Kevin and Brandi have known each other for over twenty years and in that time, they became best friends and eventually partners in all areas of life. It seemed a natural fit for them to create an extension of themselves that mirrored their approach to life; honesty, compassion, integrity, and commitment.
Kevin found his passion for brewing in an unlikely place…in front of a computer, designing tap handles for the brewing industry. Designing so many cool tap handles and seeing all the different beer styles spurred the move into the craft beer world. His early brew days started in the carport of a friend’s house (Jesse Enders with Dennis Smith) in Silver Valley. Honestly, the best part was being able to hang out and make beer with friends. What literally brings a smile to his face was remembering how they stood around waiting for the kettle to boil and having deep and sometimes heated discussion on what to name the beers. This is perhaps what ignited his excitement in creating a community where it’s really just about having a great beer with good buds.
In all honesty Brandi doesn’t even like beer, but she does love her husband. So, when he sheepishly approached her about opening his own brewery she wanted to foster that childlike excitement into something that was viable. She wanted him to be able to create a world where at the end of the day he came home fulfilled and proud of what he did that day. This seemed like the path to that world. For her, this brewery wasn’t about a love of beer but about the love she had for her best friend and their community.
Growing up in Maple Ridge they wanted to add something meaningful to this community and they felt the drive to showcase all the amazing local businesses, talent, and locally grown goods that it had to offer. Whether through buying local cheese, meats, breads, and spreads for their food selection, bringing in local craft businesses to do arts and crafts night, or their monthly yoga class where partial proceeds go to help local families and charities they are proud to have put down roots. Being that Brandi had a background in social services and working with the more vulnerable people of a community they are excited and honored to be able to contribute to the services, such as those provided by Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows Community Services, that provide the helping hand that the more vulnerable section of our population needs.
They wanted to tailor the style of the beer and brewery to the needs of the community. Instead of the straight industrial design of a lot of Vancouver breweries, there was a softer element added to make it more like a café. A place Kevin and his friends could go and hang out in a laid back and comfortable atmosphere. On the walls hang 90’s band posters, a throwback to the music they liked to listen to when growing up. Kevin has a strong connection to music, playing bass from the age of thirteen. From high school Jazz band to a touring rock band music is part of how he connects with the world.
There are honestly a lot of hard parts the first year of running a brewery. Some days feel like there are only uphill battles and these days end in frustration and tears. But there are also moments of standing alone in the brewery after everyone is gone and going “Holy sh*t, look what we created. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so proud of anything else I’ve done in my life”.
Wow, what a crazy 4 months it has been! These have been some of the most satisfying and exhausting days we have ever experienced. When we became business owners it took over most of our lives. Honestly it’s hard to remember what life was like before we opened the brewery. As I was walking along the dikes of Pitt Lake it struck me that I hadn’t felt that kind of peace and calm in many months. The break gave me some space for perspective and a chance to reflect on what I’ve learned in the last four months.
1. We really didn’t know what we are doing. The learning curve has been steep and while we are getting more of a routine and streamlining some processes, everyday comes with new challenges. I think the most stressful part for me is not knowing what I don’t know. For example, did you know that there is only one bank open on Sunday is Maple Ridge and it isn’t open until 11am? This may not sound like a big deal but when you have run out of twoonies and loonies on Saturday night it’s a bit of a panic to try to scrounge together some change to get you through the first hour of business on Sunday. Luckily we had a change jar at home we could raid
2. I was happily surprised about how popular our events have been. Candle making, our first arts and crafts event, wasn’t even something I planned on doing. I happened to be walking by Kleem Candle Market on my way back from talking to a yoga studio about doing yoga at the brewery and I thought “why not?”. It turned out to be a huge hit. We tend to sell out our events within a couple days which is awesome. I like the idea of having a place for people to hang out and play together.
3. The fastest way to learn something is when you are thrown in the deep end and have to figure out how not to drown. Kevin was always the photographer and much more proficient at social media but when we opened the brewery he was busy brewing the beer and someone had to step in and take over the marketing role. It’s definitely been a learning process for me and there is still tons for me to learn but I’m proud of how far I’ve come in such a short time. My picture taking skills are even improving and I’m even starting to enjoy it.
