterness a little. We then dry hopped with even more Cascade, as well as the Ginger as planned- but we also increased the amount of Ginger a fair bit. Since we were undeniably clumsy with this batch of Green-Thumb, and this batch has an extra powerful hop character & ginger flavour - as well as greatly increased bitterness and intensity- we decided to call it: "All-Thumbs: Double Green-Thumb". It seemed appropriate!
With a name settled, I got to work on a label design. I was looking for something that visually crossed the phrase "All Thumbs" with the phrase "Two Thumbs Up"!
After refining the idea, I once again began creating a block print of the selected design.
It was super-easy to carve because the design was so simple! I was making prints in no time.
After making a whole bunch of prints, I picked the final print by selecting two prints at random, putting them side by side, and eliminating the weaker of the two- as in the photo above. I replaced the eliminated print with a new one, and repeated the process until I only had a single print remaining- which became the print that goes on the label!
What do I do with all the left over prints? Up until now, I̶ ̶w̶r̶ot̶e̶ ̶e̶m̶b̶a̶r̶r̶a̶s̶s̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶p̶o̶e̶t̶r̶y̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶m̶ nothing! But this time I thought: "Say, these would make sharp keg collars, at least until I make up proper ones, what with all the required legal information on them that the man demands of me." Check it out:
Pretty cool, if I do say so myself!! I think we may have just earned the title of "Biggest Beer Hipsters in Ontario" by using hand-carved, hand-printed custom-made keg collars!
I love how the final design came out,
...and I think that the beer itself is quite tasty.
The head brewer at Niagara thinks it's great! And that gives me a lot of confidence, but I must admit to being embarrassed at my mistakes, and nervous about how you'll receive the beer! It's aggressive. Time will tame it, but young it is quite bitter and biting! If you find most ginger beers wimpy, or if you tried Green-Thumb and thought "Not enough Ginger" or "Not enough hops" then this is the brew for you! I really hope you like it! And if you do, who knows, it may even become a regular Garden Brewers staple! I'd already like to re-brew it, to be completely honest. I have some tweaks in mind that I'm sure would make it even better. (I'd start by boosting that ABV!) In fact, we may even incorporate some elements from All-Thumbs into the Green-Thumb, maybe. I like the boosted hop aroma, for one.
You know, the name of the beer escapes me, but I recall being told a story about a well-known Double IPA from Montreal that was born one fateful day when the brewer was too sick to work (for a brewer, that must have meant that he got the plague or lost a limb) and his brother was called in to substitute. The inexperienced brother misread the ingredient measurements, accidentally greatly increasing them, and et voilà!! A nouveau and beloved beer was born. A rather similar story is told about the origins of wheat-wine, a style now enshrined in the BJCP. Several styles in fact (Such as the charming tale behind Eisbock) are said to have been born from blunders of one kind or another: not all mistakes are bad!
Time will tell if this is a happy accident, or just the regular kind. OH- also: we made a special experimental cask!
We dry-hopped the cask with Cascade, but we left the Ginger out. In it's place, we substituted Soursop! According to Wikipedia, Soursop's "...flavor has been described as a combination of strawberry and pineapple, with sour citrus flavour notes contrasting with an underlying creamy flavour reminiscent of coconut or banana."
According to the consensus around the brewery that day, my Soursop was likely under-ripe, as it was firm and mealy, and we only got a very subtle strawberry-coconut flavour from it. Still, we added about half the Soursop, 200g worth, to 20L of beer. If it has interesting flavours to contribute, that addition ought to bring them out!
I think that wraps this post up! A lot of experimentation, play, and straight-up mistakes this time around. Nobody has claimed the Soursop cask yet, but when it's tapped, you'll be sure to see me there! I'm dying to try it!
Cheers! May you find fortune in your failure, may all of your accidents be happy ones.
This special beer with three H's in it's name owes it all to three B's, err- sorry, Three Bees Honey Company!
Three Bees is an awesome apiary in our hometown; Hamilton. The beekeeper who looks after all those bees (I think there are actually a lot more than three? If I had to guess??) is none other than Brandi Lee MacDonald! Brandi is big into Beer, Bees and Banthropology, but I think beer might just be her favorite. Brandi loves beer so much in fact, that she created the Because Beer Craft Beer Festival and Homebrew Competition! Hmmm, but she loves Anthropology enough to complete an entire PHD on the subject... which must be a lot... and on further reflection, she loves Bees so much that she sometimes actually prefers to be called "Bee" by her friends!! Well, I guess we may never know her favorite subject, but what is certain is that Brandi is an actual doctor of knowledge, a judge of beer, and a master of bees, so she is basically the only person you need to know in a post-apocalyptic situation. She has already appeared on this blog several times on account of how she is an awesome person and friend! We go back quite a ways, which explains THIS:
That was three years ago. We made a batch of Honey IPA together, big enough to share! Three Bees Honey Company was only about a year old at the time, and Garden Brewers was still just a bunch of crazy notes in a binder.
Three Bees is still going strong in 2015- and so is our friendship! Coincidence?? In any case, we felt it was high time for another Honey IPA, and this time around, we made a big enough batch to share with the whole city! I have to say, that is pretty... sweet.
When fermenting Honey, it tends to ferment out almost completely, leaving little evidence of its flavour. It can leave some subtle notes, which will reflect the source plants. Honey is essentially condensed flower nectar, so which flowers are the source of that nectar can make a dramatic impact on the honey's flavour and colour. The "standard" Honey-as-commodity flavour that we are used to is typically Clover honey, or sometimes, in the most dubious of cases, honey cut with other mild-tasting sugars such as corn syrup. But honey, just like beer, has a wide variety of potential flavours if you venture beyond the commodity stuff, and some honeys are quite dramatic and flavourful indeed!!
Still, even the most intense honey does tend to ferment almost completely out, leaving only residual flavours, so the flavour impact it creates is similar to that of other sugars: it is able to add to the ABV without adding to the heaviness of the beer. It lightens and thins the body. So if you want a big, boozy beer, and you want it to be thick and full and rich, go all-malt. But if you prefer it to be "Digestible", as the Belgians do, add some sugar. Think English Barleywines V.S. Belgian Triples. Both styles could very comfortably occupy about 8-9% alcohol by volume, but put those equally big beers side-by-side and a considerable difference in mouthfeel will become obvious. The first will be thick and sumptuous, demanding a fireplace to be sipped beside, and the second will be light, dry, and dangerously easy-drinking. Both are great! It's horses for courses. But why the difference in body and texture? It's the sugar, sweetheart.
With the ABVs of American IPAs climbing steadily into similar territory, it has been somewhat of a trend in the last couple of years to add a portion of sugar to IPAs in order to achieve similar effects.
Brewers seeking to keep their IPA's more like the sessionable Triple instead of resembling an American Barleywine (or Imperial IPA) have brought sugar into their recipes, which in America, can constitute an act of bravery! Sugar has a complicated history in craft brewing. It is stigmatized almost to the point of taboo. The sentiment may stem from the early beginnings of modern North-American Homebrewing, which saw recipes of malt extract calling for huge additions of sugar and little else. These saccharine early experiences of many brewers left a bitter memory, and when they went on to build the modern American craft brewing culture, they brought their distaste for sugar with them. You can see this anti-sugar prejudice at work every time someone boasts of using only malt, and derides the use of any adjunct (or "Add-Junk" as some will say.) Or when someone knee-jerkingly accuses a brewery of being motivated by scroogish penny-pinching the moment that they learn of that breweries use of sugar. The fact that most big brewers use sugar, rice, or corn to lighten the body and flavour of their hugely popular products is surely a factor as well, but these are all just ingredients! We need not fear them! Sugar is neither inherently good nor bad, just like Rice, Corn, Wheat, Oats, Rye, or Brettanomyces for that matter. Ah, but I digress. Back to Honey!
We are using the honey in this IPA just like the cane sugar in the Green-Thumb; to boost the ABV, dry out the beer, and lighten the finish. You might be inclined to think "Sweet" when you hear "Honey IPA" but it is in fact the opposite! You know, I think that many people describe rather dry IPAs as sweet because the juicy, fruity flavours of the hops can create an impression of sweetness, which may certainly be the case with our HHH IPA as well. In fact, that impression will likely be enhanced by our use of BruMalt, or "Honey Malt", which creates a flavour reminiscent of Honey! This IPA will likely create a sense of sweetness for you, but I can promise you that it will not be cloying or syrupy. I think that you will find the HHH to be dry, juicy and refreshing!
The brewday went very well, but I knew that it would when a flower appeared in the mash tun:
We used 7.5 Kilograms of Honey in the HHH IPA. It was so viscous it went in hilariously slowly, but here's a GIF that will speed the experience up for you:
I'm occasionally asked about our beer recipes, and since this brew began life as homebrew, it seems appropriate to share this recipe now! If you'd like to make your own version of HHH IPA, you can buy Three Bees honey at The Hamilton Store and at Dillon's Distillery!
Scaled to a 5 gallon/ 19ish L batch, assuming about 70% efficiency, you're looking to get:
1.6 Kg of Maris Otter
1.6 Kg of Pilsner
1.6 Kg of 2 Row
0.75 Kg of Honey Malt (or BruMalt)
0.25 Kg of Three Bees Honey! Added at Whirlpool.
15 g of Chinook at first wort
15 g of Summit at first wort
4 g of Chinook at Whirlpool
4 g of Summit at Whirlpool
4 g of Cascade at Whirlpool
4 g of Amarillo at Whirlpool
Target OG is 16.8 Plato or 1.069 specific gravity. Ferment with BRY-97 at 19-20°C until completed. Then add,
20 g of Pacifica at dry hop after fermentation is complete- for 4 days- then remove and add
17.5 g of Cascade, and
17.5 g of Citra, for an additional 4 days.
..and look, this is just what we did. Feel free to switch it up! We change things too. This isn't the same recipe we made in 2012! That one used hops grown by a Corktown neighbor!
I think that just about wraps it up for this blog post. If this post has made you, like me, rather thirsty, you should know that a special lil' cask of this beer has already been delivered to Brü restaurant in Oakville, and it will be tapped this Friday! If you can't make it out for that, we'll be tapping a FULL FRIGGIN' FIRKIN of HHH IPA with our friends at Lansdowne Brewery next Thursday, the 15th! It'll be a party! There will be Garden glassware to giveaway, cask ale and comestibles to consume, and good times to be had. Our brewer will be on site from 5pm to 7pm to give a brief presentation on the beer, and then to answer questions and mingle. Full 20oz pints of fresh cask ale will only be $6 during Cinq à Sept -AND- that special price will run all night to encourage the draining of the cask. Come help us "Finish the Firkin"!
We'll be kegging up the rest of the batch next week, and you can look for Hamilton Honey Harvest IPA to go on tap all around Hamilton shortly after that. Try it! I think you will go "Apis" for this beer! At 7% ABV, a pint or two of HHH IPA will certainly give you a "Buzz".
And if you miss it, you could always brew your own! You can brew anything in Hamilton :)
-The Garden Brewers
Good Afternoon! I spent the morning cleaning and sterilizing kegs so I could then fill them back up for you with our latest, greatest, and freshest "Now In Bloom" Brew: B.F.F. Porter!
This beer is a re-brew of our small-batch entry in to The Great Ontario-Hopped Craft Beer Competition last year. It took second place!
This year, the Buttrum hops had it kinda rough. There was a ...close shave with a lawnmower I'm told, so we didn't get the big second-year harvest that we were hoping for! Still, we got enough to enter the competition again this year- and then some! Unfortunately, it wasn't an adequate amount to brew a 5-hectoliter batch of beer with, so for this brew we used some imported commercially grown hops (East Kent Goldings, grown in the UK) for the bittering addition, and saved all of the Buttrum hops for the Flavour & Aroma addition, to maximize their potential character impact.
Since the yield was a bit on the low side, we decided to supplement the Buttrum hops with a few hops that we grew ourselves! We live in a tall and narrow townhouse in downtown Hamilton, which is ideally suited for stringing up hops! I cut the hops down immediately before leaving to brew.
Even though this beer is featuring hops, because it is a Robust Porter, malts very much steal the show! In the photograph above, from left to right, this brew used ESB Pale, a specialty Canadian malt from Gambrinus in British Columbia, and Vienna from Best Malz in Heidelberg Germany- in equal amounts as a base. To that base we added a significant amount of torrefied Wheat from Thomas Fawcett & Sons in the UK. Not pictured is the additions of pale chocolate malt & brown malt, also from the UK, and finally Special Roast Malt from Briess Malt in Wisconsin. This is a unique malt that Briess describes as a "Complex flavored Biscuit-style Malt" with a "distinguishing bold sourdough/tangy flavor."
The beer came out great! Very much like how I remember the first batch last year: toasty and warm from the burly base malts & roasty, rich and full-bodied from the specialty dark malts. There are notes of chocolate from the pale chocolate malt, hints of roasted nuts from the brown malt, and yes, a tangy sourdough-like note from the Special Roast Malt, which, within the context of all the other flavours in this beer, reminds me a little bit of molasses.
The hops are present as a very complementary earthy-woodsy flavour, as well as a robust bitterness which balances out all of that maltly decadence! The bitterness is nothing to sneeze at (unless hops make you sneeze!!) at 37 IBUs.
