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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Palisades, Pies and the best craft beer in Winnipeg. Inside historic Fort Gibraltar, the Winnipeg Beer Festival showcased the finest craft beer from our local brewers. Each one vying for the title of best beer of the festival.
With sold out tickets, Fort Gibraltar on Saturday night was home to the Winnipeg beer festival. Wrapped around the inside of the tall palisades, booths from local Winnipeg breweries, a Manitoba distillery and of course the always great lord of the pies. Inside the main building delicious fresh poutine and snacks were served all night for between our rounds of beer. Tasting tickets in hand we stroll around the booths, each offering two or three of their top beers. Dark, light, gose and even pumpkin, with all the great beer to try the 4 hours of the festival suddenly doesn't seem long enough.
First stop, One Great Brewing Company for a taste of with their Falcon blonde and, the beer that makes me want to check these guys out again the easy drinking Belgian Esprit. Next to Brazen Hall for their smooth caramel Amber Ale and Biere De Garde. Third stop Half pints for for a rich, smooth, dark and fruit explosion that is Black Galaxy.
Now a few beers in, as always it's time for a snack so inside the main hall for some poutine and veggie snacks. I'm not usually a fan of poutine but whether it was the atmosphere or the the great beer this one went down and treat and so did the next. After our fill up we are back out and onto our next stop the Capital K Distillery's who's espresso vodka although very good on its own, went great with Barn Hammers grandpa's sweater (he says in hopes of a collaboration between the two). Then for the strangest beer of the night for me, Fort Garry Brewing's Smoked Dunkel. Now I say strange but in a good way, a delicious beer with a definite taste of smoked Gouda, yes, smoked Gouda, and I have to say although strange at first I found I wanted to just keep drinking it and ended up quite liking it. What a journey of a beer.
Now to the beers/breweries that took top place of the night. Actually I have to hold on there and give The Lord Of The Pies a mention, who's amazing sweet potato pies kept me going even in the car ride home. A sure thing if you are looking for delicious buttery pastry wrapping warm and tasty fillings. Now, with some great beers Peg Co Brewing, Little Brown Jug and Torque Brewing took first, second and third place. As you know if you've read my last post on little brown jug they are one of my favorite beers of this summer but I have to say I am writing this post with my last glass of Peg Co G&T Gose (who got the large percentage of my voting bottle caps) looks like will need to be giving them another visit to pick up some more.
Most importantly the night seemed to be a great success and with the added extra of some Clou Donc to bolster the festivities, it was fun all round. Thanks to everyone who was a part of the festival and who organized it. I'm looking forward to see what next year has in store.
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.
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.