I’d say one of my strongest attributes for opening this business is that I’m not afraid to try something new. Some ideas are going to fly and some are going to tank…but how else am I going to learn?
It’s been roughly three years since Brandi and I started “seriously” working on the business plan and now we are just over a week away from FINALLY opening…..yeeeeessshhh. What were we thinking?!
If you’ve been following along with us on our journey, or simply asked us in person how things are going, I’m sure you’re aware of some of the issues that arise when you decide to attempt to open a brewery. However, it should be noted that the stories you hear from us have been heavily edited with all the explicits removed to try and keep things in the PG13 category. We like to keep our stories from going into “horror territory”. We find watering things down into a “teen angst/coming of age tale” is definitely more palatable and still offers some degree of optimism for anybody who decides to ask.
That’s not to say it’s been all bad. Just a lot……like…..A LOT. Like, other brewers tell you that “it’s a lot” when you tell them you’re going to start a brewery, but nothing can really prepare you for the real thing. There are so many T’s and I’s to cross and dot that you really do start losing track of them, no matter how organized you are. Same with days of the week. We’ve never relied so heavily on our calendars before. Not just to keep our weeks organized, but just for something to tell us what day it is. So, if you decide to open a brewery be sure to use a calendar. Calendars are good. What else did we learn? Ah yes. Permits!
Nobody likes permits. Permits don’t like permits. Even the people who’s job it is to write and approve permits, don’t like permits because people constantly get mad at them about the permits they just wrote or won’t approve. But, they’re super important if you want to get stuff done. See that photo above this paragraph? That’s all possible due to a demolition permit (yes, you need a permit to break stuff). Brandi, has been so involved in various permits that she’s now been programmed/emotionally scarred to analyze the potential permits needed for various things in everyday life. “Wow cool firework display! I bet that the permits for it sucked though”. So, get to know your permits. Fortunately our contractor took care of most of them, but understanding what’s needed and why is extremely helpful when it comes to trying to open on time.
To avoid too much venting in this post, I should talk about what all of the above has lead to. Having all that in place has made for some great rewards after all. Receiving all of our equipment (and finding out that it all actually fit) was an exhausting, but exciting day. As was getting our liquor manufacturing license, passing all of our inspections, and finally landing our business license. Even pouring beer out of our newly installed draft system brought a huge sigh of relief while also bringing a pretty big smile to our faces. The work to get there was intense and extremely stressful, but after years of work we were finally starting to see it pay off in tangible ways. By far the biggest was finally pressing the button to let everybody know when we were opening.
Finally announcing an opening day was both weird and euphoric. It was scary to press the “post button”, but once we did it was exciting and got a little emotional. We had worked so hard to get to this moment. It was a huge deal and it kind of took us by surprise. We were happy. Then the results of the post started coming in. Now we’re not in anyway “leaders in social media marketing”, but we like to think have made a little bit of an effort considering we haven’t even opened yet. Still, holy crap! Compared to what we had experienced before on social media, our accounts had just exploded. People were liking, sharing, tagging their friends, and those friends were even sharing. Things went nuts…..then the fear started to sink in. We are going to open. Whether we want to or not, it’s happening. And how’s our to-do list doing? Still pretty freaking long! It’s only one million things left compared to ten million things. That’s progress though right? Right?!!
Still, we’re almost there. On September 23rd, 2017 Silver Valley Brewing will open its doors for all to (hopefully) enjoy. It’s been an extremely long and stressful road, but the end is almost here. Soon we’ll begin down a whole new road. It’ll also be full of mistakes and have its own set of highs and lows, but we look forward to it. Thank you all for your ongoing interest and support.
It’s that special time of year again! The weather gets frightful and, in return, the beers become quite delightful. Winter Warmers, Barleywines, Russian Imperial Stouts…this is the time of year where you start seeing a lot more wax dipped bottles in the liquor stores. So what’s the deal? What do we recommend? Well first let’s get some business updates out of the way.
Demolition at the brewery has been underway for a few of weeks now. Cool and pretty exciting, but not without its issues. The thing about the building is that it’s been estimated to have been built some time between the 1930’s and 1940’s. Don’t get us wrong, that’s admittedly pretty cool. The downside seems to be that every single tenant since then has built over top of every previous tenants stuff. That part is not so cool. So far we’ve found secret doors, secret windows, and secret walls built on top of secret walls. Just a lot of extra…stuff. No doorways to Narnia yet, but we’ll keep you posted. Our permit applications have been submitted as well. So hopefully those go through and we can actually begin to build something shortly. Our equipment is also on order and being assembled as we write this.