We hope you enjoy it! It ought to be on tap around Hamilton very shortly. We think it might just be the perfect pint for these first days of fall in the city,
We're very happy to announce our second "Now In Bloom!" beer: Bière de Garde'n, a Bière de Garde! It is an amber example, which is the most common colour typical for the style.
Once again I made a lil' relief print for the beer, which after some pretty heavy digital manipulation, became the ear of corn in the center of the label above:
You may not be too familiar with Bière de Garde, it's not a terribly popular style in Ontario, so let's do a quick rundown: what is a Bière de Garde? Well, like a lot of beer styles, the answer is more complicated than it initially seems. I think it is useful to compare beer styles to musical genres: we all generally agree that rock music is a thing. We all know, generally speaking, how to rock. We agree on what the shape and feel of rock music is, and recognize those who rock -as well as those who are about to rock- and we salute them. But we get lost in the details. As a quick example; which of the following is rock?
If you're my father, then you agree that the first is definitely rock and roll, while the second is some kind of noise that definitely needs to be turned down. If you're Wikipedia (depending on your most recent edits) then you classify both as rock, amoungst all these other subgenres:
Alternative rock – Art rock – Baroque pop – Beat music – Britpop – Emo – Experimental rock – Garage rock – Glam rock – Gothic rock – Group Sounds – Grunge – Hard rock – Heartland rock – Heavy metal – Instrumental rock – Indie rock – Jangle pop – Krautrock – Madchester – Post-Britpop – Post-grunge – Power pop – Progressive rock – Protopunk – Psychedelia – Punk rock – Soft rock – Southern rock – Surf music – Symphonic rock
OK, subgenres may be the answer! Perhaps we could all agree on what a true IPA is if we separate out all of the substyles first? But that is no small task. Looking at the above list, does Emo even count as a thing? Has it been around long enough, and is it important enough to make the list? What about Screamo? And just what is "Jazz" anyway? These are genuine questions (probably for Kevin Freer) and I don't know the answers, I'm simply trying to make a point about beer styles, and our example style, IPA. The new 2015 BJCP guidelines greatly expands on IPA substyles, making room for Belgian IPAs, Black IPAs, Brown IPAs, Red IPAs, Rye IPAs and, significant to our conversation, White IPAs... but not "Hopfenweissen".
So hoppy wheat beers based around Belgian Wits currently make the cut, but hoppy wheats based around German Hefeweizens don't. That seems odd to me, because at least from my experience, the latter is much more common. So should we switch the two? Add both? Or perhaps try and include both under something like "Wheat IPA" and allow for further sub-types? And what about hoppy American-style wheat beers that lack the definitive yeast character of Wits and Weissbier?
Man, lets forget subgenres for now. It's too easy to get lost in the weeds. If we go back to just "Rock", we can see clearly that it changes with time. It grows and evolves as it branches out in new directions. Which is, of course, the whole point of culture. It is also precisely the problem with nailing our definitions down: music, like beer, like all of culture- is a moving target. You can only define it completely in retrospect. So, as soon as you define it properly, your definition is literally history.Solution: Stop History.
SO, lets look at that history- the history of Bière de Garde- to better understand the style, and to understand how it got to be where it's at today:
A long time ago, in a continent far, far away, I am told there was an idyllic land known as Flanders. Its eastern lands are now mostly Belgium and its western lands are now the north of France, but before it was separated, this land was united by a continuous patchwork of small independent farms that shared a love of beer and a need for survival. This combined interest in fine beverages and staying alive resulted in Farmhouse Ales. These rustic beers served as a way to essentially store surplus produce, and to provide themselves (and their laborers) with a clean source of hydration; water being rather suspect at the time. Because laborers still had to be able to work after a couple pints, these beers were necessarily low in alcohol, perhaps around 3%. Some beer was likely brewed throughout the harvest season for immediate consumption, but due to the nature of farming (very busy harvest times) and brewing (hot weather makes for poor beer) beer was primarily brewed after the harvest was complete. Farmers would spend the colder months of the year using last years harvest to brew up a large stock of beer, enough to provide all of their laborers with sufficient liquid to get them through the upcoming harvest. They cellared and cool-stored this beer until it was needed- so you might say that they lagered it. (If you were German)
Observant farmers noticed that there were two main ways to get their beers to stay in better condition while they aged: increase the hopping rate and/or increase the alcohol percentage. (Both hops and alcohol act as preservatives, which is probably why people who drink beer live such long and fulfilling lives??) After Flanders was split, there was a drift in farmhouse brewing styles with the Belgium side focusing primarily on the use of hops as preservative, which gave us the spicy, hoppy "Saison", and the French side focusing primarily on the increase in alcohol as preservative, which gave us the Big, Malty "Bière de Garde" (which translates as "Beer to Store" or "Beer to Keep", essentially, "Beer for Aging". Though I do love the literal translation of "Beer to Guard". Anyone who has kept a cellar or a special bottle around, only to have it opened by a "friend" or perhaps a visiting family member, can relate.)
Hey, you were out of beer, so I opened that weird bottle at the back of your closet. It tasted weird, I think it went bad, so I dumped it.
So that's the simple and romantic story. And it's a good story! Bucolic brewers making authentic ales. Unfortunately, reality is never quite so straightforward.
For example, Saint Sylvestre's 3 Monts is a BJCP classic example of a Bière de Garde. It was in the 2008 style guidelines, and remains a classic example in 2015. This is despite the fact that there is no reference to "Bière de Garde" on the label, and the brewery dismisses the very notion of Bière de Garde as "Pure Marketing". They reject the idea that there is any kind of authentic tradition or defensible history present in modern versions of Bière de Garde, and - they have a point!! Historical versions were not terribly well documented, as they were peasant beers that didn't leave the farm on which they were brewed, but we know that they were low alcohol ales, often soured, blended, and perhaps bearing more of a resemblance to modern Lambics (or perhaps a low alcohol version of historic English-style Old Ales) than any modern Bière de Garde, which is typically a high ABV lager! Historically, they may have even been smokey (depending on the quality of malting and kilning) and they most certainly varied widely in quality. "Farmhouse", after all, is not truly a style. It's better thought of as a particular mode of brewing, such as "Homebrewing", and just as homebrewers vary wildly in their preferences, opinions, and skill levels, Farmhouse brewers did as well, and the type and quality of beer that they produced may have been many things but "uniform" was certainly not one of them. So how did we end up with "Farmhouse" meaning essentially two distinct styles; Saison and Bière de Garde?
In Farmhouse Ales, Phil Markowski writes:
In the more recent past, managers of small, independent breweries began to realize that they could not compete with large-scale industrial brewers by brewing Pilsener and other "generic" lager styles and thus began searching for niche specialty products to brew and market. Bière de Garde became the focal point of that effort and was at the center of the French specialty brewing movement beginning in the late 1970s.
Credited with pioneering the style that we know today, is Brasserie Duyck's Jenlain Bière de Garde, an obscure brand that grew to prominence as a cult beer in the late 1970s amoung college students in nearby Lille, the cosmopolitan city of the region. Belgian specialty ales had just started to become fashionable in Paris and their popularity spread to other major French cities. It was a matter of time that the French would begin seeking their own specialty ales to drink; apparently, they found Jenlain. The success of Jenlain was largely unexpected, perhaps the result of "Right place, right time" (and probably due to an underdog status, not unlike the accidental rise of Rolling Rock and Pabst Blue Ribbon as cult favorites in the United States)
Most present-day producers of Bière de Garde acknowledge Jenlain as the archetypal example.
So, modern Bière de Garde, that Farmhouse Ale which is somehow a high ABV lager, is a result of something like what might have happened if Pabst Blue Ribbon became so popular in the states, that the US market embraced it as a prototypical example of a whole revived style; "Dad's Beer".
BJCP style 1E: Bière de Papa, classic example.
Perhaps this gives us some insight into why Saint Sylvestre considers the whole thing to be a marketing invention. Still, there is real history behind farmhouse ales, and there is such a concept as Bière de Garde (it is not a "fake idea") so how does the modern brewer reconcile the two? What is "Authentic" and "True to Style" in a world that simultaneously recognizes both Punk and Emo as rock?? To switch the analogy away from music and into a realm where I'm more knowledgeable, I think comic books hold the answer.Pieter Bruegel the Elder- The Harvesters: Sadly, not a comic book.
Seriously. If you'll bear with some heavy nerdiness, I'll explain: I like to take what I think of as the "Batman" approach to beer styles:
You see, there is Batman as he currently exists, however that happens to be (which, last I checked, was as some kind of time-travelling caveman?) and then there are all of the Batmen that ever were. There is a Batman who jumps around on giant oversized props with a boy sidekick and makes punny one-liners, and there is a Batman who is a dangerous brooder that lives in a very dark world all by himself... without puns. Both are equally valid. Alfred is simultaneously an ex secret agent and a doting comic relief. Batman has a bat-hound and a bat-phone and tragedy all around him. All interpretations are equally valid, and as long as they remain recognizable as a Batman story, what becomes important is if the story is any good. Every fan is bound to have a favorite version of Batman, but no one version can truly be called "Correct". The best we can do is "Original", which isn't all that helpful, since the original is a pistol-packing, sour-fermented Batman that few today would recognize! In my personal opinion, the best Batman stories draw from throughout Batmans rich history, while also managing to add something new to the lore.
So, with Batman in mind (like always) we decided to create something that we felt used the best elements of Bière de Garde: A high-gravity, malt-forward lager suitable for aging- with a rustic accent and a farmer's philosophy!
Farmers, then as now, are a resourceful bunch, and they certainly brought that quality to their brewing. They were known to use whatever fermentables that they had available in creating their brews; whether it was barley, wheat, oats, honey, or even fruits and vegetables such as pumpkins and beets. We decided to honor this tradition by including a large amount of corn in the brew, which at this batch size, meant one whole bag.
Some pretty corny photos!
We also included malted oats and wheat, and well as a generous amount of specialty malts, including honey malt (which is a unique malt said to produce a distinctive honey-like flavor) along with victory, vienna, biscuit, and red-x malts. Each malt contributed to to a sweet, malty complexity, while the corn helped to dry the beer out and keep it from being cloying.
We really packed the mashtun on this brew!
Oh gosh, it turned out so nicely you guys! It is toasty, bready, and complexly grainy. Rich and warming, but stopping short of being hot, and really charmingly walking a line between clean lager character and spicy saison complexity... probably on account of how we used both yeasts!
Q: What do you call two yeasts who ferment everything together??
We pitched two packets of expired yeast. (Resourceful! True to style!) One classic lager strain, and one spicy, peppery strain. This mixed fermentation is what really makes our beer special! To review; lager yeast is active at cool temperatures while ale yeast is active at warm temperatures. We pitched both yeasts into the wort at 12° Celsius and held it there. We had planned to let the temperature free rise after about half of the fermentation was complete, in order to let the ale strain (the T-58) contribute some restrained farmhouse flavours, as well as clean up and dry out the beer. But after only one week of fermentation, the gravity had already dropped from 17.2 degrees plato all the way down the 4.8! I can only assume that the T-58 is responsible! What a beast of a yeast! Even expired and pitched dry into high-gravity 12°C wort- it was active!! 12° is a temperature where many ale strains would enter dormancy, and certainly well beyond the normal working range of saison-type yeasts, which occupy the other end of the spectrum, and go all the way up to 30° +! Well, we still took the temperature control off, and, unleashed, the T-58 was able to take the gravity even further down to 2.1. Our final ABV was 8.3%. Malty yet dry? Yes.
I ❤ you too, mash. Malted Oats retain their husks!!! Who Knew?!
I'm incredibly proud of this beer. It's delicious. And for whatever a statement like this is worth, I think it is a great example of the style. And you know, despite working for many years for a company that emerged from Lille, a French city smack dab in the center of historic Flanders and the epicenter of the modern Bière de Garde revival, I have never had the opportunity to brew a commercial Bière de Garde before! It's kind of strange to finally have the opportunity independently, but it feels right. What an appropriate style to attempt for Garden Brewers! How fitting with our ethos, and how satisfyingly appropriate for a name?? Bière de Garde'n??! Basically, I think we were obligated to brew this beer! And I think we're already obligated to brew it again! I'd like to make it often! But, as good as it is, we won't reproduce this specific batch; our Bière de Garde'n will be more of a style than a brand. Garden Brewers will brew it differently each time, just as Farmer-Brewers of the past would have done. Still, it will be recognizable as part of a thought process, even if pretty different from the last incarnation- a sort of "Batman in a glass"- if you know what I mean.
We used a lot of hops in this brew: check out the alpha acid on that Strisselspalt!
Since our Bière de Garde'n was brewed just as things are getting cooler and as we're moving into the fall, I've decided to follow tradition and have put aside 2 kegs to cellar until next summer- so you can look forward to those!! If you lack the patience for that, 2 other kegs have already been reserved for our friend Jeremy Coghill at Lansdowne Brewery, a fellow producer in the "Homebrew" tradition. We're also sending 2 more kegs as our entry into the WVRST invitational, so please try it there and give it your vote- if you like it! Finally, 1 keg has been earmarked for an upcoming tap-takeover with our pal Brad Clifford (Another brewer with Homebrew Heritage) Look for an announcement on that event soon, including details of our collabo brew: Labour Of Love, a Session Flanders Red! That leaves just 4 kegs to distribute around Hamilton, and I'm guessing that since we've all been earning our keep and labouring real hard this summer, they won't last too long.
