When we got the call from Gary Lohin, Brewmaster at Central City Brewers & Distillers (aka the folks behind the Red Racer beer brand), we knew this could only mean one thing. He was asking us if Winterlong would like to be a part of their 3rd Annual Across the Nation Collaboration project. This is an annual project, where they do a collaboration brew with a brewery from each province and territory (sans Nunavut, too bad a 13 pack would be so awkward). They then distribute that 12 pack across Canada.
Gary has been a beer idol of ours ever since we got into craft beer back in university in Vancouver. We used to watch interviews with him on YouTube (not creepy at all). He crafted one of the first west coast IPAs out of BC we ever had, Red Racer IPA (yes way before Fat Tug). Gary is a legend, having been a part of the burgeoning BC craft beer scene since it began in the early 90s and he works tirelessly to create top quality brews.
Red Racer IPA is still around today and as good as ever!
It was a no brainer for us to say YES, we just had to figure out the logistics. Since we wanted to bring the whole brewing crew down (Alex & Kevin), it meant the production side of our brewery would be shut down for a few days, which we never do, aside from weekends.
Once down in Vancouver, brew day involved being picked up from our hotel, by Gary and Jeremy from Central City, and driven through the city to Surrey (oh the joys of a good commute). We were also carpooling with Mathieu, a brewer from Brasserie Dunham (another of our favourite Canadian breweries), who was also brewing his beer on the same day. So not only were we all brewing two different beers on the same day, but we soon learned that each beer would be brewed three times to fill the giant fermenters. Our brains nearly exploded at the thought!
Admiring the big fermenters.
The Central City Brewery in Surrey is state of the art. It was huge (65,000 square feet) and purpose built, with gorgeous tile floors in the brewhouse, huge windows to let in loads of natural light, rows and rows of gleaming stainless fermenters, a huge canning line, a massive cold storage room (with another separate building under construction), and a separate sour beer room at cellar temperature. They had luxuries like rakes in the mash tun and tanks that clean themselves! Everything was controlled and monitored on computers. Thankfully you still get to manually add your hops, kettle chemical additions, and oats (in our case).
Adding the oats to the mash tun (photo credit: Jeremy Nemanishen/Central City Brewers & Distillers).
Everything was so efficient and automated. Just as soon as our beer was leaving the mash tun for the lauter tun, the grain for Dunham’s beer was being ground in and augered into the mash tun. Meanwhile, an earlier batch of Dunham’s beer was in the boil kettle and an earlier batch of our beer was already cooled and waiting in the fermenter! It left a mark in our minds. Everyone was so open to sharing and letting us taste as much beer as we wanted, like a fresh can of IPA off the canning line, a sample from two oak foudres, and vintage bottles of Pia Cassis Sour and Framboise. Not only that but they make whisky and other spirits, so of course we got a sample of the four variants of Lohin & McKinnon whisky they had in stock.
Sampling some fruited sours from the Foudres in the 'Sour Room'.
After a big day brewing they take everyone back downtown out for dinner at their brewpub on Beatty Street. To our surprise, it was housed in the old Dix Bar-B-Q and Brewery building, a favourite university day haunt. We used to go to Thursday cask nights there and drink the hoppiest, most bitter, delicious west coast IPAs in the early 2000s, while throwing peanut shells on the bar floor. What a way to come full circle back to our early days in craft beer. Awesome food, awesome beer, awesome comraderies and big thanks to Central City & Gary Lohin for letting us be a part of the fun this year.
A little piece of Vancouver craft beer history, preserved in the Red Racer Taphouse on Beatty Street.
We could have brewed any style under the sun and decided to choose one of our favourites, a New England IPA. They ordered all our requested ingredients to a T. In celebration of this collaboration, we are brewing the exact same recipe today which will be ready for release in a few weeks. So whether you're in Whitehorse or anywhere else across this nation, look out for the Top of the World NEIPA coming to a beer can near you! We look forwad to seeing how the beer turned out.