We’d also be amiss for not giving a shout out to everybody who submitted letters of support to the city for our lounge endorsement! They have received your letters, they have our plans, and now we wait. Hopefully we’ll have a decision in the next month or so. Big thank you again to all those who submitted. The support is fantastic and much appreciated!
We’re very lucky to have a great deal of support for the brewing community as well! Not only have fellow brewers been super helpful with information on starting a brewery, but they continue to support us in helping promote our product. Maple Meadows, Foamers’ Folly, and Moody Ales continue to allow us to brew under their licenses to make sure we can legally participate in as many local cask festivals as possible. We just recently submitted for the Fall Tri-Cities Cask Festival with the help of Moody Ales, and will also be at the upcoming Winter Pro-Am (so get ur tickets!). Lots of fun and great feedback. We are HUGE fans of these events.
If you’ve been monitoring our social media feeds and it wasn’t already 110% clear, we now have one of our beers on tap at Maple Meadows Brewing. This one is our Dark Necessities Mocha Stout which Carlo was kind enough to help bring into reality using his brew house. It’s comprised of equal parts, American Stout, Coffee, Cocoa Nibs, and Awesome. It turned out fantastic and we couldn’t be happier! So feel free to stop by Maple Meadows for a growler fill and be sure to try plenty of their beers while you’re at it. They make some great beers that you should definitely try.
Cool beans!…..Soooooo winter beers?
Oh yeah! Winter beers. You should definitely drink those! I dunno…if it’s over 8%, and has a waxed top you should probably give it a try.
Soooooooooooo………….it’s been a while, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a ton of things happening. There’s plenty to unpack here so lets jump right to it shall we?
Update 1: Festivals, Festivals, Festivals!
Over the past few months we’ve had no property, no license, very little merchandise, armed only with our home brewing equipment and our wits. Yet, somehow we’ve been invited to attend festival, after festival through little to no effort on our part. It’s been a ton of fun and has provided us with many warm and fuzzy feelings. So far we’ve attended the Tri-cities Cask Festival, The Meadow Ridge Rotary Club Wine and Beer Festival, and The Golden Ears Cheesecrafters Festival. We were even offered to attend this years BC Beer Awards, but will need to wait until next year when our beer is commercially available. All really cool things though, and it should be noted that since we’re not yet licensed, none of that would have been possible without the help from our friends at Moody Ales, Foamers’ Folly, and Maple Meadows Brewing. They were kind enough to let us brew under their licenses so we could legally serve our beer at these events. Plus, they all make damn good beer, so if you haven’t stopped by their tasting rooms yet then be sure to get out there and fill a few growlers.
Update 2: Text Amendments, Text Amendments, Text Amendments!
Well, there’s only been one actually, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t super important. We did post this on our Facebook Page, but for those that don’t follow us (shame on you!) the text amendment that would allow us to manufacture in our building we planned on leasing was approved.Cool right? Just like the festivals we attended there’s plenty of people that we need to thank. Namely CAMRA BC and Karl Lundgren for offering some very kind words of support, and all the crazy peoples who showed up to the city council meetings sporting their SVB T-Shirts. It couldn’t have happened without you guys. Thank you so much for your support!
Update 3: Leases, Leases, Leases!
After the text amendment went through we could finally get the lease agreement signed and in the books. Just a heads up that, due to the legal implications of a lease agreement, this can take a little longer then you’d initially think. But, now we have it! We have the building! So….yeah. I think that’s it for this part of the post.
Update 4: Licenses, Licenses, Licenses!
Before you can open a brewery you need three things. First you need a property to manufacture. Second, you need brewing equipment. Third, you need a license. This one takes a while to get completely, but so far we’ve made it past the first step! Which, in this case, is a license in principle! This means that the Liquor Control Branch has reviewed our application and plans, and has given us the go-ahead to begin renovations, construction, order equipment, or any other process to get us closer to manufacture beer. However, before we get a final approval to begin manufacturing we’ll need to allow them to inspect the premises after all the renovations and equipment is in place. That’s a ways away, but at least we’ve got the first big step taken care of!