-The Garden Brewers
I met Keir in the first year of University, where we both were starting a fine arts degree. We became friends and did lots of fun things together, like hosting our first art show! (Instead of wine, we provided a fine selection of "40's" of malt liquor.) We both graduated, despite the combined presence of NBA JAM and Professor Michael Farrell's (truly excellent, but exceedingly challenging) art history courses. We've remained pals since, and when Keir began dating Erin, we all partied most hardy.
Years later, when Keir and Erin decided to get married, I was honored to be given the role of "Best Man" at their wedding!
Several years after that, I had begun working as a brewer, and was homebrewing very often, which is how I probably ended up bringing a keg of homebrew to Erin and Keir's place for a party!
My memory is a little fuzzy, but if I recall correctly, this was the second batch of a hoppy American Stout- which turned out quite nicely! The memory on the photos metadata is somewhat sharper, and this was sometime in 2011. Actually it was May 14th. Which was a Saturday. At 6:12:05 PM. Or thereabouts.
I only bring this up to point out that we might actually know the precise time Erin Broadfoot became a brewer! You may not be aware of this, but brewing is a communicable illness. This illness has symptoms that include classic signs of obsessive behavior, which may manifest themselves as weekends lost to reclusive habits, the collecting of books and magazines, owning two or more fridges, bank accounts completely drained in an irrational pursuit of "saving money on beer", and basements completely filled with hoarded stuff, et cetera. It can be transmitted via beer pints, perhaps with as little as one single pint of excellent homebrew. (Patient zero has been lost to history, as it predates written language, but was probably a tipsy nomad who was infected by some soggy barley, left out in a bowl that got filled with rain and then became all fermented. "Oh no- my barley!" They probably yelled, but then hunger drove them to drink the strange brew, and, once infected, they actively spread an outbreak of obsessive behavior that may have resulted in all civilization.)
Anyway, the above photo was taken when the keg was tapped, and Erin surely had a pint shortly thereafter. So we can safely estimate that Erin Broadfoot became a brewer on May 14th 2011, at 6:13 PM. And I can take the credit! Uh, you're welcome? I guess? I just have to warn you to watch out for those advanced stages, when you begin to seek out homebrewing events....
Oh jeeze, I guess I'm not helping much there. Well, just so long as you don't leave your current career to work in the craft brewing industry...
Welp! Nothing for it now but to brew some beer together!!!
After some back-and-forth, we decided to brew something new from the 2015 BJCP guidelines. A Trappist Single! And since collaboration brews are really an excuse for brewers to get together and meet and mingle with other brewers, we decided to call it "Trappist Mingle"!
According the the new 2015 BJCP style guidelines, a Trappist Single is
"A pale, bitter, highly attenuated and well carbonated Trappist ale, showing a fruity-spicy Trappist yeast character, a spicy-floral hop profile, and a soft, supportive grainy-sweet malt palate ... Often not labeled or available outside the monastery, or infrequently brewed. Might also be called monk’s beer or Brother’s beer. Highly attenuated, generally 85% or higher. While Trappist breweries have a tradition of brewing a lower-strength beer as a monk’s daily ration, the bitter, pale beer this style describes is a relatively modern invention reflecting current tastes."
They go on to say that light, spicy, yeast-driven phenolics are found in the best examples, while yeast-derived bubblegum notes are inappropriate. That's good, because just before the brew day, the Belgian strain that we were planning to use was discovered dead. Gone to heaven. As a result, we resorted to using a fairly spicy Saison strain, that I just happened to have ready for harvest.
We had a great brew day! It was very cool to see their nano system in action.
The beer is due out very shortly! I am as excited to try Trappist Mingle as anyone, but in the meantime, I'll be celebrating our collaboration with a little mismatched beer and glassware:
But we didn't want to commit to making "one-offs", as some brews really do demand a second round, and we didn't want to do "seasonals" either. We don't have a lot of interest in picking just 4 brews or so, and making them in order, again and again, year-after-year.
The brewing industry, however, is lacking a common term for "Beers that are made maybe once, maybe every-so-often, but not regularly, and never hang around for very long."
So, once again, we turned to the world of gardening for inspiration, and decided to call this series of beers: "Now In Bloom!"
The Blossom is a good symbol, we think, to express our idea.
Though the Art History student in me wanted to call the series Wabi-Sabi
After that was settled, we then turned, once again, to Mike Jerome, our Graphic Designer Extraordinaire! He's always done great work for us, and this project was no exception. He created the "Blank" seed packet images below:
Mike created a version where the logo space was empty, as an opportunity to customize the art for these special beers, which gives me a chance to have some fun contributing to our beer artwork! In a past life, I actually made much more art than beer, though I know my limitations (one of the good things about getting older??) which is why we got a professional to create all of our branding and graphic design. We didn't want it to look amateurish or sloppy, and Mike was really able to do things right. Still, I do miss art, and I think within the context of Mikes work, it'll all come together! Besides, it'll be fun to have an opportunity to make some art again for this series!
After Mike had completed his work I dusted off my old printmaking tools, which hadn't seen the light of day in about 6 odd years. (Hmmm, they went into storage around the same time that beer making stuff moved back into my home. Coincidence??)
About the beer:
Elderflowers are often described as having a character reminiscent of ripe pear and floral lychee... Or sometimes as having an aroma existing somewhere between a peachy stone fruit and lemony citrus fruit. This character seems to be emphasized when Elderflower is used fresh, but as we were unfortunately unable to source any locally-grown commercially-available fresh flowers, we used dried flowers. When dried, the blossoms seemed to retain their classic qualities, but gained a surprising Star Anise/Fennel Seed character as well! In our experiments, a long boil and hot (or extended cold) steeping really brought out the fennel quality, while a short boil brought out more of the citrus and fruit notes. Interestingly, passing hot wort through the blossoms created more of a subtle savory note of earthy mushrooms, chopped celery, and dried sage, not unlike the aroma of turkey stuffing!! We didn't end up using that technique, as it also clogged our hopback. And that was probably lucky, because: turkey stuffing.
We ended up going with a compromise: a short boil, followed by a long steep. This allowed us to get the classic elderflower notes we wanted, along with some of that licorice quality for complexity. We used our hops in the same way- highlighting the orange marmalade note that Pacifica hops are renowned for. Pacifica was the perfect choice for this brew, as its bittering qualities are gentle and "noble" -in the tradition of its German ancestor, Hallertau Mittelfrüh- but its Orange Marmalade aroma qualities are much more like that of its fellow Kiwis! An ideal hop for this hybrid lager style.
In terms of malt, it was 57% Canadian 2-Row, 18% English Maris Otter, 18% Canadian Toasted Wheat, and finished up with 7% German Acidulated malt to create a slight sourness- which comes across as a subtle tartness- something to enhance the perception of citrus from the flowers and hops, and to increase its "Refreshing" thirst quenching qualities. (Think Lemonade- or Elderflower Cordial!)
We had an extended-length mash, with heating periods that helped develop some colour as well as some lovely subtle caramelized bready-wheaty notes. That was followed by an hour long boil, with both hops and blossoms going into the boil in the last few minutes and then whirlpooled for a full half hour. Fermented as a Lager, this beer is clean and crisp with a bit of a lager bite enhanced by the botanical additions and clean lactic tartness. Finally, it was dry hopped with a little Galaxy hops to add a peachy-gooseberry complexity to the aroma. In terms of style, this beer is probably best thought of as a Spiced American Wheat. Of course, as with all our beers, we were not looking to brew to style, simply to create the best showcase for Elderflower: the most harmonious, interesting, and delicious beer possible!
Elderflower is hard to pin down in terms of its exact flavour- it seems to gently move and change as soon as you figure it out- like trying to fly a kite in a really soft and gentle breeze. As a result, it is sometimes simply described as "Tasting Like Summer". We love that! And we like to think that our Petal-Pusher, with its classic, clean lager beer character, notes of lemon, orange, and tropical fruit, and its sharp, biting finish- tastes just like summer too!! We're excited to see what you think!
I'm going back to the teaching brewery first thing next week to put the Petal-Pusher into kegs, and you'll hopefully be seeing it in bars and pubs very soon. We're happy to have it coming out now- just in time for summer- and we've already filled our first casks with this beer too!
These casks were filled after primary fermentation was completed, given some extra sugar, a fresh pitch of ale yeast, and were dry-hopped with Galaxy. The Firkin is reserved for Because Beer, which is adding a Cask Zone this year! You are planning to come to Because Beer this year, yes? Because last year was awesome, and this year looks to be even better! As for the Pin, it has already had dibs called on it by The Mugshot Tavern- so look for it to get tapped there soon!
Here's to summer!
We're very happy to share some news with you: Green-Thumb took a Bronze medal at the Ontario Brewing Awards!
Seen here is Davis, happily accepting the award!
Big congratulations to all the other brewers who won!
...an extra-special congratulations to our pal Brad Clifford who brought Gold back to Hamilton for his wonderful Porter, and to our friends at Black Oak, our outstanding production brewery, who took Gold for their Nox Aeterna!
-The Garden Brewers]]>
That calls for a celebration. And celebrations call for a beer!
Please come celebrate the first day of spring with us! We're throwing a party at Mills Hardware right on the Spring Equinox- Friday March 20th.
The event will run from 6pm to 10pm, and will really be something special. We're going to have seeds, plants, talks about gardening, and 5 dollar mugs of cold, delicious Garden Brewers beer- including our brand new Green-Thumb IPA! What could be better than that??
Our wonderful event partners are:
A New Leaf Farm will introduce Square Foot Gardening, perfect for urban people who want to garden, but are not sure where to start. Neighbour to Neighbour will be highlighting their work with Community Gardens, and specifically, the Hamilton Community Garden Network. The Hamilton Pollinator Paradise Project will explore their important work creating pollinator habitat corridors across our city by planting native wildflowers, and artist Sean Martindale will profile his incredible interventions and guerrilla gardening:
Hawthorn Farm will also be on site, offering their certified organic seeds of rare and heirloom varieties, and there will be hop plants available from Greenfield Gardens Clean Hop Plant Program!
It's going to be great. We truly hope that you can join us at our Spring Equinox Party!
-The Garden Brewers
Like Piperales before it, Green-Thumb is unfiltered. This helps lend a little uniformity to our small family of two very different brews. Another element that helps unify our pair of beers is the choice of hop: Bullion. As a matter of fact, in both beers, Bullion is the ONLY hop used. While Piperales is very malt-forward and the hopping rate of Piperales is very low and trivial when compared to that of the Green-Thumb (which, by contrast, is incredibly hop-forward) they both have that peculiar and beguiling note of Bullion at their core, embedded deep in their DNA. This shared trait is meant to colour your perceptions of two very different experiences, and hopefully, make them both recognizable as a part of a greater whole. Kind of like how you can spot a sister and brother by the way they hold themselves with the exact same posture- or how you can pick out two brothers, not by how they look, which may be wildly different, but by how they share a sense of humor.
Why choose Bullion as a signature hop for Garden Brewers? Well, it's a very special, very unique hop. In some ways the choice was easy. In other ways, we're still not sure if we've made a wise choice. We first came across Bullion during our homebrew experiments, and like beer itself, it wasn't exactly love at first sight. Beer is challenging. Bullion is challenging. But they are worth the effort.
It took some time to fall in love with the hop and its distinctive and pungent qualities. It also took some experimentation to know how to handle it. It is a bit like cooking with Offal: delectable like nothing else with the right execution, but almost universally despised when in clumsy or inexperienced hands. Bullion is not like the old-world standbys, epitomized by Saaz, which seems noble and confident in any situation. But it is also not like its younger new-world relatives either, such as Cascade, which possesses that wonderfully effortless American swagger.
Something to keep in mind: Cascade was not really bred to be the bold hop that we know, love, and hold synonymous with American Pale Ale today. It was bred to be disease resistant. To have good agronomics. It's brash character was a fault- not a feature. And compared to Bullion, Cascade is downright refined! The story of North American brewing and hop varieties in a nutshell is this: Old world brewers came to North America and brought with them all of their wonderful brewing traditions, cultures, styles, and ingredients- right down to prized yeast strains stowed carefully away during long transatlantic voyages. Finding that their traditional hops didn't perform the same way in this new world, they were forced to experiment with native varieties. The old-world hops struggled for a variety of reasons, primarily: new-world pests and diseases, and the rules of Terrior, which dictate that even if a foreign plant should thrive in its new climate, it will not taste quite the same as it did back home. Just as Pinot noir grapes grown in France will taste different than the same grape grown in Niagara, (not necessarily better -mind you- but necessarily different.) Tettnanger hops grown in the United States will not taste quite the same as those grown in the Tettnanger region of Germany. (By the way, both types of Tettnanger are readily available to brewers today, according to their preference.)
