Surrounded by 368 sq miles of national park and tucked behind The Prince of Wale pub Dartmoor brewing came to life. In 1994 they started out as a micro brewery and then moved to there new purpose built brewery on station road, Princetown. Since opening their doors they have been steadily growing towards their goal of becoming a national 'local hero' brewery. Richard Smith from the brewery takes us around and chats about they are and where they are heading with it.
Richard is no stranger to the brewing industry. Having spent 25 years in the corporate brewing world he decided to make a change looking for an up a coming independent brewery to join. He is joined by their new head brewer Ian Cobham (previously a somn) who is bring some new clarity to their current range of beer and is working on so great new ones to help grow Dartmoor brewery on the national scene. Smith says he thinks that Dartmoor brewery is a brewery that can go far a wide and once people have tried what they are offer he is expecting to go from strength to strength. 'The hardest thing is getting out into the market with so many breweries popping up' he explains, but even with the competition Richard seems to hold an unwavering vision of Dartmoor brewery sitting in more peoples hands in more places every year.
'We make great beer, It's not rocket science'
It's no secret that Dartmoor brewery is proud of where it comes from. They employee local people and buy local products. You can see from the names of their beers like Jail Ale and Dartmoor IPA that being located in such an interesting place as Dartmoor is definitely part of their DNA. Smith says that putting something back into the community is important to everyone at the brewery and that the local passion and pride helps drive them to be inspired to make great beers. Walking in the brewery you can feel the sweat and effort that goes into making the brewery run, they are expanding but there are a lot of parts that still involve quite some manual labor and this extra effort they give is where the extra passion gets put into the beer .
Usually at this point I start to tell you about the beer a brewery puts up but sitting here with a pint of Jail ale (which is actually going down a treat) describing the beer seems not enough. I mean the their beer is great I wouldn't be drinking it or writing about the brewery if I didn't think so. However every time I take a sip and I taste the maltiness I think of Tim Cox the local farm and his home grown barley , I enjoy the balance of with the hops I think of Ian and his young and up and coming brewer team pouring over their brew sheets and refining their recipes. I taken in the full mouth flavor and think of rugged and beautiful moorland that the brewery gets it's water from. The beer here if so much more than just a pint, even they say that that their beer is made from 6 ingredients, barley, water, hops, yeast, location and people. If you ask me that makes the beers they put out something special
Time to discover Dartmoor
So what coming up next for Dartmoor Brewery. Well, if you are looking for some excitement in your beer life they and starting up a 'Dartmoor Discovery Range' this February. Every 8 weeks they will be brewing a small batch of newly developed beer courtesy of head brewer Ian Cobham and his team. Ian is experimenting on the micro brew kit and they are finding new brews to bring to their existing customer and also to people who may not have tried them before. Their first out the gate will be launched in time for the Six Nations and call "Try One", followed by and red rye ale and a wheat beer. The rest of their line up will be announced during the year so follow them on Instagram and Facebook if you don't want to miss out.
A big thanks to Richard and Dartmoor brewing for showing me around. Having grown up in Devon, Dartmoor is a place I have spent lots of time and is pretty close to my heart. For me these guys are staying true to the area and would definitely describe them as local hero's with beer that can stand up on any national stage. Keep it up guys I'm a customer for life.
So you want so open a family business. How about a brewery! Well in 2016 after a few years of planning that's what Chris Heier did and Half Hitch Brewing Company became a reality. Now as brewery operations manager he is doing a bit of everything around the brewery and finding time to show us around too.
The Business of brewing
We caught Chris in the middle of his hop additions when we got to Half Hitch. Which shows he is for sure a hands on guy ' the business, admin, sale, marketing that's the hardest part' he explains about running a brewery. I love the brewing part after you understand the process its actually fairly relaxing. They most rewarding thing for Heier is being able to share his craft beer passion with the local community by taking part in local events and meeting people who come to eat and drink at the brewery.
All In Brewing
Looking around the brewery there is something missing, so I ask ' where is your pilot system?'. 'We don't have one, go big or go home' Chris says as he switches valves and turns handle to send the wort into the fermenters. Now, I know with the advent of beer software you can be pretty close to the beer you want to make first time but still this seems a pretty ballsy way to make beer, and I kind of like it, that all in brewing attitude.
To the beers, as usual I went for a flight and here's what I came up with.
Pony Up Session Ale: Great session beer, light, crisp with medium citrusy flavor and hoppiness. Good lingering balance of citrus and hops.
Mama's Apple Pie: Does exactly what is say on the label, malty green apples, light cinnamon almost like a sour cider. Very Interesting.
