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Brassneck Preview

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As I did previously with 33 Acres, I’m running a dual preview of Brassneck Brewing. Over on Scout (link) there’s a short summary and an awesome picture gallery, while below is Nigel’s unabridged response to my standard list o’ New Brewery Questions. That I have a need for a standard list o’ New Brewery Questions itself makes me giddy with glee. Yes, like a schoolgirl. Deal with that image.


Likely the last view many of us will have of daylight

Questions

1. Why did you decide to start a brewery?
Seems like so long ago now, we’ve almost forgotten why. Certainly in the past few months, through all the heartache and the escalating price tag, we’ve been asking ourselves this question, except with a couple of choice expletives thrown into the sentence with some emphasis on certain words: “Why the fuck DID we decide to start a fuckin’ brewery???”

However, as construction draws to a close we are reminded of the reasons we started down the path in the first place. For Conrad, after 17 years with the same brew pub, he decided he was ready to go it alone and turn the page on a new chapter in his brewing career. Brassneck represents a chance to combine his tried and true brewing skills with some pent up brewing angst and a healthy desire to try out some really interesting new styles.

For myself (Nigel), it’s kind of a similar story. I’ve been involved with the Alibi in one capacity or another for many years now (and still will be once Brassneck opens!). A small brewery is the next evolutionary step for the existing business that I and my family have been building for the past seven years.

Both of us are thoroughly immersed in the BC brewing scene. It has become a huge part of our lives, not just professionally, but socially too. Owning a brewery (once its open for Christ’s sake!!) is the realization of a dream for both of us.

2. How big is your brewkit?
You may want to re-phrase that question to “Just how small is your brew kit”? We have a two tiered system:

A true nano system with:

  • 4 x 350 litre conical fermenters
  • 2 x 350 litre specially designed open fermenters
  • 8 x Stackable 350 litre conditioning tanks

Then our “big” system:

  • 1 x 20 hec fermenter
  • 2 x 10 hec fermenter (conical)
  • 1 x 10 hec specially designed open fermenter
  • 13 x 10 hec cellar tanks

Chuck: It’s also shiny. So… very… shiny… must… drink… Brassneck beer…

3. How many/what types of beers will you launch with?
While not giving too much away, we are hoping to have at least 6 beers when we open, building to 12+ once things get rolling (barrel programs take a while, certain beers take lots of ageing/conditioning). It’s going to be tough to have any lager beers when we open just because of the extra time required in the fermenter.

Conrad has been working on some great test batches, but we hope people understand that things will take a while to dial in. It’s a new system for Conrad to work on, so we’ll be chasing our tails just to get the doors open in the beginning. We think the first few beers will be nothing too risky, but they will certainly be without flaws and well thought out.

4. What sets you apart from the flotilla of other breweries opening this year?
Well, I guess you could say experience. As one of Vancouver’s brewing veterans, Conrad has a very strong repertoire of beers under his belt. You could also say we have an understanding of the product and the market on a very intimate level. Although I’m sure we all think we’ve got it all figured out!

We are in the unique position, via the Alibi Room, of having a very close relationship with the constantly evolving and complicated beer drinker. As such, we’ve gone for a “brewkit” that allows us product “breadth” rather than “depth”. What do we mean by that? Well, most breweries brew a few products in relatively large batches. This allows them to put out 2-3, maybe 4, beers and have a good supply of these products.

At Brassneck we’re looking forward to doing things the hard way, by trying to brew lots of different beers in very small batches. This, in theory, will keep our line up constantly rotating. This may be as simple as brewing a base beer, splitting it in two, and changing the dry hopping, to more complex ways of keeping things interesting.

We are right on Main Street, a highly visible artery into the city. We’ve put a great deal of thought into the physical layout of the brewery and how it relates to the public areas such as our retail store and tasting room. In the beginning, we will be focused entirely on our 3 different sizes of growlers. This will be our only packaged product.

This is an experiment! We understand it may not work out. It is, after all, asking a great deal of people but we love the idea of creating some culture around the beer. Asking people to slow down a little, take some time for themselves, have some tasters, relax. Then get some beer to go!

We’ll be one of the first breweries to open with a functioning “brewery lounge”. A huge part of our plan was to have visiting customers feel like they are part of the whole process. To have customers feel as though they are deep within the heart of our brewery when they are sitting enjoying some tasters was very important to us.

5. Where do you foresee yourself taking the brewery once you’re established? eg: barrel-ageing, sours, or just sticking to table beers, or flowing with the current?
We may end up doing some bottling, especially for beers we see as seriously benefiting from being bottle conditioned, of which there are many! A barrel program is an absolute must for us.

As far as flowing with the current, I think we’ll mostly be brewing beers we see a need for and not worrying too much about what anybody else is doing.

6. When can we expect to see your beers in public?
We would like to have a few draft accounts, but at this stage we are just not sure of our production capabilities vs. onsite demand, so we are not entirely sure how that side of things will go.

When the beer will be available is still a moving target, but we anticipate being READY to brew in the next three-four weeks (early to mid July). Whether or not a whole parade of form filler-outer-ers think we are ready is a whole other story.