So our immigrant brewers wanted new-world yields and resiliency, but with the old-world character that they already knew and loved. Native hops were considered entirely unfit for brewing, but foreign hops floundered. Hop breeders began crossing wild North American hops with established European varieties in search of a hop that could deliver it all. E.S. Salmon, a professor at Wye College in the United Kingdom, was among the first to formally attempt such hybridization in the early 1900's. By the turn of the decade, his pioneering efforts had brought us Bullion.
So what is Bullion?
Bullion, according to the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, is:
USDA ACCESSION NO.: 64100
SELECTION: Seedling selection from a cross made at Wye College, England, before 1920
PEDIGREE: Wild Manitoba BB1 x OR (open pollinated)
PRIMARY SITE: USDA World Hop Cultivar Collection, OSU East Farm
ORIGIN: Cross made by Professor E. S. Salmon at Wye College, England, before 1920. Seedling was raised in 1919 from open pollinated seed collected on the female BB1 in the hop nursery at Wye College, England. BB1 was obtained in 1916 as a cutting from a wild hop growing at Morden, Manitoba.
DATE RECEIVED: 1964
METHOD RECEIVED: Rhizomes, from Roger Kerr, Keizer, Oregon, who obtained it via S. S. Steiner Co. from England.
AVAILABILITY: No restrictions, commercial cultivar
REFERENCES: Salmon, E. S., Bullion hop, a new variety. Journal, South East Agricultural College, Wye, Kent, England 42:47 52. 1938.
Burgess, A. H. Hops. Interscience Publishers, New York, 1964, p. 46.
Romanko, R. R. In Steiner's Guide to American Hops. S. S. Steiner Inc. New York 1973, p. 20 21.
MATURITY: Medium early
LEAF COLOR: Dark green
SEX: Female, occasional sterile male flowers in certain years.
DISEASES: Downy Mildew: moderately resistant
Verticillium wilt: resistant
Viruses: infected with all major hop viruses
YIELD: High, 2000 to 2400 lbs/acre
SIDE ARM LENGTH: 20 40 inches
ALPHA ACIDS: 10.0% (10 year range: 6.7 to 12.9%)
BETA ACIDS: 5.4% (10 year range: 3.7 to 9.1%)
STORAGE STABILITY: Poor
OIL: 1.65 ml/100 g (10 year range: 1.14 to 2.70)
MAJOR TRAITS: Identical to USDA 21056
OTHER INFORMATION: Identical to USDA 21056 but slightly lower alpha acids content due to virus infection. This hop, a major U.S. hop variety since the mid-1940s, was discontinued from commercial U.S. production in 1985 after the advent of super-alpha hops with better storage stability and higher alpha acids content.
Lots of interesting information there! Some key things:
❧ Bullion dates back to 1919!
❧ Bullion has a Canadian mom! A native of Morden, Manitoba. We have no idea who the father is, since Bullion was the result of open pollination (scandalous!!) but most people assume someone of English stock.
❧Bullion is a high alpha acid hop, with an excellent yield, and pretty decent resistance to downy mildew & verticillium wilt.
❧ Bullion rootstock is infected with all major hop viruses.
❧ Bullion hops have a poor storage stability.
❧ Bullion became a major hop variety from around 1950-1970 but has been in decline since 1985. Many people, in fact, assume it to be already vanished, or at least, long since unavailable for purchase. Not so! There are still people growing and selling Bullion today! Our beers are proof of this fact.
Here's some more: my personal homebrew-sized Bullion stash.
Our beer may be unique nowadays, but Green-Thumb is hardly the first IPA to showcase Bullion. In fact, a rather legendary IPA made it a feature: Ballantine. The Peter Ballantine & Sons Brewing Company was founded in 1878 in Newark New Jersey. It was one of the scrappy few to survive Americas prohibition- and perhaps even more impressive- they emerged from prohibition with their bold beers intact! More amazing still is that they continued with their aggressive beer- as it was- and were successful! In the 1950's, during Bullions golden age, Ballantine was the third-largest brewery in the whole U S of A. And they did it without slowly watering down their flagship IPA until it was an unrecognizable shadow of its former glory. (Are you taking notes, Alexander Keith?)
"Ballantine quarts with the puzzle on the cap"
They were a bona fide historical anomaly. An aggressive American IPA before the craft beer revolution! And a popular one at that! Discovering the hidden history of Ballantine IPA is like discovering a photo of your grandfather crushing a farmhouse sour whilst updating his twitter account. It seems to go against everything we think we know about the past. But it's true. Like a brewery built ontop of a tear in time, they did all sorts of things that were out of place in their own era. Some, like aging the IPA for a year in pitch-lined wood barrels, was charmingly traditional and hopelessly antiquated in the era of stainless steel. Other things, like dosing the beer with hop oil that they extracted themselves, was remarkably futuristic:
"Ballantines dry-hopping process was totally unique. It used Bullion hops, a variety very hard to find now, and ground them into a fine powder, added water, and cooked them in a vacuum process that effectively distilled the oils from the hop material. The oils were collected and added to the beer, which gave it an intense, distinct presence unlike anything else available in the United States at the time.”
-Mitch Steele: IPA, Brewing Techniques, Recipes, and the Evolution of India Pale Ale. Page 134
But, they were a brewery unstuck in time, or perhaps stuck in the wrong time, and they couldn't fight the changing times. Their time had come. Time. And their aggressive hop choice, our brave Bullion, may have been just the thing that sealed their fate in an era of ever-lightening flavour profiles:
"Ballantine ... beer featured a very distinctive hop variety, Bullion, which, although pungent, was not typically known for a refined hop note. Highly aromatic and assertive hop aromas are now common with craft brewers, but Ballantines use of Bullion may have led to its decline from the nations third largest brewer in 1950 to being sold in 1969 for a small sum and finally to their liquidation in 1972."
-Ken Grossman: Beyond the Pale, the story of Sierra Nevada brewing co. Page 35
The Pabst Brewing Company, as the rights holders to the Ballantine story, have recently revived the beer. I was lucky enough to try this new version on a recent CABA bus trip. I must say, it's a very fine IPA, but it is decidedly lacking the distinctively twangy and zesty Bullion character that I've grown to recognize and love. It tastes like a solid modern example of an American IPA- it is completely lacking that harsh-yet-charming historical character! I found out later that this is probably due to the fact that they don't use any Bullion hops at all!
Hops raised an important philosophical question that framed the entire project, too: should Pabst try to recreate a museum piece, or brew a version of Ballantine that appeals to drinkers in the 21st century? “In the back of my mind, I thought if Ballantine as a brewery were in business today, which hops would they be using?” Deuhs wondered. “Would they have evolved to newer varieties, or a combination of new and old.” He opted for a combination, which seems like the right call. Breweries constantly update their beer; it’s difficult to imagine Ballantine trying to survive with a Bullion-and-Cluster-hopped beer in a Mosaic and Meridian world.“[Old] boiling hops are not readily available,” he said. Instead, he experimented with hops that might have the character of older hops. He tried Galena, a relatively old “modern” cultivar from 1968, but it was too harsh. Cluster “didn’t give the flavor we wanted.” In the end, he used a blend of old classics and newer varieties. “We ended up with Magnum as the main bittering hop. Then we dosed a combination of Columbus, Brewer’s Gold, Fuggles, and then we did use some Cascade.”
What a shame! What's the point of re-brewing a landmark historical beer, if you project it along an imagined evolution to make it more like every other IPA of the modern era? I was really hoping that Pabst would champion Bullion, and help keep this rapidly disappearing heirloom hop in the ground. It's from 1919! You know what else is from 1919? The first non-stop transatlantic flight:This was a time when pilots apparently didn't practice landing all that much, I guess because there was a good chance that it wouldn't come up. This new "Ballantine" is like setting out to build a recreation of the plane pictured above, but deciding to just build a Cessna instead, because that Vickers Vimy was just hopelessly outmoded.
But I get it- I do. Bullion is a tough choice. It is a notoriously challenging hop that has been credited with bringing down the THIRD LARGEST BREWER in the United States. If you can even find it, this hop may just disappear out from underneath your feet- if it doesn't take you down first. Talk about brewing with fire! But- It is also bold, unique, historically significant, and distinctive & delicious when used well!
There is history you can taste in this hop. It's worth holding on to. It's worth brewing with.
At least we think so! We hope you agree,
-The Garden Brewers
We've brewed our second style, Green-Thumb, a Ginger IPA! Watch for it to spring up soon at the finest craft beer establishments around Ontario.
1. A person with a natural skill for gardening.
2. Someone who has been picking hops.
3. Piquant, provocative, and powerful, Green-Thumb is a Ginger India Pale Ale which combines the unique zesty and pungent character of heirloom hop Bullion with the unmistakable tangy tropical notes of freshly ground Ginger root. The heat from the Ginger enhances the bitterness of the Bullion. Together, the two botanicals provide the dry malty backbone of the beer with a spicy heat, an intense bitterness, and a united front of harmonious flavours; resinous piney notes and zesty tropical character- which linger into a long, bitter finish.
Some IPAs add novelty ingredients that have negligible flavour impact- not so for our Ginger IPA. You can expect true ginger character and heat, working in tandem with bold hop character and bitterness!
We get that real ginger character by using actual ginger root! Look at this one- a crustacean monster!
First, the ginger root gets a dunk in a food-grade, acid-based sanitizer- just to be safe. We want spicy, not sour!
Then it takes a spin in a blender!
And when it's all combined, we are left with two kilos worth of freshly blended ginger root. It was like a hot, golden sun of fragrant, freshly ground ginger! The aroma rising from this bucket of ginger was incredible- you could almost feel the heat!
In it goes! Straight away into the fermentation tank, right into the beer, which had already finished fermentation. The beer then sits on the ginger for a few days, just like during a dry-hop process, to pick up the aroma, flavour, and character of the ginger. It is then transferred off of the ginger into a bright tank, where the beer is carbonated, chilled and made ready to package into kegs. That kegging happened earlier in the week! The beer is now ready to meet you, and boy, is it ever prepared to make one heck of a first impression! !
Green-Thumb is based upon a recipe our brewer first created for sale at celebrated Hamilton craft beer bar; The Ship. The launch of The Ships Rations back in 2013 was a great success in all regards except for availability! For Garden Brewers, this wonderfully bitter and spicy brew has evolved into something a bit different, that will enjoy a more frequent, and wider, availability! Of course, there is no better place in the world to launch that wider availability than where it all began- The Ship! I hope you can join us tonight, at the Ship, where Green-Thumb will make it's debut!
-The Garden Brewers
2010: A wet-behind-the-ears assistant brewer, far right
I'm now going to be focusing on Garden Brewers, and I'm very much looking forward to the challenges of helping Garden Brewers to grow! But for the moment, please indulge me as we look back briefly- before moving forward!
So much has changed and happened in those few short years. The company, and myself, have grown quite a bit, but I clearly remember the very first time a beer I made myself was available to a thirsty public! My brother and a friend joined me for a drink of that prem'bière after work. It was a tradition in the company at that time to have a liter of your first batch. Or at least, my mentor in the company, Pierre Labarre, claimed that it was tradition and I was happy to accept the idea! That thrill, of having your beer on tap, has yet to get old. I don't suppose it ever will!
In the early years, we went on a couple of really outstanding company trips to Montreal to visit exceptional breweries in the area, such as Brasseurs du Monde, Brasseurs Illimités, Dieu du Ciel!, Brasserie McAuslan, and several others. We also toured Canada Malting's Montreal malting facilities, a really eye-opening (and ear-closing: so loud!) experience!! I enjoyed every visit, and value every experience, but one visit stands out as truly special; our 2011 visit to Unibroue. We were lucky enough to get a rare tour, given a peek of what lay beyond the public tasting room by the Brewmaster himself, Jerry Vietz.
And after the tour? Incredible beers began to flow. Beers- fresh and delightful, aged and complex, rare and mysterious, soured and unavailable anywhere else. Beers that could only be delivered directly from the hands of the brewmaster! We had Jerry and the lovely tasting room all to ourselves, and it was dim, comfortable, warm and moody- providing just the right atmosphere- as thick snowflakes began to cover the brewery in a heavy coat of snow. You know that particular feeling snowfall can provide, of not needing to go anywhere or do anything else? It's like when the power goes out on a summers evening, or when your phone is left behind while you're on vacation. That forced-yet-comfortable retreat from the world at large. It was a magic beer memory- one I'll always treasure.
In 2011, I reached my one-year anniversary at work...
2011: Less wet behind the ears, more ready to wet your whistle
...and created a new anniversary to celebrate by getting married!
A great day! The very best day, in fact.
In 2012, I managed to convince the company to allow me to brew a beer of my own design: A Schwarzbier. There is a whole story behind the brew, so I'll just link you to it. It's a bit of a long read, but this brew was a milestone for both myself and the company: It was the first time a recipe I wrote was used for a commercial brew, and the first time that The 3 Brewers ever produced a Lager!