Update 5: Tired, Tired, Tired!
Full disclosure, there’s not much else to add to this posting, but we just wanted to make sure you knew how we’re holding up. For the most part we’re doing pretty good. Lots of forward motion lately, but there are definitely long droughts of waiting and planning for more waiting, followed by crazy panic, which is then followed up by (you guessed it!) more waiting. It’s amazing how tiring waiting can be….ssiiiiggghhhh….
So that’s it for now! Thanks again for reading and to everybody who’s helped and supported us along the way. We’d also like to give a special shout out to Aaron from Strange Fellows! He’s written one heck of a detailed blog that chronicled the opening of their brewery. Thanks again dude! Very much appreciated! We promise there will be plenty more updates in the coming months so watch out for more posts or head over to our Facebook page to stay in the loop.
All kidding aside, if you really want to drink like a full blooded Irishman or woman, then there’s really only a few choices available to you. And, since picking a beer on St. Patrick’s Day is serious business, lets not mess around with any clever jokes or anecdotes and get straight to the goods!
The Irish Stout (aka Dry Irish Stout)
Any red blooded (or black blooded if they drink enough of it) Irishman/woman will tell you that there’s only one style of beer to drink on this special day and that’s a fresh pint of “the black stuff”. Don’t let the colour fool you though; this is not a heavy style. Weighing in between 4-4.5%, this is a sessionable stout that will let you knock a couple back without knocking you off your seat. The go to for an Irish Stout is usually a Guinness (especially when they’re on special) or Murphy’s also makes a good one. However, there are some amazing local examples from Persephone, Strange Fellows and plenty more that you should definitely check out. This style pairs nicely with fish and chips, pork, or chocolate deserts.
Irish Extra Stout
The bigger brother of the Irish Stout; this version simply has more of everything. More alcohol, more flavour, more hops. There’s really not much more to it then that. Food pairings would be similar, but since this is a more robust version of the Irish Stout, you may want food with more robust flavours. BBQ pork or Beef would work well, as do rich chocolaty deserts. Dark chocolate would also be quite complimentary.
If stouts are not your thing, then the next runner up would be a good ol’ Irish Red Ale. Similar to an American Amber, but with a heavier malt character and less hop presence. A traditional Irish Red will usually have a similar amount of alcohol to a Irish Stout (4-4.5%), making it another sessionable beer. The problem with finding one in the Lower Mainland though, is actually FINDING a traditional version of it brewed locally. While there are some great Red Ales out there, most of the local ones you’ll find have a strong West Coast influence….meaning more hops. This makes them more of a Red IPA then an Irish Red. So, if you don’t mind breaking with tradition then check out offerings from Red Racer, Off The Rail Brewing, and Black Kettle. Roxy, from Moody Ales, also makes a great Honey Red Ale that’s offered in small batches on occasion. Otherwise Smithwicks, Kilkeny, or Murphy’s Red will offer the most traditional Irish Red experience. Roasted meats pair very well indeed.
So you don’t like Stouts and you just can’t get on board with Irish Red’s, but desperately want to stick with the Irish theme? Well you can always go with an Irish Lager.What sets an Irish Lager apparent from a regular North American Lager? Honestly, we couldn’t really tell you and there’s only one we can really name that uses that style identity and that’s Harp’s Irish Lager. It’s only a little different then North American Lagers so if that’s your comfort zone then this should suit you just fine. Harp is a little tough to find on tap in these parts, but specialty liquor stores usually have it available. Mild foods like fish, chicken, or salads pair well with Lagers.
So that’s it peoples! Have yourselves a fun and safe St. Patrick’s day and, no matter what beer your drinking, try and support your local brewer whenever you can.
So yeah, that just happened. After picking up the guys, grabbing a couple of coffees for the road, and getting to the venue early to tap our cask, what proceed could best be described as a car crash. A very cool and fun car crash, but a car crash nonetheless because by the time 5pm rolled around, there was no way we were able to sum up all the things that happened within the past 5 hours. Even after taking the day to recover, my head is still swimming a bit, but I’ll do my best to describe what I can remember.