Fire and Fury Red Ale: A medium caramel flavor beer with a fruity malty smell and a sweet crisp finish .
Shotgun Wedding: Smells like coffee and tastes like chocolate with a full mouth nutty flavor and a slight linger of hops.
Trying New Things
Now with the release of their Outlaw Cascadian Dark Ale as their first hop oil infused beer, Half Hitch is making the transition to using hop oil in their beer to replace dry hopping. Chris says they are always on the look out for new things to make their beer more interesting and inspire them to develop new products. They are already talking about adding another brewing facility and additional restaurant location plus Chris has hinted at his dream to open a Half Hitch Brew pub in Japan. Whatever is next for Half Hitch it seems like they are heading in the right direction with good beer and great food. Their first year is looking like a success and they are on track for many more.
In 2010 the door to Banff Avenue Brewing Company swung open. Now 7 years later, pulling up a chair with space cowboy playing in the background the relaxed mountain town vibe is definitely part of this brewpubs DNA.
Brewing Like A Chess Game
You may think that having a craft brewery in the heart of a town like Banff would make it easy to keep on top of the beer curve but Head brewer Miranda Batterink says its the hardest thing about managing the Banff Ave'sbrewery. Having such a fluctuation of people with different season. Trying to anticipate what is going to be needed three or four weeks down stream and brewing accordingly. However at the same time this turnover brings a little down time to be able to come up with new and interesting recipes and put them into practice which Batterink says is on of the more exciting things around the brew house.
Tuns Out, Guns Out
Stepping into the brewery you could be mistaken in thinking that with the amount of beer and choice Banff Ave Brewing offer they must have an off site facility for extra volume. This couldn't be further from the truth. A Malting room built in a corridor, tightly squeezed tanks and a Manual 2 at a time bottler this is a compact brewery. Also looking into the mash tun I realize there's no stirring mechanism, at which point Miranda pumps up her guns and shows me the canoe paddle she uses to stir her mash on their three brew days a week. When I say lots of time, love and sweat goes into making the beer here it's no joke.
Now to the beer, my six taster flight includes Banff Ave Blonde Ale, Lower Bankhead Black Pilsner, Head Samashed IPA, Pond Hockey Pale Ale, Plaid Goat Red Ale and Brewers Oar ESB. My top four in no particular order came out like this:
Lower Bankhead Black Pilsner - Malty sweet smell, easy drinking full mouth flavor of light caramel and malt.
Head Smashed IPA - Crisp with a balance of citrus and bitterness. Great flavor with lingering hoppy goodness
Plaid Goat Red Ale - Nice balance of sweetness and hoppy bitterness with some good maltness thrown in for good measure
Brewers Oar ESB - Cream and lightly malty this is a perfect bridge between light summer ales and a winter stout. Definitely pretty much my favorite one so far and a perfect fall beer.
Winter Is Coming
With winter on its way, Banff Ave Brewing are in full gear for their winter selection and even experimenting with a few things yet to come, including a new collaboration with local ski hill Mount Norquay . Miranda says she has her fridge stocked with heavy winter ales from Canmore Brewing, Persephone Brewing and Oast House to get in the winter spirit but I think i'm going to be taking away to Reverand Rundle Stout from right here at Banff Ave to add to my winter warmers. With Smooth and creamy lip licking mouth feels and the hint of smoke combined with coffee and chocolate its going definitely to be a good start to a snowy winter.
In a colorful building in Saskatoon resides Prairie Sun Brewery and with the help of Sam our Bartender and Kelita the bar manager we are going to find out more about this colorful brewery and the great beer it brews.
A love Story in Malt and Hops
Prairie Sun started just over 4 years ago (their 4th year anniversary was at the end of August). The CEO, Heather, and Brew Master, Cameron, started out at Paddock Wood Brewing, at the time, the only brewery in SK. Heather was the front end manager, and Cameron the Brew Master. Heather grew up in Colorado, which we all know has a huge Craft brewing scene. She and Cameron started dating and had a ton of ideas for beers and events, like the upcoming annual Sasktoberfest. They decided to branch off and follow their dreams to create their own brewery. It was a couple years in planning, but in August 2013, Prairie Sun's doors opened.
Hiring Passion and Bringing Inspiration
We asked Kelita the hardest and the best things about her job at Prairie Sun. Surprisingly finding the right staff. She remembers when she first started finding staff that are 'reliable, flexible and passionate about the industry' was hard but now craft beer is getting bigger in Sask they seem to have found staff that are all the above. As for the best part of her job, well it's something I have herd from a lot of brewery people 'seeing people's faces light up when they like a beer more than they expected'. I think this is a great indicator that people truly have a passion for giving craft beer to the world.