A concept poster I made for the brew- the company went with something less trademark-infringementy
In 2012, I also had developed an advanced case of "brewers mustache" as evidenced by the video below:
By 2013, the company had begun its annual "Master Brewer" competition, giving each one of their brewers an opportunity to create a brew of their own design! Through a complicated series of events, I actually ended up travelling to my home town of Ottawa to brew my recipe, a Hopfen Weisse, at the as-yet-unopened Sparks Street location. It was very well received! But I had left the city long before the restaurant opened or the beer went on tap, so I actually never got to try it myself!
later in 2013, I was promoted to Head Brewer, when I was given the brand-new Oakville location. I also became a father!! I learned a few new things, like how my uniform can double as a baby-carrier:
And that mash forks make good teethers, apparently!
2013 was a big year!
In 2014 I brewed a Pre-Prohibition style Cream Ale for the Master Brewer competition, and was photographed professionally for use in marketing materials...
...including a stand up (actually a photo from 2013) which they printed during the 2015 competition:
This year was my last entry in the Master Brewer competition. It was to be my last recipe ever made at The 3 Brewers: "Oakheart" a big 'ol coffee stout aged on oak! My pal Keir made a poster for it:
I suppose that's it! My story with The 3 Brewers ends here, in 2015. I'm officially hanging up my overalls.
It's hard to say much about the future with any certainty, but there is one thing that I'm sure of:
There is going to be more beer!
Our "B.F.F. Porter" just took second place in the 2015 GOHCBC!
The competition is to promote Ontario-grown hops. It partners local hop growers with local brewers to create special beers that showcase the potential and promise of our friendly neighborhood hop producers. This year the style they selected to do that was Robust Porter. We partnered up with our hop-growing BFF: Buttrum's Family Farm.
This beer actually began way back in spring. When the hops were just starting to shoot up out of the ground, Gary Buttrum came to our Corktown home and dug up our backyard hops to bring them to a better life on his farm.
"I promise Davis, the hops are leaving to go live on a farm. Really. They'll be very happy there."
It was a rough day on the plants, but hops are tough customers, and after a summer of care in their new home they had done very well for a first year of growth!
Gary, Sonja, and Davis surveying the harvest
They had some struggles for sure- to be expected with any fresh start- but there were lots of great looking cones! We had plenty enough to pick! We selected the best cones, vacuum-sealed the hops, and froze them for later use.
A few weeks ago we recovered the frozen hops from the back of the freezer and got ready to brew! Davis insisted he help by thawing out a small section of the hops. Either he was teething, or we have a future Hop-Head on our hands! Since the hops were vacuum sealed and frozen immediately, while undried and at the peak of their freshness, this was like making a fresh "wet-hop" beer- in the middle of winter!
To get maximum usage of the hops, and to prevent any scorching, we blended the whole-cone hops into a fine consistency. Essentially- homemade hop pellets!
It all went into the Kettle- we used the First-Wort hopping technique.
The Hot Break and Boil
First wort hopping helps control the hot break (Important when you're pushing your kettle volume to the limit like I did here) as well as maximize bitterness extraction (Helpful with homegrown hops, which tend to be on the lower side of their alpha-acid potential) and, counter-intuitively, is said to enhance hop aroma and flavour! All very desirable things in this brew. Of course, the hops weren't tested or anything, so it was simply a guess at the hopping rate. It could have turned out much too bitter for style, but we were lucky and it was a truly wonderful brew.
We're all thrilled that it took 2nd place! It's great to represent Hamilton and to see a homegrown brew do so well in this intra-provincial competition! It is also really encouraging to see our small scale hop-growing experiment yield such a nice harvest. Gary is already gearing up for a bigger and better growing season this summer!
Congrats to all who entered!
We're all helping to grow good things, for good things grow- in Ontario
-The Garden Brewers]]>
Here's the thing- "Beer Store" is really weird.
(Weirder still, now that they've dropped the "The")
And it is inherently unfair.
(A lot of ink has been spilled on the topic of unfairness already, so I won't get into all that here.)
It ought to change. And you know what? My bet is that change is coming to the Beer Store, whether the province forces it upon them or not...
...and I'm cautiously optimistic about that fact.
But, that said, change isn't easy.
I know that to many people, when small brewers express any kind of enthusiasm for Beer Store, even if it is to just point out that they think that it is the lesser of two evils, it seems like a form of Stockholm Syndrome... and maybe there is some truth to that- but it goes deeper. If small Craft Brewers and Beer Store (doesn't it seem like it's shouted when the "the" is dropped? Beer Store. Beer Store! Fabbbrric Land. FABRIC LAND!) were in a relationship on Facebook, the status of that relationship would most definitely be "It's Complicated." (And, sadly, the only other friend Craft Brewers would have would be the LCBO. Well, and a bunch of friend requests from Dial-A-Bottle companies.)
See, since every single brewery in Ontario post-1927 developed in an environment where there was such a thing as a "Beer Store", some have evolved to thrive under its particular conditions. Which is kind of an obvious thing to say. Of course, right? No matter what particular conditions an environment contained, you could expect to see business models emerge that take advantage of the situation. Even an environment of complete prohibition only created... unique sorts of brewing entrepreneurialism...
...now romanticized for your enjoyment, by two percent owner of Beer Store!, Sleeman Breweries, an arm of Sapporo of Japan.
One example of how some small brewers do well under Beer Store!: Kegs are really expensive. Our fleet of beautiful stainless steel kegs were, far and away, our largest single start up cost. It will take about 3-4 sales and returns of each keg before we've paid off that initial keg purchase cost. And kegs do sometimes go missing. They're a major investment, and source of loss. But BEER STORE! allows brewers, small and large, to rent their kegs. This is a major advantage to a brewery that is modeled to take advantage of it. Ha. Which is, again, a silly thing to say. But it does sum up my point: BEER STORE!! is a great opportunity to breweries who are able to take advantage of it. Pro-Beer Store advocates and employees make this case often, and of course, they are right. But just because they are right, doesn't make it any more fair. It is still an inherently messed up and unfair system. And just because some businesses have evolved to thrive in this particular environment (where they had little choice but to) isn't a terribly compelling argument for the continuation of that environment.
But- what to do about it? That's the question now. And there is no shortage of answers. Personally, I'm pro-baby, anti-bathwater. I think there are real good things about the current set up, messed up as it is.
To quote Jeff Newton, President of Canada’s National Brewers (CNB), representing Labatt Brewing Company Ltd., Molson Coors Canada and Sleeman Breweries Ltd., who jointly operate the Beer Store:
"The bottom line is this: when you’ve got Canada’s most efficient beer retail system offering the lowest prices and widest selection, in addition to a recycling program that diverts more than two billion alcohol containers from Ontario landfills every year, we need to be careful about how we 'fix' it."
In his last statement: "...a recycling program that diverts more than two billion alcohol containers from Ontario landfills every year, we need to be careful about how we 'fix' it." Mr. Newton and I are in complete agreement. The beer store is messed up- which is another way to say it's unique- there is nothing else quite like it anywhere in the world, and I'd like to hold onto the positive aspects of this singular system. We've earned them, dammit, through these many years of (mostly) quiet suffering. The Beer Store may be a bizarre thing, but it's our bizarre thing- a historical oddity 88 painful years in the making. There will never be another Beer Store- we need to be careful about how we fix it.
Nostalgiempörung- German, Made-Up : a simultaneous feeling of warm nostalgia and simmering outrage, inspired by going to Beer Store!™.
Photo by LazyMonkey. Used under the Creative Commons License.
But lets not stop there. The Beer Store's near-monopoly is just one (admittedly large) part of a whole province-worth of old laws and legislation that needs to be looked at and reformed.
A perfect example: This summer was saved by BEER STORE. That's right. BEER STORE RESCUE SUMMER. YOU WELCOME. How? Well, you may recall a big kerfuffle this summer, when, without warning, the AGCO promised to enforce a long-ignored rule that plainly stated that Contract Brewers could not sell to Special Occasion Permit Holders. This sent contract brewers, such as ourselves, into a panic as this meant we could not participate in beer festivals! Of course, this also sent beer festivals into a tizzy, including our own Because Beer. The entire summer of beer festivals (and festivals pouring beer) across Ontario was under threat. And it was then, in our darkest hour of need, that the Beer Store stepped up with a work-around! It's because of that work-around that we were able to debut at the inaugural Because Beer. It's because of that work-around that we could pour our beer at Supercrawl. It is perhaps difficult for us to over-emphasize how important it was for us to be able to bring our beer to these vital Hamiltonian events. And we owe it all to the Beer Store. BEER STORE SMASH PUNY RED TAPE.
But- Why? Why must the Beer Store be necessarily unnecessarily involved in that whole transaction? Why does this rule exist? Why does the province see fit to limit the abilities of contract breweries as compared to bricks-and-mortar breweries? What is the rationale? Don't get me wrong, at this point I'm not even attempting to debate the merits of the rule, simply looking to understand the logic behind it- if there is any. And there are more perplexing head-scratchers, a good example: what is the rationale of limiting the abilities of small brewers v.s. big brewers? A large craft brewer like Mill Street is able to bring product brewed at a separate facility into their brewpub retail store and sell it there. A smaller brewer is expressly forbidden from doing the same. The deciding factor: production volume. Why?? Does the province specifically wish to give a competitive advantage to larger brewers? And if so, why? And while we're on the subject, does the province wish the give preferential treatment to Wine v.s. Beer? If not, then what is the rationale for The Wine Rack, The Wine Shop, and wine being offered in grocery stores and farmers markets, when brewers aren't allowed similar opportunities?? AND WHY DOES THE PROVINCE CONTINUE TO ALLOW A TRIUMVIRATE OF HUGE BREWERS EXCLUSIVITY ON OPERATION OF BEER RETAIL STORES?!?
My primary points are these:
...and I'm worried that these points will get lost in the all noise from the Beer Store lynch mob. Lets make sure that the hard work of legislative reform gets done. Not just for the big interests, but for all Ontarians. The Beer Store V.S. Convenience Store argument was, and is, a false dichotomy. We have more options. As many options as we are willing to entertain! (Growler Fills & Farmers Markets are 2 of my favorite low-hanging fruits) The Beer Store will fight to defend it's turf, the Canadian Convenience Stores Association will fight to get a piece of the action, and the Province will demand their cut, but who will fight for the options that don't have a large and powerful group standing behind them because they stand to make a lot of money?
-The Garden Brewers]]>
... and a happy new beer!
2014 was really something, especially for craft brewing. There were exciting developments all over Ontario, but nowhere more so than right here in Hamilton.
We started 2014 with just one lil' nano brewing operation in our city.
It was, of course, The Ship, which was brewing up occasional batches of the award-winning Ships Rations on a tiny-towne brew system with our Brewer at the helm. We began brewing at The Ship in 2013, the same year that The Shed announced their plans for their as-yet-unbuilt brewery in Dundas. Before these developments, Hamilton had been without locally produced beer- or even the hope of locally produced beer- since 2010. That dark year in our history (“2010” Imperial 'Empire' Stout anyone?) was the year that Labatt achieved cartoonish super-villain status in Hamilton by ruthlessly gutting our historic Peller brewery on Burlington street. The brewing equipment was removed, but they didn't stop there. They also pulled out the wiring and plumbing, ripping the very veins of the building out to ensure that no one else ever made beer there. ever. again. They probably also “Burtonised” the very earth, but we can't know for sure. Hamilton entered a dark period, roughly equivalent to Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.
We broke that dry spell, in our small way, in 2013. But the times were still dark. Still, like a tiny hole in a massive dam, our small trickle of local beer was an indicator of the flood to come... The Shed was announced, which gave us hope. Shortly after that, The Hamilton Brewery (THB) announced their plans to build a brewery! 2013 brought us hope, but we still began 2014 with only our scrappy little nano putting out a dribble of beer...
...and we are finishing 2014 with no fewer than SIX new breweries of various types either opened or announced!
The Shed is still working away at, from what rumor holds, is a massive, knotted ball of red tape. (That's no moon...)
Arts & Science was announced in March – this was the big one!!! They are going to defy Labatt and restore life to the empty shell of the Burlington Street Brewery! They hope to open in 2015 (with an Ewok dance party?) and officially end Labatts 5-year long history of cruelty to our city. Wooooo!
We launched in April (!!!) ,
THB launched (Now as a contract brewery, like ourselves) just recently at the end of November,
BRUX opened its doors at the same time, with plans to open and operate a nano (Which will be nice, because the nano operation at The Ship was forced to shut down in 2014, leaving us without a nano in the city.)
…and finally, our friend Brad Clifford announced in early December that he will be joining us (and THB) as contract brewers based out of Hamilton! We will welcome Clifford Brewing to Hamilton in early 2015!
We also got our first full-scale beer festival in 2014! Because Beer was incredible, and an incredible boon to the beer culture of Hamilton. It's set to return, and to be even better, in 2015!
2015 is totally our Episode VI year! It's The Return Of The Brewski, cats and kittens! Also- did you know? We are getting a new Star Wars movie in 2015 as well... it looks pretty OK and my enthusiasm for it may be affecting my writing style. Well, enough of that, lets talk about the new year- I've got a GOOD feeling about this!
We intend to not just be along for the ride in 2015, but to continue to lead the charge! And we're starting with a great new price: 140$ a keg. (Dropped from 155$ per 30 liter keg)
This price puts us more or less in line with the current Ontario "standard" for a 30 liter keg of craft beer. It is -as near as we can figure- about the average price. We decided to drop our price after several months of sales and experience. Explaining why should perhaps be it's own entry, there is certainly enough ground to cover that it could make up a whole different blog post, but it would likely get tedious. Still, I'm assuming anyone coming here actually has an interest in reading some of that "how your sausage gets made" stuff, so I'll cover it in brief.