Brewing is 'very' serious business (photo credit: Jeremy Nemanishen/Central City Brewers & Distillers).
Last week was an exciting one at Winterlong with lots of barrel work. We had as much fun filling and emptying barrels as we did individually naming each one. This marks the return of some beers we release once a year as well as something completely new and exciting. Here’s a recap of what went down.
Alex's barrel transfer plan.
After four months of conditioning in bourbon-soaked barrels (aka Huey, Dewey, and Louie), TERROR Oak-Aged Russian Imperial Stout was moved to the brite tank for carbonation and packaging last Friday. It’s lusciously smooth with notes of dark chocolate, roast, molasses, toffee, vanilla and toasted oak. It’s now available in bottles at our Tasting Room and should be on Liquor Store shelves in a couple weeks.
TERROR’s un-oaked counterpart, EREBUS, named after the Franklin Expeditions other ill-fated shipwreck, will be joining the bottle line up at the end of the month.
Terror now in bottles.
While Terror left its barrel home, another heavy hitter, DIVINE INTERVENTION Belgian Tripel, took residence in freshly emptied Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels (introducing, Alvin, Theodore and Simon). We typically age this beer even longer in barrels, around 8-10 months. We still have a few cases of the 2018 iteration, if you can’t wait to taste this next batch.
If you're interested in seeing what this beer tastes like before it goes into the barrels, we have a couple kegs with just 'simply' DIVINE, on tap while supplies last. At 10.5%, this huge beer boasts classic Belgian-yeast aromas of spice and fruit, with a candy-like sweetness that leads to a dry finish. Sorry no growler fills on this one.
It truly is Divine!
With our simple company philosophy of 'brewing the beer we want to drink', we’ve finally taken the plunge and are putting some ‘funk’ (aka Brettanomyces or Brett) into two new beers.
Brett let me introduce you to Winterlong!
For our first experimentation with this so called ‘wild’ yeast, we’ve brewed two base beers, a double IPA and a saison. After primary fermentation, both beers were transferred to their own respective red wine barrels (enter T-Boz, Left Eye, Chilli + Mike D, Ad-Rock and MCA). We then pitched the same Brett strain into each beer to see how it manifests in these two styles. We’ll be sampling the barrels every few months until the yeast is done its work and we have the desired flavour profile. Then it’ll be dry hopping time and packaging.
Now we wait!
Lastly, we are so grateful that we get to do what we do and wouldn’t be here without all of you and our awesome team! We will continue to improve the beer we know you want to drink and explore the beer styles that excite us. Cheers to another great year at Winterlong.
You haven’t heard from us for a while as we’ve been busy little elves working away at getting beer out the door and ready for the busy December holiday season. Happy to say we have our bottles back on liquor store shelves and you’ll find more Winterlong beer on tap around the city. Check out the latest locations Wayfarer Oyster House, Cruzair, Epic Pizza, Mount Sima and soon Earls!
Elf Central Witbier
Our latest beer release, Elf Central (4.5%), has hit the taps as of yesterday. A portion of the proceeds from growler and crowler fills will be going to the Whitehorse Firefighters Charitable Society’s Share the Spirit Yukon, a campaign that raises funds for families in need this Christmas season. ‘Elf Central’ happens to be the name of their Share the Spirit headquarters. We will be donating $2 from every large growler fill and $1 from small growler/crowler fill. A great reason to come give it a try.
It is a refreshing, lightly spiced, Belgian wheat beer brewed with coriander and cardamom, along with a witbier yeast. Other than at the Tasting Room you will be able to find it soon on tap also at the Wayferer Oyster House and the Dirty Northern.
Moonbase Freedom New England IPA
We were inspired to try out some new recipe ideas after our recent beer pilgrimage to New England this fall. Our latest creation, Moonbase Freedom New England IPA, features a different yeast and malt bill than our normal hazy offerings, with Vermont Ale Yeast and Maris Otter malt. Of course, we also wanted to play around with a new hop variety, so we added Strata to the mix of Mosaic and Galaxy. It is tasting great out of the fermenter and should be ready for the masses by late next week.