First off I got to tap a cask for the first time. Much easier and uneventful then I was lead to believe with all the photos I’ve seen of volunteers getting drenched in beer. Special thanks to our friends over at Moody Ales for letting us partner under their license as well as lending us a cask for the festival! If you’re not sure what makes a cask different from a keg, it’s pretty straight forward. A keg uses CO2 to carbonate and push the beer through the draft lines, while a cask is naturally carbonated and is typically served through a picnic cooler style tap. Just like how bottle conditioned beers have a slightly different taste and mouth feel compared to kegged beers, so do cask conditioned beers. For our beer-which was our Rye-nosaur Porter by the way-things tasted a little creamier and fluffier then what we’re used to. Overall, the beer turned out pretty good. So, far things were off to a good start! Then “SVB shirts” invaded.
If you’ve been following our Facebook page, then you’ll know that we started selling T-shirts to help to help kickstart our marketing, as well as ordering some for door prizes at the Cask Festival. We ended up selling way more then we expected and, as it turns out, pretty much everybody we sold a shirt to showed up to show their support and every single one of them were sporting their black SVB shirts. It was pretty overwhelming and felt pretty darn cool. It also added to the mystery surrounding our brewery and where we’ll be opening.
Here’s a little marketing tip from your pals over at SVB. If you’re participating in your first cask festival, keeping your potential location a secret really gets peoples attention. Once you get identified as one of the owners, you’ll be asked all kinds of “who are you and where do you come from” type questions. It may even prompt a documentarian to approach you, asking for an interview (yes that actually happened). I can’t precisely remember what was said, but it was held early on in the event so I’m thinking things were kept relatively coherent. From a exposure level, things were really kicking into a completely different gear from what we were used to. The crazy part is that we’re still feeling-and probably will for a while-the full affects of our new found level of exposure. Even today, after a Facebook follower suggested we add our brewery to it, we received our very first reviews on Untappd. Yes, people have already reviewed our beer on a beer drinking social network, and we haven’t even applied for our license yet. Cool!
So, even though there were a ton more things that happened, those are pretty much all the highlights. Overall not too shabby peoples! We had a great event with a beer that everybody seemed to enjoy. We’d like to take the time to thank the Tri-Cities Cask Festival for inviting us to attend and running an amazing event, all the volunteers, Moody Ales for partnering and lending us a cask, Nick Nicholson for taking all the awesome photos you see here, and all those crazy SVB t-shirt wearing peoples that came out to show their love and support. We love making beer, but it’s the beer drinking and brewing community that really makes this whole venture worth while. Thank you all so much for inspiring us and helping us inch closer to finally opening. Hope to see you all at the next event!
If you’ve been following our latest Facebook posts then you’ll know that we’ve been invited to attend our very first cask festival (tickets available here!). This means we’ll get to serve our beer from a cask to the public for the very first time! As you can imagine there are a bunch of feeling running through our entire body.
One is the flattery of being invited in the first place. Especially since we don’t even have a brewery yet! The second is that “aww shucks” feeling you get when you receive overwhelming support from a community you care so much about. So, once again, a very special thanks to Moody Ales for partnering with us so we can legally serve our beer to the public, and the Tricities Cask Festival Association for putting all the pieces of the logistical puzzle together.
Now on to the third feeling. The weirdness that comes with this is actually happening. After posting the event and details on our Facebook page, and deciding to make a blog entry about it, I logged into our WordPress Blog and noticed our views had gone up. This seemed logical since that kind of news would probably warrant more then normal. Then I looked at where they came from. “CAMRA? Why would we be getting referrals from CAMRA?” I asked myself. After following the link I saw this.
Did you see it? If not take another look. It’s okay I’ll wait………………………………………………… Still don’t see it? Sighhhhhh…fine!
It may not seem like that big of a deal, but it’s really weird to see your name right next to a well respected brewery. It was a surreal moment that established one important fact for me “holy crap this is actually real and happening!”.
This leads us to the final feeling we’re having right now. Being completely and utterly terrified!…With a touch of excitement. Unfortunately not much is going to help that until our cask is finally tapped and the beer tastes like it should. So if you’re not doing anything on March 6th, please grab a ticket and support your local breweries. We’ll be there and are looking forward to meeting you all!
