Our First Cask Festival

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.

cask fest 09

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.

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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!cask fest 35

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!

  
Cheers

SVB

 

 

So….this is kinda weird

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.

Camra Screen Shot 1

Did you see it? If not take another look. It’s okay I’ll wait………………………………………………… Still don’t see it? Sighhhhhh…fine!

Camra Screen Shot 2.jpg

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!

Cheers

SVB

Happy 2016!

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!

Cheers!

SVB

Choosing the starting line up

Just like many home brewers, we have aspirations to one day turn our much loved hobby into a viable business. To work towards that we gave ourselves some milestone goals. The first was solidifying at least two solid recipes that can be offered year round. The second was reading some key books and doing research on the topic of starting a brewery. The third was build a business plan. Fourth? Finding money.

Last night we met up for a couple of pints and dinner at our favorite local watering hole the Billy Miner Pub (try their pizza and thank us later) to discuss where we were at and what the next steps were. It turns out we’re a bit a head of schedule in some areas. Namely our selection of market ready (or nearly ready) recipes. Narrowing down which ones to select for our year round offering was quite the lengthy and in depth conversation. To be honest there were no right or wrong answers when it came to the styles, but finding the perfect balance or variety and accessibility can be tough.

Carboys

Ideally we would want to launch with three beers that are offered year round. The first would be a more accessible beer for the uninitiated. The second would be something a bit hoppier and complex for the beer connoisseurs. Finally, the third would be a darker Stout or Porter for those who enjoy “the black stuff”.  We won’t bore you with all the back and forth discussions we had, but ultimately it was the ingredients that finally determined our starting line up. It was our first real “business decision” that we’ve made that actually effects our products and it was an important moment since it’s an approach that will serve us well down the road.

Choosing beers that shared many of the same ingredients would allow us to purchase them in larger quantities, lowering costs and increasing profits. This is particularly important with yeast since it’s far and away the most costly ingredients in your beer. Not the ideal way to decide on beers, but this isn’t home brewing anymore where an extra $10 is okay. It’s pretty much all about finding ways to cut costs from here on in.

Californication Common Ale
Californication Common Ale

So what’s the starting line up? It looks like the Common, and Porter are going to make it into the mix for sure, but we’re still experimenting on the hoppy beer. Perhaps a west coast style ESB? We’ll keep you posted, but there’s a good chance that the next hoppy beer you see from us that’s around 5-6% alcohol is most likely going to fill that gap in our line up. Stay tuned!

 

Experimentation and why we brew what we brew.

Test Batch

If you’ve ever looked through our brewing history, or kept track of our Facebook page, then you’ve probably discovered our love for English style beers. It’s fair to say that our enthusiasm for a West Coast style IPA is a bit of an anomaly when looking at our catalog. The other thing you’ve probably discovered is that we like to put our own spin on the traditional. Some of these are relatively common tweaks using common brewing ingredients (Rye-Porter) and others are more wild and experimental (Pumpkin Spice Latte anybody?). That being said we try not to stray too far from what makes those styles great in the first place. This is by no means a template or how you should build your own recipes (we still have A LOT to learn). It’s just some insight into how we work.

Our Mocha Stout is a good example of how we like to construct one of our recipes. Naturally we’ll start by deciding what style we want to brew, but it’s not long until we’re racking our brains for a way to throw the drinker a curve ball. Something that makes them say “You put what in your beer? Does that even work?”. We won’t necessarily throw some random object into our for the sake of making it different. What we’re trying to find is something that will complement the style. For the Mocha Stout we had already seen Chocolate Stouts and Porters, as well as Coffee Stouts and Porters, but never a combination of the two using actual coffee and cocoa nibs. It was a suggestion that Dennis came up with after Jesse and I had been going back and forth about whether to go with coffee or chocolate. It was a solid suggestion and one that seemed to be a natural fit for the style.

Barista Mocha Stout
Barista Mocha Stout

Once we figure out what to shoot for we’ll usually start with a standard recipe for the style and make adjustments to help showcase our “wacky” ingredients. For the Mocha we really wanted it to complement the coffee flavor so we upped the Roasted Barley a little, while giving the Chocolate malt a little more love. We also wanted the rich and creamy characteristic you’d get with a real Mocha Latte, so we used Flaked Oats rather then Flaked Barley. All of these small tweaks can drastically change the impact of these new ingredients and how they work together to make a great beer.

By now it’s pretty easy to see how we approach each beer and it’s ingredients. We may have a solid recipe we use for a starting point, but that’s all it really is. Sure we could just take our Porter Recipe and throw cocoa nibs in it, but that’s exactly what it would taste like. Where’s the fun in that? Why not have a beer that stands on it’s own rather then on the shoulders of others?

Stay tuned for our next post!

The Challenge

Milliona Days IPA, Rye-nosaur Porter, and Willie's Scottish Ale
Milliona Days IPA, Rye-nosaur Porter, and Willie’s Scottish Ale

Humbled by our very first all-grain experience we took a few weeks off to recover and brewed a quick partial mash to help rebuild our confidence. During that time we were invited by a friend to join a small local brew club to share, learn, and just “nerd out” about all things related to beer and homebrewing. It was a fun and educational experience. If you’ve never been to one we’d highly recommend it. It was during this meeting that we were introduced to one of the best parts of a homebrew club; the brewing competition.