7. What BC brewery do you admire the most, and why?
This is hard. We can’t name just one. We respect all of our peers for different reasons. To be honest, we are just going to be absolutely overjoyed to finally be part of a local scene FULL of excellent breweries.

We cant wait to get those doors open.


Seeing as how these awesome growlers are still empty, neither can I.

Written by chuck

June 12th, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Breweries

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Introducing the Beerdies

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It’s the first day of the New Year: a time for reflection on days gone past, pontification on days yet to come, and perhaps most importantly, a time for reading whatever random crap you can find on the Internet with the hopes of dulling even just a little of the pain inside your head. Seriously, what the fuck did you drink last night? Last thing you remember was opening that bottle of Old Barrel Dweller and grabbing a straw… did… did you make out with your cousin? No not that cousin, the ugly one, cuz ew.

So let’s take our minds off the myriad horrors of braces for a second and talk about 2012 and all the great awesomeness that we saw. In order to frame this discussion, I will now introduce the “Annual Barley Mowat Excellence in Beer Awards”, aka The Beerdies. Other, better blogs and organizations have end-of-year awards focusing on actual merit (eg Best Beer or Best Brewery), so I’ll take up the slack and focus on the state of BC Beerdom from the point of view of the bearded beer geek (aka me).


I haven’t built a trophy yet, but I figure this plus a can of gold spray paint and we should be good.

To avoid repetition, I didn’t actually insert “According to Chuck” at the end of these category titles–just read it in there as you go. Or “In bed”–either works equally well.

Best New Brewery: Parallel 49 (brewmaster Graham With)

I was initially somewhat wary of P49’s potential. After all, here was a brewery focusing on session ales, of all things, and with a near-rookie brewmaster. Didn’t they know that Barley Wines and Imperial Stouts are where it’s at? Well, shows what I know. All their beers are great, and the special release program is bringing interesting and unique brews to the masses. Well played guys (and yes, an Impy Stout is on the way, just to cover all the bases).

Brewery What Took Most Of My Money: Driftwood (brewmaster Jason Meyer)

For the third year in a row, Driftwood woed me with both giant cellarable releases (Singularity, Old Cellar Dweller, Old Barrel Dweller, Mad Bruin) and an excellent on-tap and table beer line-up (Fat Tug in particular). However, the times, they are a-changing. It wasn’t just Driftwood taking up new slots in my cellar this year, Central City, Howe Sound and Granville Island all earned shelf space, and that list is set to grow with Parallel 49’s RIS about to come out.

Hottest Brewery Accessory: Barrels

Driftwood and Central City have been playing around with barrel ageing for a while, but in 2012 this niche concept went mainstream. How mainstream? Here’s the list of breweries that now have barrel programs: Phillips, Driftwood, Russell, Central City, Parallel 49, Granville Island (Taphouse), and more are added every day. P49 is building a dedicated barrel house, they like it so much. While we don’t quite have a Cascade Brewing Barrel House up here just yet, we’re on our way.

Best Seasonal Lineup: Lighthouse “Small Brewery, Big Flavour” (brewmaster Dean McLeod)

Let me list some beers: Belgian Black, Belgian White, Overboard, Siren, Uncharted. All those came from one brewery: Lighthouse. Sure, the small release program from Lighthouse didn’t always hit them out of the park (Choco Porter, sorry Dean), but by and large these weren’t just great beers, they were excellent beers.

Best New Trend: Growlers (in Vancouver)
Honourable Mention: Names Not The Owner/Location (eg: Brassneck, Four Winds, Bomber)

Victoria has been blessed with a growler culture for a few years now, making running a brewery without a growler bar an odd proposition. In Vancouver, though, growlers have been limited to brewpubs. Until now, that is. We’re just getting going, but with two new growler-friendly breweries this year and at least three more in the works, things are getting interesting.

Best Nigel Springthorpe: Nigel Springthorpe

No surprises here, right? A Chuck-based award system that didn’t set one aside for the reigning King of BC Beer wouldn’t make sense. Sure, it’s not fair to all the non-Nigels out there, but this isn’t about fair. It’s about good beer, and so is Nigel.

Most Improved Brewery: Dead Frog (brewmasters Tony Dewald & Tim Brown)

There are so very many things wrong with Dead Frog Brewing that Love Good Beer dedicated an entire post to it, and this is AFTER they released Fearless IPA. I agree; they’re not out of the deep end yet, but Fearless is a step in the right direction. There’s a lot more to running a successful brewery than making good beer, but it definitely helps. Keep up the good work, Dead Frog, and I look forward to what you make next.

And now, the grand prize of the 2012 Beerdies (aka the Golden Beerdie):

Best Beard in BC Beer: Conrad Gmoser

Look at it… it’s just so… glorious. Don’t you just want to touch it? To stroke it? To have it?

I might as well have named this trophy The Conrad, but unlike The Nigel above, this will be available to anyone with follicles, brewing instinct, lots of time and the kind of job that involves both obsessing over a complex process and little to no outside contact. Yup, a brewing hermit is basically a shoe-in.

And that’s all for now! Back to bed.

UPDATE: @GingerLiz corrects me on the mint content of Deans choco porter. Turns out I get confused by leafs on packaging easily.

Written by chuck

January 1st, 2013 at 11:53 am