The short version is that publicly listed keg prices (upon which we based our price) are not necessarily the prices that licensees actually end up paying- for a variety of reasons. So, we priced our kegs too high, and as a result our beer was more expensive for you to buy. We're hoping that with our new price, some savings can be passed along to you when you order our beer! We are big believers in beer, and we cherish the idea that beer ought to be accessible and affordable! Inexpensive to buy and easy to share! As such, we'd like to price our beer as low as we can while still remaining a viable company that can continue to exist, and to create more beer! This is a difficult task for any brewer, but we're finding it especially difficult as a small contract brewer. Still, we know we can do better. Thanks to all our licensees who ordered kegs, and to all the beer drinkers who ordered a pint of our Piperales in 2014! We promise we'll do the best we can to get you the best beer we can at the best price that we can possibly manage.
The longer version (skip to here if you're tired of this already): something we've learned in our pricing adventures that surprised us is that -often, but not always- craft beer is "The Cheap Stuff". For example, the most up-to-date beer store licensee prices at the time of writing places a 30 liter keg (before taxes and deposit) of Stella at 176.06, A 30 of Steamwhistle at 122.96, and Cameron's Cream Ale, Lager & Auburn Ale all at 115$ for a 30.
"Whoah" you might be saying, "I buy craft beer by the keg all the time. I especially like to get Steamwhistle by the keg, using their awesome home-delivery service, and I pay 178.95 for a 30, plus a 59.95 charge for delivery to Hamilton. That's 238.90 total!"
Well, sometimes craft brewers charge a bit more for home customers to account for the fact that their kegs are usually gone a much longer time, and are perhaps a little less likely to come back. Sometimes they don't.
In Steamwhistle's case, that price includes tax and:
That- my friends- is a pretty darn good deal.
Licensee customers (Pubs, bars, restaurants, ect) buying Steamwhistle from the Beer Store pay 188.95 after taxes and keg deposit, but they won't pay for the delivery (as private customers will) and they probably aren't getting any of the other stuff... but maybe they are. It's not uncommon for breweries to provide glassware, coasters and other small items to help the bar promote their beers. We ourselves will provide glassware and taphandles to our licensees who want them... and I don't think that there is anything sketchy about that.
But, depending on who the licensee is, and what brewery they are ordering from- maybe they are getting more. Maybe- a lot more.
Basically, it's all up for negotiation. Every licensee is potentially able to say to any brewery at any point: "What can you do for me?" and the volume of beer that they could likely sell for the brewery is their leverage. They might sell their tap lines like billboard space, they might expect a better price, free kegs, or tickets to sports events. They might think all of this is normal, because, rather sadly, it is. This highly competitive and secretive environment can make it challenging to set a fair price. How do you even know what the going rate is when there is so much smoke and mirrors? When "buy 4, 3 or even 2 kegs and-get-1-free" type deals abound? With kickbacks and aggressive beer reps offering presents of booze, fancy meals, trips, and whatever else they can muster?
It's tricky, but after alot of confidential talks with good people on both sides of the equation, we feel that 140$ is the reasonable number. One where we can still afford to brew beer, bars can afford to buy our beer, and you can expect to pay a reasonable price for your pint.
In case it is not already clear, I suppose I should clarify that this sketchy behavior is not legal, and we are not interested in participating in (nor can we afford to participate in) this particular race to the bottom. Any place you find Garden Brewers beer on tap is an establishment where they decided that they wanted our beer based on the merits of our beer! Not on the merits of our money.
You know, I would like to take a moment to thank all the licensees who ordered our beer in 2014- even at our relatively high price. Thank you so much to:
Iggy's Pub and Grub
The Tavern On George
The Winking Judge
Food & Liquor
The Grapefruit Moon
Of course, a huge thanks also to all those who ordered a pint (or two!) of Piperales from one of the above establishments! You make all this possible, for bars and brewers alike! (Of all those who ordered pints, about 200 of you shared your opinions of our beer on Untappd, and we're very happy for the feedback. Cheers!)
If 2014 was the year of of the Ontario craft beer boom (and looking at this kind of data from Mom and Hops, which lists 44 new Ontario breweries opening in 2014, and a 22.7% increase in Ontario craft beer sales at the LCBO over last year, I think it's safe to say it was) then I think that 2015 will be the year of craft beer maturation in Ontario.
My Mom has a tradition of making "New Years Predictions". If I can cast my own "New Beers Predictions" for craft beer in Ontario during 2015, I think we're going to see good things- but with significant growing pains.
I predict an improvement in some the brash and enthusiastic, yet too often unbalanced or mediocre offerings of some the the new brewers. This long-overdue deluge of new breweries we've been enjoying will continue into 2015, but alongside all of the openings, I think we'll start to see the first closings. Competition is already unprecedentedly fierce and it is only going to increase- for shelf space, tap space, and mental space alike. (I live and breathe beer and I can't even keep track of all the new brewers, let alone all of their beers!) The new brewers that have been struggling with quality and consistency will find their feet this year, or they may very well be forced to close their doors. Other brewers with excellent beers may also be brought down this year- by everyday business issues, exacerbated by a highly competitive environment. Cash flow has killed more breweries than microbial contamination, after all. Additionally, we will see more entries by the macro brewers into the growing craft beer market, which will only further crowd the field.
There have never been so many players as there will be in 2015, but there has also never been so much reason to expect that the playing field itself will change too! Never before in Ontario has consumer interest and awareness been so high! These game-changers are real wildcards with wide reaching and difficult to predict ramifications, but I think overall that there is no reason for anything but optimism! 2015 will be a great time to drink beer in Ontario, we will all enjoy variety like never before, including locally produced beer options that just didn't exist previously. There will be changes, with unexpected consequences, but there isn't any reason we shouldn't expect that anything less than the best beers ever made in this province will be helping us cheer in 2016!
Here's to the future!
-The Garden Brewers]]>
You are GOURD-ially invited to our Harvest Party; an evening celebrating seasonal flavors with unique beer & food pairings- right here in downtown Hamilton!
Taking place at Mills Hardware - Hamilton's newest arts and event space- and presented by Because Beer and Sonic Unyon, our Harvest Party will happen on Thursday October 30th from 6pm to 10pm. The night before Halloween! Wear a nice comfy sweater instead of a costume and join us as we hand out beer instead of candy. There will be food, fun, flavour, and frosty brews!
We have partnered with several other local small businesses in the community, and their support has allowed us to bring a rare and exciting beer event to Hamilton. The evening will feature specially-curated food pairings created by Chef Shane McCartney of McCartney and Son, made with local ingredients like squash from Buttrums Family Farm. There will be a coffee-infused Piperales made with collaboratively choosen beans from Homegrown Hamilton, downtown Hamiltons famous café and roastery. Our glassware, pictured above, will be provided by Stoney Creek Glass and, last but not least, Sonic Unyon, Because Beer, and Mills Hardware are all working together to present and host our party!
You know, quality beer events have been all too few and far between in our city. Even big festivals like the province-wide Ontario Craft Beer Week, which hosts more than 100 events, can fail to bring even a single event to Hamilton. We are looking to change that, and we couldn't be more proud that this event is truly home-grown.
OK! So enough FEELINGS- Just what is this Harvest Party?
A chance to sample Piperales and explore the exciting range and pairing possibilities of the first beer from Hamilton’s Ambitious Brewery.
BUT WAIT- Not only will you be able to try our Piperales, but we will also be offering TWO unique one-night-only editions, infused with some of the traditional flavors of the season: Pumpkin Spices and Coffee.
AND THAT'S NOT ALL-The evening will also be a chance to try a rare and unquestionably unique beer cocktail: The "Hot Piper". Once the exclusive domain of Brewers, the Hot Piper is made using smoky and sweet Piperales wort and is based off of the Hot Scotchie- a warming treat made from fresh hot wort (unfermented beer) and whiskey. This unique cocktail’s origins are foggy, but legend holds that it can be traced back to Brewers sneakily adding a nip of whiskey to a little of the wort on chilly morning brew days. The drink was introduced to us in Hamilton during a brisk fall outdoor brew day. We were hosting members of Hamiltons homebrew club, the HOZERs, in our corktown backyard for a group homebrew session. The club was making a stout for the fall, and a sly brewer introduced us all to the tradition - it was love at first sip. We thought it would be the perfect thing to bring to our Harvest Party, and something that you're not likely to see available anywhere else- outside of a brewery.
HOLD ON, THERE'S MORE- Each delicious, perfect-for-the-season beverage comes paired with a tasty, hand-crafted bite by Shane McCartney:
Your pint of Piperales comes paired with- A Roasted Squash Soup Shooter
Your sample of Coffee Piperales comes paired with- A Mini Stuffed Eggplant
Your sample of Pumpkin Piperales comes paired with- A Radicchio cup with sprouts, beans, and a honey chive vinaigrette
Your Hot Piper comes paired with- A Mini Apple Pie & Aged Cheddar
WHAT THERE'S STILL SOMETHING ELSE, THAT IS HOT NONSENSE- No, it's true! You'll also get to keep your Garden Brewers Mason Jar style jug as a souvenir! Filled to the brim, this glass holds just over 16oz of water, beer, or tomato sauce. That is a PINT, my friend. Well, an American pint anyway.
Admission is free! The tasting package includes all 4 food and drink pairings and a souvenir glass for 30$. Single pints of Piperales are available from the bar for 5$.
Tickets are available online or at the door.
We hope to see you there,
-The Garden Brewers
The leaves are putting on a show, the weather is perfect, and it's a splendid time to enjoy a pint of Piperales!
We've been busy all summer, and we are looking forward to taking it a bit slower as the days get shorter, so we can soak up the sights, smells, and tastes of the season. Mmmm.... apple cider and pumpkin pie. Walks to the waterfalls. Coffee in the park. Beer by the bonfire! Our smokey amber ale would pair marvelously with a brisk autumn sunset, an old comfortable hoodie, and good conversation around a fire pit.
What a great success! Another Supercrawl has come and gone, and Hamilton is all the better for it. This year, we were pouring pints in the VIP section alongside Mill Street and fellow future Hamiltonian brewers Collective Arts- and we had a blast!
We needed a tent for the first time, and without a lot of time or money to get a proper branded one together, we bought an off-the-rack standard model and customized it with a big ol' stencil! It may look a little less ...professional... than a professionally-branded tent, but it seemed appropriate for both Supercrawl and Hamilton, and it kept our booth dry all the same. Garden Brewers: The Ambitious, Do-It-Yourself, Brewery!
Is this what the big guys mean when they say they need to hire a "Booth Babe"?
Booth Babes are very popular and everyone wants to pose for a photo with them, but they can't answer any questions about the beer.
The Iron Brewer is an annual event where members of the Master Brewers Association of Canada (A trade organization for professional brewers) compete to create the best beer from the same mixed bag of ingredients! This event always sees a lot of great, creative beers from brewers who represent some of the best talent in the industry- from every scale of brewing! This years iron brewer saw 21 pro brewers from all around Ontario participating, including our very own brewer...
...Victor North! (not pictured)
What is pictured is a baby who really ought to familiarize himself with the material safety data sheets for PBW, and the start of the boil on "Calluna": a red heather lager!
Calluna has a base of dark Bohemian floor-malted barley. This special malt is part of Weyermann's heirloom line of products and utilizes the traditional floor-malting technique, which is much more laborious, said to result in superior flavour, and is a clear and flagrant violation of the "30-second" rule. Supplementing this base is "Red X" which isn't a sinister artificial colouring ingredient or super-villain but a really interesting malt from Best Malz. Apparently, you can use Red X as a base malt, all the way up to 100% for fiery-red brews!
To this solid malty backbone, we add a generous addition of heather (generous=everything that came in the Iron Brewer bag) and Belma hops, both at whirlpool only. This was done to maximize the hop and herb character, without tipping the balance of the brew too far into bitterness. Fermented as a lager, the final result was clean, complex and characterful. The aroma carried notes of strawberries and hay, while the flavour was clean and crisp with a touch of sulphur for that classic "Dad Beer" bite. The finish was long and lingering with notes of raspberry tea and accompanying astringency. It was pretty tasty- and it took second place!!!
Calluna- parkside sample
We are just thrilled to see the beer so well received! To be judged as a silver place brew by our peers in the professional brewing world is quite an honor. (Gold went to our friend Alan Brown, who has let us swim in his pool and drink his beer, so I guess we're still cool... for now)
You may be wondering if you'll get a chance to try this unique heather brew yourself one day. We've already been asked that question a number of times and we can only answer... maybe. We have to focus for now on getting our Piperales out into the market, and after that we have a couple of other brews we'd like to introduce you to first... but you never know! One of the nicest compliments we received at the iron brewer was from a long-time industry member who said two magic words: "Commercially-Viable".
To the fall! To the future! And to all the wonderful brews they hold,
-The Garden Brewers]]>
Our first, full-scale 40-hectolitre batch of beer will be kegged up shortly; probably in the next few days!