Guilt Trip Barleywine
Next week we’ll have our annual release of our Guilt Trip Barleywine. Just like Christmas, this beer comes once a year and is revered by hop heads and malty-beer lovers alike. Enjoyed fresh, this beer features a huge dry hop blast of Galaxy, Simcoe, Amarillo and Columbus. As the beer ages the hoppyness subsides and gives way to malty flavours of toffee, raisin and prune. The bottle release will roll out next week (likely Dec 11) and we may put a keg on when there’s a tap open.
At this year’s Yukon Beer Festival we are looking forward to releasing our first ever collaboration brew.
Collaboration brews seem so commonplace for craft breweries down south, but for us being so far north it’s not as easy to collaborate on beers with other breweries. It’s something we’ve had on our bucket list, as what could be more fun than getting a bunch of brewers together to come up with a recipe and have a fun day of brewing and drinking beer together.
To mark the 5th anniversary of the Yukon Beer Festival the festival organizers encouraged us to work on a special collaboration beer with an outside brewery. We jumped at the chance! Category 12 Brewing from Victoria, BC was a brewery at the top of our list to work with since we had met the founders, Michael and Karen Kuzyk, last year when they served at the Yukon Beer Festival. We also love every Category 12 beer we've ever tried.
Michael agreed to work with us and we discussed over email on potential brews and flew him up last month. With Michael having a doctorate in microbiology and biochemistry he offered up some options for yeasts to use. We decided to go with something new to us, a Kveik yeast. We took inspiration from Kveik’s Norwegian roots and started researching Norwegian farmhouse ales. We found that many recipes incorporate juniper branches in the brew and we just so happen to have an abundance of juniper in our neighborhood and liked the Yukon-foraged twist we could add to the collaboration. We also had several pounds of spruce tips left over that would go nicely with the juniper.
The star of the show, the Kveik yeast brought up in Michael's suitcase.
Harvesting juniper branches from the local Sima neighbourhood.
Prepping the Spruce Tips.
Michael arrived by plane on a Friday night with his suitcase bursting at the seams with containers of yeast and freshly canned Category 12 Juicy Data IPA (thanks Michael)! The next day we awoke bright and early and met Alex and Kevin (our brewers) at the brewery along with our friend Sean (contributing spruce tips and delicious homebrew). We had soaked a few pounds of juniper branches in our brew water over night but found we wanted a bit more juniper influence so added some more to the boil along with the spruce tips. The malt bill was kept simple with 50/50 pilsner to 2-row barley. Hops were added only for bittering during the boil to let the yeast and locally foraged ingredient take center stage.
Coffee quickly turned to beer followed by BBQ burgers and more beer as the afternoon wore on. We finished off the day with a hike up on Mount McIntyre to soak in the fall colours and dinner at Woodcutter's Blanket.
All hands on deck! You can't just stand around and drink beer, all day!
Adding the finishing touch, the yeast.
A cool thing about Kveik yeast is that it can ferment at really high temperatures and be done within a few days. Most of our beers are fermented at 19-21°C but we pitched the yeast around 25°C and were going to let it free rise up to a max of 35°C. In typical Kveik yeast fashion the fermentation took off by the next morning. It was almost too vigorous that a lot of the yeast might have got pushed up and out of the fermenter! After that it was a sluggish finish to a final gravity we could be content with (not quite as low as we were targeting). Such is life when you are working with a new beast.
Superpowered fermentation leads to a big mess on the brewery floor.
All in all it was a fun brew day all together and the beer turned out great and unlike anything we have made before. The Kveik shines in the beers aroma and flavour with a light spicyness and juicy orange and apple cider character. The spruce blends nicely with the Kveik yeast flavours, while the juniper shows up as an herbal dryness towards the end of the sip.
Get the first taste of Norse Code Norwegian Farmhouse Ale (7.5%) at the Yukon Beer Festival this Friday and Saturday night. After that it will be available at the brewery on draught.