Happy New Year peoples! Sorry again for posts being so few and far between. As mentioned on previous posts, things have gotten a little crazy over the past few months. So what’s going on? Lots! Here’s some updates.
We’ve been doing a fair bit of brewing, but things have been stalled lately since we’ve been working out quite of few kinks with our new brewing system and brewing processes. So, as you can imagine, developing new and perfecting existing recipes has been pretty tough. Unfortunately you probably won’t be seeing any big reveals for new beers until we get that sorted. That’s all part of home brewing though. It’ll get sorted, we just need to be patient.
School! I’ve completed the first course of the Craft Beer and Brewing Essentials program at Simon Fraser University. This course was Introduction to Brewing, which covered everything from the history of beer to modern brewing practices, and even covered some of the biological science that is involved in the brewing process. Overall a very interesting and a worth while program with some fantastic guest lectures from industry heavy weights. That being said, I’d definitely recommend taking a very basic brewing course or do a few home brew batches first as a primer. Some of the science aspects are pretty complex, so if you don’t have a very basic understanding of the brewing process to reference, you may get lost pretty quick. If you live in the Tricities area, there’s a good one at Beyond the Grape in Port Moody. I’ll be starting the next course, Craft Beer Business Fundamentals, next week and will be sure to report back on that one as well.
The brewery! So what the heck is going on with that? Is anything happening? The answer to both of those questions is “something” and “yes, definitely”. Our business plan has been completed, The Silver Valley Brewing Company has been incorporated, and we have funding. Now we’re just trying to find a spot to put it. So far this has been the toughest part of the entire process. Why? Lot’s of reasons. First of all you need to find a building that meets all of your production needs (space, loading bay, floors etc.), then you need to make sure that building is zoned correctly for liquor retail and production. On top of all of that, if you want to upgrade your tasting room to a lounge license, you really need to work closely with the municipality to make sure your in the right spot for it. While a regular tasting room (serves a maximum of 12oz samples per customer) really only needs to meet zoning and municipal bylaws to get approved, lounge license approvals (no maximum sample size) are usually up to the discretion of the local counsel and community. Details like parking, walk-ability, noise, and surrounding businesses are all taken into consideration when applying for a lounge license. So, regardless of how well the space works and is zoned, it’s important to run it past the municipality first to get an idea of whether or not it could get approved for a lounge. There’s still a chance that it may not get approved since there are public hearings involved in the approval process, but it’s always smart to work with the municipality right from the get go to help increase your chances. So far we’ve zeroed in on a basic area. I can’t really share where that is as of yet since there’s still a lot of discussions going on. Even when we have a spot we’ll still have a bunch of subjects to remove before we can announce anything officially. We hope to have something to report in the coming months.
So that’s it for now. Thanks for coming back to visit and sorry again, that it’s been a while. I’ll do my best to post when I can, but just a heads up that, with school starting, it might be a while. Hopefully the next one will be about finally nailing down a location!
The year was 1990. I was a young pup starting the 5th grade playing around on the school yard when I saw something strange. All of the kids were huddled around a lucky boy who looked to be sharing a new treat with the school yard. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but it seemed like everybody was being give one of these flying saucer shaped candies, popping them in their mouths, making a disgusted look, then laughing as they ran away with distinctly blue tongue, showing anybody that would care to look. My curiosity was peaked so I thought I’d give it a go. I popped one in my mouth and immediately produced the exact face that everybody else had made and immediately spat it out. I’m not sure exactly WHY I thought my reaction would be different, but regardless this was my first introduction to sour candies.
Fast forward to 2014 at one of Dennis’ house parties and our introduction to sour beer was very similar. A friend opened a new beer we hadn’t seen or heard of before so we all huddled around with tasters curious to try it. He didn’t know what it was and picked it specifically because it had a cool looking hawk on it (FYI hawks are cool!) and was made by Driftwood. With all tasters poured we all took a sip and, just like the school yard kids years ago, we all had that look of disgust as we attempted to swallow this new “beer” and some even spat it out into the sink. Jesse quickly grabbed the bottle to read the label. “What the f%ck is a Flanders Red? Is it supposed to taste like this?”. The short answer? Yes. However, unlike the sour candies we’d tried in the past (and this being beer), we decided to stick to it and give it another shot. After having a few more sips we began to appreciate the type of flavor that was being produced. This was our first introduction to Sour Beers and was our first step into a much larger and very interesting world.