Now to the beer, with a good mix of seasonal and house beers to offer, Prairie Sun doesn't disappoint. A flight of each and you get a great idea of what this interesting brewery is all about. On the house side prairie lily, crazy farm, urban wheat and toffee 5. Each one starkly different from the next, my two favorites had to be Crazy farm and toffee 5. Crazy farm is definitely and intriguing beer, it's a combination of subtle citrus and a slightly herb after taste it (probably from the coriander) was hard to get my head around on the first sip. I'm sued to being hit with hops but after the second and third sip the citrus spicy balance made this easy and interesting to finish.
Now being English i'm always a sucker for toffee, so seeing a toffee porter is like being a kids in a candy store. Toffee 5 didn't disappoint, with a good porter flavor of chocolate and a hint a coffee rounded out with a rich smack of toffee to finish. Not to sweet just enough to make you want another.
Moving on to the seasonal's sunset lager, pineapple express, cherry raddler and old style porter. My two picks, pineapple express and old style porter. Pineapple express because every mouth makes me feel like i'm on a Caribbean holiday. A smooth wheat beer with pineapple and for me maybe a hint of banana (maybe that's just me) that I can definitely see going well with kicking back on the patio on a summer day.
Old style porter is like a wolf dressed in sheep's clothing. It looks like a porter and even smells pretty much like a porter but then you drink it and it lips smacking gum tingling sourness socks you right in the mouth. The roasty taste of a normal porter seems mellow with the sherbet sour added in but I seems to work. Definitely on to try.
So What's Next
Well from the looks of the packed taproom and in the words of their bar manager 'Prairie Sun will continue to get bigger, experiment with even more beer, and continue to support growth in our industry and supporting our fellow craft beer community'. There is also good chance they may even need to move locations to accommodate their growing fan base! Because if they keep making knockouts like Moose Tracks Hazelnut Espresso Stout (which they had to brew three 1000L batches of to keep up with demand) their following is only going to grow. But don't worry if you cant make it to Prairie Sun. They are planning on starting to can their beer. So keep an eye out for them in a store near you, I know I will be.
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In the corner of an old livery on the edge of the exchange district in Winnipeg there is a taproom. It's the taproom and brewery of Little Brown Jug Brewing and their beer 1919. They opened their doors in December 2016 with a single offering. It's not the safe and simple american ale that so many breweries fall into but a rich light brown Belgian pale ale made in the traditional German kräusening (double fermentation) technique.
Friendly service, great beer and tasty food are some of the things you'll find at this great historic, industrial and hip brewery but more than anything you are guaranteed to find a beer you like. With a huge spread of offerings and new brews emerging every few weeks the Rhombus Guys Brew Co are going full steam ahead into the craft beer scene.
With a happy clink our beer flights are placed down in front of us. A mixture of deliciously named beers of all kinds picked out by Kevin who's knowledge of the beers he is putting down is only second to the cheerful passion he show as he tells us about what he has chosen and the order best to try them. We are having a snack and tasting at the Fargo Brewing Company and this is a good start.
As the rain drips off my hood I push open the door of the unassuming shop front of Drekker Brewing Company and to my surprise I'm greeted by the wide open space. Tables filled with people enjoying their beers. Some laughing, some eagerly await the live band setting up and others in serious contemplation of a new beer they are trying. I meander up to the bar that wraps around to the brewing floor and stand their mulling over the diverse choice of beer in their line up. People sit, stand and buzz around the bar ordering and asking question then when its my turn the cheerful bartender puts me on track with a delicious sour beer.
When ever I pick up up bottle from flying monkeys brewery with its colorful name and psychedelic label i feel a little warm and fuzzy. When I moved to Canada for the UK, flying monkeys was the first Canadian craft brewery I ever visited. In Barrie, Ontario for work we wandered around and found a fantastic brewery doing insane things tucked into a brick building down the road form the local pub. The staff were more than friendly and could wait to tell us about the beer and the brewing and pretty much anything we asked. We grabbed some hoptical illusion for the road and a flying monkey bottle opener went on our beery way.
To say that local craft beer (formally the honey wagon) has interesting directiona is a fair understatement. Sitting in the the local ostrich burger joint in Tehatchapi, California the server recants the directions to the brewery, "Second left, over the train tracks, first left then go to the end and there is an alley, drive down the alley and park at the 2nd or 3rd warehouse then it's the second door on the left, I think". As she scribbled a map on a napkin it was settled, time to go on an adventure to find the local brewery.