Getting to this point has been a long row to hoe for us, and we're very excited that soon we will be putting beer into your hands! If you are reading this, we know that you have been very supportive and patient with us. Thank you! It won't be long now, soon we will update this website with information about where you can find Piperales on tap! But while we wait for that, why don't we take a look back at the brew day?
It began early, like most brewdays...
After a long (but blessedly low-traffic) drive from Hamilton to Etobicoke, our brewer arrived at 7am at Black Oak brewery. He found Mike Lynn, one of the brewers, already starting to mash in the first of 2 batches of Piperales to be brewed that day.
Both brews went very well under Mike's care! Temperatures were nailed...
...and targets were bulls-eyed. An impressive feat for a first batch!
Mike was also kind enough to allow our brewer to participate in some small ways, like adding the malt to the mill...
...and hops to the kettle.
Even though we have yet to package this brew, we can't wait to brew again!
The end of the sparge
Mike removing the spent grain from below...
The hot break.
Mike cropping yeast.
Mike preparing to rack the Piperales wort to the fermentation tank...
...and pitching the yeast with C02 pressure!
In the background, you may have spotted some of our kegs, eagerly awaiting this brew!
As mentioned earlier, as soon as we have this beer in kegs, we will begin to sell it to bars, pubs and restaurants. It is standard practice to bring some sample bottles of any new beer around to bars while making sales visits. So we will have to bottle some beer and do some sales calls before you see Piperales around town...
However, our good friends at The Ship are willing to take this new beer sight unseen and in good faith! God bless em'. This coming Thursday (September 4th) we will be having a bit of a launch party at The Ship for Piperales in Hamilton. If you're able to come out, The Ship will have plenty of the beer on tap, and it will be your first opportunity to sample our inaugural batch- probably anywhere!
The Ship will be selling by the pint and half pint. They will also have a special feature- a surprise burger to celebrate the launch of Piperales! Check out their website or give them a shout for further details, which should be coming soon.
Our brewer will also be on site, ready to answer questions, tell jokes, accept compliments, deflect criticism, and maybe hand out a lil' garden gear!
We hope to see you out! But if you're unable to make it to this Hamilton event on such short notice, don't worry, there should be a wider availability of Piperales very shortly- and we've got more parties and events planned in Hamilton soon!
-the Garden Brewers
Because.. lots of reasons I guess!
Photo by Randy North
Here are a few:
With the help of our impressive friends at Mata Mata who, In addition to being trusty with a tattoo gun, also know how to wield a welding torch, we were able to put together the wheelbarrow of our dreams. Say hello to the Garden Brewers "Beerbarrow":
This rugged beauty is a tricked out 0'14 model wheelbarrow that I'm going to assume is marketed under the name "Holy Terra". It comes standard with 60" premium hardwood handles that are both gorgeous and practical, a completely seamless steel bucket with a powder-coated rustproofing finish, and TWO 15" pneumatic 2-ply tires for the ultimate in wheelbarrow stability and comfort. Yes, she's a lovely thing to behold, but don't let the good looks fool you, the Holy Terra can haul over 122 kg of weight with a capacity rating equivalent to twelve 10kg bags of soil. Put another way, The 2014 HT has got the girth to berth a lot of earth. The Holy Terra also comes with a 4 year repair warranty redeemable at any Canadian Tire store THAT WE'VE TOTALLY VOIDED with smokin' after-market upgrades including; 100 feet of twin 3/8" diameter stainless steel coils for lightning fast beer chilling, a silicone sealed bucket, custom finish, and most importantly- a steel draft tower support structure welded to the bucket. This support turns the already impressive HT into our custom Beerbarrow! Never before has high style been so... down-to-earth.
The draft tower supports welded in place and getting painted
Ready for christening!
Ready to pour! The draft tower is fully functional, with a working glass chiller and drain. A bar on wheels! Just add beer drinkers.
...and beer servers.
Because Beer was also where we got to help announce the results of the Because Beer homebrew competition! This was a very impressive competition with over 300 high-quality entries. Congratulations to all the winners!
And fantastic prizes!
We had the chance to see so many friends, new and old, at this festival. And that's what beer festivals are really all about, eh?
Sonja North & Brandi Lee MacDonald: Super Pals
Photo by Lane Dunlop
This festival was about beer, but it was also about Hamilton. It allowed our friends who came from out of town to see parts of Hamilton that aren't always immediately obvious: Its beauty and its potential.
Sunset at Because Beer
It was such a fantastic experience in such a great location, I think it even made locals see this city of ours with fresh eyes.
OK, maybe beer festivals are really all about beer after all...
Because Beer will always be special to us because this festival was the first time our beer had been poured- ever!
Our first customers ever! A very nervous brewer! A photo by my almost embarrassingly supportive father, Randy North
We were pouring a pilot batch of our flagship brew, Piperales. As is the nature of pilot batches, the beer wasn't 100% where we wanted it to be, and this fact made us very nervous... but not too overwrought to listen to your feedback! And we got a lot of great feedback! Thank you, Hamilton! Overall, the beer was very well-received indeed, and we even sold out a few hours before the end of the festival! We were very heartened to see several people come back again and again, often dragging their reluctant friends along for a taste! We definitely had some converts, still, we learned that some people are great lovers of smoke in their beer while some people simply do not care for it. Like true IPA (Or beer in general, I suppose) smokey beer is something that people seem to either love or hate. (But we really believe that well-made beer of all styles can be an acquired taste! We simply recommend drinking more beer! Be it sour suds, bitter brews, or even... light lagers! Cultivating a taste for new brews can be a deeply enriching experience.) Of course, amongst all the positive comments, there were also many suggestions for improvement, offered from everyone from professional beer critics to professional beer drinkers. We listened to it all, and we're grateful for all of it! We've taken what we learned from our big debut and brought it into our recipe for our first full scale batch, which, I'm thrilled to announce; WE BREWED JUST LAST WEEK!! 4000 frikkin' liters of Piperales are happily bubbling away as we speak! Er... read. And write. As you read and as I write. Assuming you're reading this.... look, you get the idea. Beer!!! We will have beer -real beer- really soon!!!
Oh man, It's going to be so good you guys!!
More on that soon-
Sow long for now, and Thank You!
-The Garden Brewers
This is extremely exciting to us here at Garden Brewers, solely as fans of good beer and of growing the Hamilton beer scene... but it's doubly exciting because we will also debut at Because Beer! We're thrilled to announce that our Piperales will premiere at the inaugural year of Because Beer!!! Good things are growing! This is a very happy time to be a Hamiltonian beer enthusiast.
We are not yet slotted in to our brewery's production schedule for full-scale brewing, so our brewer went to Black Oak on a weekend to brew a pilot batch of Piperales using their pilot system, parts of his own homebrewing system, and a fermentation tank on loan from the HOZERs. Here are some photos from the brewing process:
The Mash, 1 of 2!
The runnings, Mmmmmmmm. Future beer....
The Brewer, all smiles on the brewday
The fermentation tank, full of wort.
The fermentor was very cleverly put on a half-skid, which made it mobile and allowed it to be put into the cold room after fermentation was complete for cold crashing. Cleverness courtesy of Ken Woods.
The cleverness doesn't stop there! The fermentor was raised to kegging height using the brewerys forklift!
Thanks to Black Oak for hosting us! And to the HOZERs for use of the club tank.
We hope you can join us at the festival! Consider this our formal invitation to you. Please come try our beer and let us know what you think of our first test batch! If you are a homebrewer, you should also look into the festivals homebrew competition! You could win some great Garden Gear!
and hey, speaking of cool prizes- look what's on tap: one free ticket to Because Beer!
On the other side of the table: Brad Clifford & Victor North judging beer at the 2013 OBAs. Photo By Enrique Barrios
Hamilton is very important to us here at Garden Brewers. And so is Homebrewing.
Homebrewing is how our brewer, Victor North, got his start. Homebrewing is how our flagship beer, Piperales, was developed. And homebrew competitions were the arena that tested our brewers recipes, techniques, and approach to beer. Homebrew competitions helped refine our style, test our skill, and teach us when we were on to something- as well as caution us when we were going astray.
That is why, along with Jason Stranak (co-founder of HOZER) and Brandi Lee MacDonald (co-founder of Because Beer) our brewer is co-founding Hamiltons first full-scale homebrew competition! The Because Beer Homebrew Competition! It's going to be great!
The BBHC is sanctioned by the BJCP, and is a qualifying competition for Canadian Brewer of the Year. We are extremely proud to be involved in this competition! So, of course, we are also sponsoring it: the homebrewer who takes first place in category 21A- Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer- will be taking home a Garden Growler along with their gold medal! And the homebrewer who takes silver will be getting a Tall Poppy tap handle for their home kegerator!
We decided to sponsor the SHV category because we have such a soft spot for it. We love those spice, herb and veggie brews!! It's where a lot of our favorite beers would be categorized under the BJCP system, where many of our past homebrewing medals were won, and where our Garden Brewers beers would be entered today. In fact, The Ships Rations won a silver medal for Veggie Brews in the 2014 Ontario Brewing Awards just a few months ago! This beer was crafted by our brewer at The Ship, Hamiltons famous craft beer bar, and while it will no longer be brewed at The Ship as The Ship's Rations, it will soon be reborn as Garden Brewers Green-Thumb IPA!
We encourage you to enter the BBHC- in any category. No matter your confidence or skill level. Homebrewing is not just a great hobby- it's a great culture- and homebrew competitions are a marvelous way to get out of the basement and actually meet some other brewers. And if you're really serious about beer, homebrew competitions can be a wonderful way to get your boots wet. Take a look at the results from the 2011 CABA All About Ales homebrew competition. If you are reading this (which I'm pretty sure you are) then you may just be an Ontarian beer nerd (no offense!) which means you may just recognize many of the names on that results list.
The incredibly skilled Brad Clifford has gone on to co-found Get Well and The Ontario Beer Company. Hirsch Goodman & Kevin Snow have developed and grown their uniquely delicious gluten-free beer into Snowman Brewing. Mike Bray has co-founded 5 Paddles with 4 other like-minded and talented homebrewers. Zack Weinburg has opened Toronto Brewing, finally filling a long standing need for a quality homebrew supply shop in Toronto, and of course, Victor North is our very own brewer. Some other frequent Ontario homebrew competition entrants and winners of that era not represented in that particular competition include Jeremy Coghill, who is currently opening the Lansdowne Brewery and Jeff Manol, who is currently opening The Muddy York Brewing Company. What an incredible group! And that's not everyone! We are thrilled to be counted amoungst this outstanding Ontario homebrew alumni, and to also count many of them as friends. All of which was made possible... by entering homebrew competitions.
If you brew beer at home, you should enter The Because Beer Homebrew Competition.
We'll see you at the awards ceremony!
-The Garden Brewers]]>
Without beer labels, shiny printed cans, or nice big graphics on beer cases to describe and draw attention to our brews, we knew that we would need a great tap handle! We were going to have to rely on just a little length of ceramic, metal, or wood to make our whole introduction, to make that so-stressed-about, all-important, one-chance-only-no-take-backsies first impression. We knew that we needed a tap handle that would boldly proclaim the existence of both Garden Brewers and the beer itself, stand out amoungst all the other tap handles beside it, and give some idea as to what the beer is actually like. A tall order for a short stick!
We began brainstorming, and came up with a few ideas that we thought were pretty good, but we decided to run these ideas past beer drinkers, bar owners, and bartenders before we committed to them. We asked them all about what they liked, and what they didn't like in a tap handle. It turned out that our original idea to use a gardening tool as a tap handle (such as a small spade) was not a popular one.
As a brewery, this idea had a lot of appeal to us. We get 2 out of 3; a tap handle that is instantly recognizable and loudly stands out- if sadly silent on what the beer actually is. But the downside of this approach was also its big bonus: a tap handle lacking any specific information about the beer being poured can be used for any brew by that brewery. Tap handles are expensive, provided for free, and are frequently lost, stolen, or misplaced. So having only one generic tap handle holds a lot of appeal to breweries. Having only one generic tap handle that is easily, quickly, and cheaply built out of a common object like a spade is even more appealing to small start-up brewers like ourselves! But it is not so appealing to bars, neither is it to their customers. The problem with these unbranded objects is that bartenders/barpatrons are constantly having to ask/answer the questions “Who's that brewery? The one with the thing as a tap?” and then immediately after that is resolved “OK- which beer of theirs is on tap now?" and then finally "OK- What is that beer like?”
Clearly, this information (the "3B's"; brewer, brand, and beer tasting notes) ought to be as front and center on the tap handle as possible. But the current climate of constantly rotating brew styles, seasonal brews, special one-offs, and collaboration brews makes it harder than ever for brewers to keep up with the demand for new tap handles. The high cost and long turnaround time associated with producing custom tap handles is driving more brewers towards stocking and providing a generic handle only. This solution works best for brewers, but often fails their fans.
To solve these problems, we turned once again towards the world of gardening for inspiration. And we found our solution!
Gardeners had already solved the problem of clearly marking many different varieties that rotate and change with the seasons: seed packet holders! Genius! A standard holder that can be used again and again- and which takes packaging waste and gives it a second life as perfectly appropriate signage! We thought that we could adapt this idea for brewing, and that it would be a much better solution than the expensive (and wasteful!) practice of producing a custom handle for every different brew.