So far there are six official styles for Sours (according to BCJP), but many brewers are all ready experimenting and creating soured versions of their regular beers. This can make it difficult for the new comer to find a starting point to ease into the Sour styles and fully appreciate the flavors that are being produced and discover what styles they may or may not enjoy. Rather then give a detailed description of all the styles, we’re going to share a few of the basics so that you can get a better idea of what to look for when you decide you want to dip your toe in. Enjoy!
Love me a good Berliner Weisse! It is light in alcohol, effervescent, and refreshing. Making for a great summer seasonal. While the sourness can be quite sharp, it is actually very clean and has characteristics similar to Champagne. In fact, Napoleon’s troops referred to the style as “The Champagne of the North” all the way back in 1809 (before sour candies). If somebody was to ask me “what style of sour should I start with” this would be your safest bet. Some good local commercial examples we’d recommend can be found at Old Abbey Ales in Abbostford and Four Winds Brewing in Delta.
While I’ve grown to love the style, it is not for the uninitiated (see paragraph number two). Think of this as a maltier, higher alcohol, and more complex Berliner Weisse. Which, now that I write that out, suggests that it’s not really anything close to a Berliner Weisse at all. So scratch that last statement. It’s much darker, smoother, and has a more substantial fruity character. Very similar to a fine wine but, you know, sour. Depending on the brewer, the sourness can range from balanced to intense and typically has a much higher alcohol level. If somebody offers you one of these you may want to deeply inhale the aroma first to properly prepare you for what lies ahead. Some tasty local examples can be found at Yellow Dog Brewing in Port Moody and Storm Brewing in Vancouver.
What about Wild Ales?
Sours are really popular right now, but Wild Ales are also all the rage. These are NOT to be confused with Sours, but some may have sour or tart characteristics, these do not necessarily mean they are categorized as “sour beers”. The most common ingredient with these beers is a microbe called “Brett” (short for Brettanomyces) that can create a broad range of different flavors and aromas. This is added during fermentation and typically creates a musky “horse blanket” funk to the aroma, while also introducing tropical fruit and earthy farmhouse characters to the flavor. Sounds weird? Yeah, kinda. However, when you consider that those microbes are typically found in farmhouses and barnyards where farmers used to brew their own beer it all makes perfect sense. Traditionally speaking Brett can be found in Saisons and other Belgian beers, but lately brewers have been experimenting with its use in non-traditional styles. Brett IPA’s, Brett Browns, Brett Blondes…throw out a beer style and there’s a good chance that they’re adding Brett to it (and yes, Sours can be thrown in with those styles). It’s hard to give proper commercial examples, but if you’re about to try a “Wild Ale” from a local brewer, then you may want to inquire on how it came to be. Some may have a mixed fermentation using a combination of Lacto (short for Lactobacillus and is the key to souring beer) and Brett to create something very complex and different from traditional Sours. If those types of questions go over the bartenders head, then fear not! For, if it is sour, there’s a good chance that Lacto is in there somewhere making it some kinda weirdo Sour-ish, Brett, Wild Ale monstrosity. The likes of which mere mortals have never seen!….Or not…Most likely not….okay forget I ever said that. Just drink it, I’m sure it’s tasty. Four Winds are actually become widely renowned for their Wild Ales. Here’s hoping they come up with a few more sour styles in the near future as well!
So that’s it for now. Again, these are just some basics and are generally pretty easy to find locally. Oud Bruins, Lambics, Geuzes, and Fruit Lambics are other traditional styles to keep an eye out for, but may be harder to find since they usually require longer aging, the blending of older batches, or are just a little too sour for most peoples palettes. Keep in mind that Sours are not for everybody. If you try a few and don’t like them then it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it just means that your taste buds may be extra sensitive to sour flavors or you may not have found one that you like. So best not to commit to filling a 64oz growler or a bottle until you’ve figured that out. Sours can also be more costly to produce which means you may be spending more money on something that you may not even like. I’d encourage you to visit the tasting rooms and stick with tasters until you find something that works for you. Enjoy!