One thing to keep in mind about Jesse, Dennis, and myself is that we can get pretty darn competitive. Maybe not “trash the board when losing a game of Monopoly” competitive. However, you’d be surprised how intense things get when we’re betting $1 per hole on a par three golf course. It’s not about the prize, it’s about the pride that comes with the victory. So if there was ever a way for us to elevate our brewing prowess, putting a challenge in front of us was definitely the way to do it.

The rules were pretty straight forward; brew any kind of style you want, but it must include at least 5% rye malt. Living on the west coast we figured there were going to be a ton of Pale Ales and IPA’s entered (we were right by the way) so we wanted to try something a little different. During our research we came across a recipe for a Rye Porter which peaked our interest. The three of us love darker English style beers so we developed our recipe and began prepping for brew day.

With the highly coveted prize of bragging rights on the line we were able to shake off our first all-grain experience and approached this brew with laser precision. You can call it skill if you want, but we’re convinced that something else wan, beer, s going on that night because weird things were happening. PH reading? Perfect! Pre-boil Gravity? Perfect! Original gravity after boil? Nailed it! Even our final gravity before bottling was dead on. Everything, literally everything, was bang on. It was an exciting, but weird experience. So far this was the best brew day we’d ever had and, after the first tastes, it turns out it was the best beer we’d ever made. Things were looking good for our first contest submission.

If you’re not familiar with how most beer competitions are scored, feel free to visit the BJCP’s (Beer Judge Certification Program) website. It’s based on a set of guidelines for each beer style describing what the beer should and should not be. In the end your beer is given a score between 1 and 50. Usually a score between 30-40 is considered very good. Anything over 40 is regarded as a world class example of that style. We were all nervous leading up to competition night and, unfortunately for me, I was unable to attend the event (stupid family vacation!). After a few days of vacation, and a great dinner, Brandi and I were winding down for the night when I received a text from Jesse “Awesome event. Porter went over very well. Didn’t win, but it scored a 34!”. This was followed by a few explicits, fist pumps, and big smiles. Not too shabby for our second all-grain ever.

After such a glowing review and constructive feedback, we’ve since tweaked our recipe and it is now quickly becoming our “signature beer”. It also pushed us into asking our selves a question. If we could develop 1 or 2 more exceptional beers, could we make this a business? If so, what would those other beers be?

Stay tuned for those answers and more in our next post!

In The Beginning…………..

It seems like ages ago when Dennis, Jesse, and myself finally stopped procrastinating and began brewing our first beers. In fact it wasn’t even a year ago. Jesse and myself were already big time beer nerds and had talked about biting the bullet on a starter kit numerous times. It wasn’t until Dennis had his first sip of Old Yale Brewing’s “Sasquatch Stout” (not a bad choice for your first craft beer) that the question was finally asked “so…is there a reason we’re not making this?”. That was a damn good question Dennis. This was the final push we needed to make us drive down to Dan’s Homebrewing Supplies and gear up to brew our first batch. It was an exciting time!

Dennis' first taste of craft beer.....and it was awesome!
Dennis’ first taste of craft beer…..and it was awesome!

We tried making things easier on ourselves for that first brew by starting with a partial mash recipe (whatever that meant). However, we had big stars in our eyes and went straight for our favorite style at the time. Scotch Ale here we come! We had our gear, ingredients, and some great beers ready to enjoy back at Jesse’s while we brewed. Everything was set and it was gonna be awesome.

Minus 9 and Broken Label bubbling away!
Minus 9 and Broken Label bubbling away!

Was it ACTUALLY awesome though? Yes and no. A more appropriate word to describe it would be “CHAOS”. Up until that point we had done little to no reading on what we were supposed to do and were relying HEAVILY on the instructions that came with the recipe, which seemed to assume that the reader had brewed before. Our measurements were right’ish, temperatures were taken with a meat thermometer and our times were…eh…close enough. Our original gravity reading was…oh…is that what that floaty thingy was for? We even dropped a label from one of the extract buckets in the boil for good measure, which inspired its name “Broken Label Scotch Ale” (Don’t worry we fished it out). It was one hell of a learning experience that’s for sure and we learned a lot. On top of that we were hooked.

The very first bottle we ever capped!
The very first bottle we ever capped!

It wasn’t long until we picked up more ingredients, borrowed some better gear (THANKS JACK!!), and began brewing our second batch, all the while dreaming out loud about what this could be leading to. “If we actually get good at this, could we turn it into a business?”. That question was running over and over in our heads, as I’m sure it has for many ambitious first time home brewers. Our first two batches tasted ok. Definitely drinkable, but the highest compliments we’d received were “not bad” and the occasional “good”. Are you kidding me? “Not bad”?! “Good”?! We were after words like “fantastic”, “amazing” or something similar with a well placed explicit. These “good” descriptions just wouldn’t do. After only two brews we were done messing around with extracts. Things were about to get serious.

Minus 9 Cream Ale and Broken Label Scotch Ale.
Minus 9 Cream Ale and Broken Label Scotch Ale.

Check back soon for our next post “Adventures In All-Grain”!

-Kevin