Thus, we decided to commission a "seed packet holder" style tap handle, custom fabricated to meet our needs. We went right to the source; a manufacturer of garden seed packet holders! They were a little surprised to hear from us- they had never been asked to produce a beer tap handle before- but they loved challenges... and beer!
And boy, did they come through!
Our tap handles are sure to stick out from the crowd thanks to the ingenuity and skill of our supplier! The handles are aluminium, with the threaded portion custom fabricated on a lathe in order to make a tight connection. Because it is aluminum, it will not corrode over time. The seed packet holders themselves are made from galvanized steel, just the same as they are in the standard models, but our tap handles have two holders, back-to-back. This way, we can print "Seed Packet" style labels for display on the front...
...AND we can also print tasting and style information about the brew for display on the reverse side, for the bartenders use!
This is a great way to communicate about our beers- right at the point of sale! Bartenders nowadays usually have to contend with both more beer tap lines and a never-ending parade of constantly changing beers. That's alot of different beers to be knowledgeable about! The best bartenders do a great job at staying on top of this, earning the trust and respect of their regulars- you may even know one by name! And several training and certification programs have been developed to help ensure that beer service just continues to get better and better. But there are many gaps, and communication about new beers from brewer-to-bartender remains spotty. Information about a new beer is often in short supply, and what is available has been passed along to the bartender though a telephone game.
Bartenders want good information at their fingertips, but we found that very few bars keep- or even read- the “sell sheets” which are provided along with beer by breweries. These sell sheets contain all that precious information, often direct from the brewers brain, and they go, more often than not, straight into the recycling bin. Yet all bars, bartenders, beer drinkers, and brewers want quality and comprehensive communication about the beer to be readily available! We think we've solved that problem for our brews.
In this tap handle, we have a generic handle for all our brews, we can print "seed packet" labels to customize for each style (with minimal cost, turnaround, and waste) and we have created an interesting and (If we can say so ourselves) super-neato tap handle that works to meet the needs of everyone better; the brewer, the bar, the bartender, and, perhaps most importantly, the beer drinker!
Cheers to that!
We have two models, our standard "Tall Poppy" which is 12" tall, and our "Short Sprout" which is 8"tall.
These tap handles are also ideal for homebrewers- as homebrewers typically have continuously changing beer styles on tap! If you'd like a Garden Brewers Tap Handle for home, they are availible in our webstore.]]>
Photo by Crystal Luxmore
It is, unfortunately, all too easy to find people whose lives have been impacted by cancer. It seems we all have been affected by this disease, whether through someone we know, someone we love, through personal diagnosis, or sadly, perhaps through a combination of all of the above. Here at Garden Brewers we are no exception.
Having lost someone very dear to us to breast cancer, Beer 4 Boobs, which raises money to donate to Breast Cancer support services, is an important event for us.
Sonja, who is a co-organizer of the Beer 4 Boobs events, is pictured above carrying our son Davis while Erin Broadfoot mills grain in the foreground. The photo was taken by Crystal Luxmore at Black Oak, where the beer was brewed. These three women, all mothers, collaborated on "You Little Devil!" a Belgian Golden ale made with an entire box of a Lucky Charms! The cereal went into the mash and the marshmallows went into the boil. It seems appropriate that you can try this very special "mama's brew" this coming Mothers Day, right here in Hamilton!
This year the Hamilton Beer 4 Boobs event will be held at The Ship (Address: 23 Augusta St, Hamilton, ON, L8N 1P2 Phone:905-526-0792) from 1pm – 6pm on Sunday May 11, 2014. All proceeds from this events ticket, raffle and beer sales will go to Breast Cancer Support Services, an organization that provides comfort and support to women and families living with breast cancer in the Hamilton and Halton regions.
Come on down to support a great cause, and while you're there be sure to also try "In the Rhubarb"; an All-Brett beer infused with Rhubarb. It's a collaborative effort between Our Brewer, The Ship, and Amsterdam's Iain McOustra.
Tate Graham of The Ship and Victor North of Garden Brewers, enjoying the hospitality of Amsterdam Brewery. Photo by Iain McOustra.
The Pilot System at Amsterdam Brewery, where "In The Rhubarb" was brewed.
Also pouring- "You Dunkel'd My Battleship!" a Hamilton-exclusive Dunkelweiss, hop-bursted with glacier. This beer was collaboratively brewed by The 3 Brewer's Ross Lyle and our brewer on site at The Ship on their nano brewing system!
Brewing “You Dunkel’d My Battleship!” and LARPing with Ross Lyle of The 3 Brewers on the nano system at The Ship. Photo by Tate Graham.
The theme of this years event is "Yeast-Forward Beers". Here is the yeast we selected to ferment our Dunkelweizen!"
Tickets will be will be sold at the door. They are $25.00 each and will include 1 sample beer ticket, and a commemorative sampling glass. This event is 19+ and CASH ONLY. (ATM available)
Additional beer tickets can be purchased at the event.
We hope to see you there,
-The Garden Brewers
A growler is a glass or ceramic jug used to transport draft beer in Australia, the United States and Canada. They are commonly sold at breweries and brewpubs as a means to sell take-out craft beer. The exploding growth of craft breweries and the growing popularity of home brewing has also led to an emerging market for the sale of collectible growlers.
Growlers are generally made of glass and have either a screw-on cap or a hinged porcelain gasket cap, which can provide freshness for a week or more. A properly sealed growler will hold carbonation indefinitely and will store beer like any other sanitized bottle. Some growler caps are equipped with valves to allow replacement of CO2 lost while racking. The modern glass growler was first introduced by Charlie and Ernie Otto of Otto Brother's Brewing Company in 1989.
The term likely dates back to the late 19th century when fresh beer was carried from the local pub to one's home by means of a small galvanized pail. It is claimed the sound that the CO2 made when it escaped from the lid as the beer sloshed around sounded like a growl.
That all sounds about right! Not entirely convinced about the "hold carbonation indefinitely" line, and the story about how Growlers got their name is likely apocryphal, but the gist is there: a growler is a reuseable container with a colourful name intended for the transport of beer from pubs (or breweries) to the home, for home consumption.
We like Growlers.
In fact, we love them. Let me explain why:
Like the humans that make it, beer is mostly water. So water can have a huge impact on how beer tastes! Without getting too far into the subject; before humans were able to understand the chemical profile of their local water (and then change it) they were obligated to brew beers that worked well with whatever water they were blessed with. This was a long-term process of trial and error that gave rise to the many amazing and classic forms of the barley beverage we know and love today.
The quintessential example is Pilsner, from the Bohemian city Plzeň, or Pilsen. That cities water was remarkably soft and delicate, and incredibly well suited to the creation of a beer that has become arguably the worlds favorite style! Pilsners can be beguiling, seductive, deceptively simple, and remarkably hard to make. A great Pilsner is like a great piece of Calligraphy- it looks easy on the surface- but everything has to be just so for it to work. EVERYTHING. They quickly become cluttered and busy. They are bold, but with subtlety and grace. And when they are off- even by a smidgen- you just know it right away. You feel it.
Hidai Nankoku The Taste Of Pilsner (probably?!)
Brewers surrounding the area of Plzeň (and eventually the world) drove themselves nuts trying to duplicate the simple beauty of the Pilsner beer, but without the right water they were doomed to fail from the start. Again, everything has to be just so. Still, just like artists who have made some amazing artworks in their "failed" attempts to duplicate a beloved style, these brewers created alot of great beers in their attempts to recreate the Pilsner.
This is all to say that water is very important. Water gives us great Stouts in Dublin, Great IPAs in Burton-on-Trent, and now-a-days, great beer everywhere it's made; where water is considered.
Black Oak (our contract brewer) for example, uses reverse osmosis water. This gives them a blank slate upon which to build whatever water profile they want. Black Oak can brew with Dublin water, Burton-on-Trent water, and yes, even Plzeň water. They have the ability to make any style they want, and make it damn well. Put simply, we no longer have to brew in Plzeň to make a good Pilsner.
So it makes, in our estimation, absolutely ZERO sense to consume petroleum products which have been dug up and processed at a great cost, in order to ship beer -a product that is mostly water- across vast amounts of water. Beer is a wonderfully renewable product. Petroleum is not. We now have the technology to make beer taste however we want, wherever it's brewed. Romance and marketing keep imported beer alive, but it is our opinion that drinking imported beer is... a bad idea. To put it mildly! (And that's without considering the plain fact that beer is best fresh!)
Locally made beer is a great option for many reasons but that is another one for you!
Still, there is "The Last Mile" to consider, even with locally made beer. There is a some debate over which is more sustainable; returnable or one-way glass; but both have nothing on the Growler. Using your local as a beer distributer makes alot of sense. Your local likely gets beer in stainless steel kegs, a beer vessel that is durable, reused many, many, many times before being repaired or recycled, and is an excellent and proven technology for transporting beer in its freshest condition and sealed away from light or air- both enemies of beer. Bottles let both in slowly. (Brown Bottles with pry-off caps are best, but kegs are still superior.) Getting beer from your local is not only convenient, it's also likely to give you an incredibly fresh product in top condition (assuming your local shares our passion for clean tap lines) all in a very sustainable way. Firm numbers are hard to come by, but Growlers are estimated to have diverted many tons of waste from landfills... in the United States.
Sadly, in Ontario, our laws reduce the mighty growler to an awkward and largely impractical large-format bottle. We are simply not allowed to buy our beer in a pub, and then take it home to drink it.
The Ontario government has, since the end of prohibition, been making our liquor laws less draconian in drips and drabs, but the winds of change are blowing a bit stronger these days... We think growlers are an old idea whose time has come once again, and we will champion the idea until growler culture is allowed to flourish in Ontario.
In the meantime, we are providing you with THE BEST GROWLER.
THIS IS THE BEST GROWLER
Growlers may be an old idea whose time has once again come, but we can sure do a hell of a lot better than a 'friggin bucket. And a big bottle isn't much better. Bottles are glass. Glass lets in light. Glass breaks. Sometimes glass breaks when it's carrying beer to a party. This loss of good beer is tragic and preventable. Sometimes people show up to a party with cut hands and no beer after picking up shards of glass from a bikelane after falling off of a longboard. Hypothetically speaking of course.
All those things we just said about kegs being awesome? We mean it. So our growler is a 'friggin mini-keg. Forged from the most stainless of steel, and etched with the most awesome of lasers, our growlers are a triumph of form and function.
They keep your beer sealed, fresh, and away from light. AND THEY HOLD PRESSURE. If you homebrew, you can use these to force-carbonate your brite beer. Our growlers come with a standard screw-on cap, but the manufacturer has carbonation caps for sale- and they tell us they are working on a dispensing cap (which would make these growlers function like true lil' kegs!) so that is entirely awesome.
Once the shipment is in, we will have these for sale at events and in our webstore (Sadly- only available empty- see draconian liquor laws, above) along with other Garden Brewers merchandise.
-The Garden Brewers
Hi Green Thumbs!
Today we came up a little bit earlier than expected, but spring has finally sprung and we're ready to grow- bring on the summer! April Showers will bring Beer Growlers!
Last night at the Ontario Brewing Awards The Ships Rations took home a Silver medal in Veggie Brews for The Ship! This was very exciting for us, as this beer was created by our brewer, and as near as we can reckon, this award is the FIRST TIME EVER a beer made in Hamilton has taken home a medal from the Ontario Brewing Awards.
Our Brewer Accepting the Award On Behalf Of The Ship- Photo By Ken Woods
The awards began in 2006 and Labbat closed down the old Peller brewery in 2010... brands produced at those facilties during that time included Amstel, Steeler, Laker, Hamilton Mountain, Grizzly, and of course, Lakeport. We drank more than our fair share of Lakeport Honey Lager during the Buck-a-Beer days, and can personally vouch for its excellent price, but sadly it doesn't seem to have ever been recognized by the Ontario Brewing Awards. There hasn't been any commercial beer produced in Hamilton since then- until The Ship began brewing with the help of our brewer; who developed a recipe, a painting, and a name- The Ships Rations! A very tasty IPA brewed with a generous amount of Ginger! This beer will evolve into Green-Thumb IPA for Garden Brewers, so for it to take a silver medal made us very excited!
We tweeted. We couldn't resist. Garden Brewers was still somewhat of a secret so we were careful not to tag anyone or hashtag anything. We hadn't followed anyone and nobody was following us. We were whispering a secret into a hole in the ground, because the secret was too big to keep inside! But we should've known that never works.
Canadian Beer News found the tweet! Probably by searching for the phrase "Ontario Brewing Awards". Impressive! Who says beer journalism is dead? This morning we awoke to find all the beans spilled and all the cats wandering free of their bags. This is fine! we just haven't got everything quite tickety-boo yet. Like this website! it still needs alot of work.... Hold on...
There! That should do it.
We're excited to be uncovered and in the light! Please bear with us through these growing pains. We'll work hard in the coming months to get everything into the state we would have liked to have had it for you when we launched! And we'll get a beer into your hand just as soon as possible, we promise.
-The Garden Brewers