In less than two weeks we will be canning our first beers (for real). We can barely wait (see what we just did there). We have been counting down our last bottling runs, with only three to go. Then we can say 'sayonara' to our HDP bottling machine.
We’ve had a canning machine on our wishlist for years, but it has eluded us time and time again. We made baby steps towards canning with the purchase of our Oktober seamer for 1L Crowler fills last year, but that was only a stop-gap measure. We knew we would not be fully satisfied until we had a canning machine, just like that spoiled child at the toy store.
The canning machine itself arrived in July, and since then various other pieces of equipment have been arriving weekly (a new compressor, shaker table, labelling machine, oxygen meter, powered stacker, etc). The cans themselves and the labels come next, then we are ready to roll after a few days of training. There’s going to be something so satisfying about cracking that first can open.
Cans will open a whole new world for all of us by being more portable, while also increasing beer storage quality. Cans will open new markets that bombers could never take us. Sports fields? Music Festivals? Airplanes? No longer will it feel so committing to have to drink a bomber to yourself (well, for some of us).
Over the past few years, we have increasingly found ourselves reaching for cans at craft beer shops on our own travels. They fit in the suitcases so much easier while keeping the luggage weight down (no more excess baggage charges). They are also so much more convenient for bringing on adventures.
While bombers were the more popular craft beer packaging option when we first opened 4 years ago, cans have since taken the craft beer industry by storm. Beer Canada, the beer Industry trade association, reported that cans accounted for 62% of national beer sales in 2018. Beer sold in bottles dropped from 40% in 2013 to 28% of sales in 2018. According to the same study, 70% of sales in the Yukon are in cans.
Get your 1L Crowler fills while you can.
Our designer Mary did an awesome job of distilling our brand personality and passion for the Yukon wilderness into some great new label designs. They are fun, colourful, welcoming, and pay homage to where we live. While different from our bottle labels, we’ve carried over the colours from each different brand, where possible. You’ll easily be able to recognize Winterlong and your favourite beers, along with local landmarks and snippets of Yukon life.
Check out the sneak peak below.
In order of appearance:
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, there’s plenty more to come. We hope you'll embrace this new change with us.
June and July have come and gone, and our tap list has been hit hard (thanks to you). But never fear, August is full of new and special releases.
RAINBOW BRITE 2 – (Today) Aug 5
After attempting our first fruited beer earlier this year, we all enjoyed it so much we decided to give it another go. This time, we doubled up in a 14 bbl batch and loaded this version with pineapple and pink guava puree as well as some pink Himalayan salt and Utah mineral salt for some added mouthfeel and depth. At 4% ABV this kettle sour is the perfect thirst-quenching finish to summer.
TRUCKSTOP POETRY – Aug 9
After a successful debut earlier this summer, Truckstop Poetry New England IPA (6.7%) will be returning. Close to the original recipe, this version was dry-hopped with Galaxy and Cashmere hops, for a deliciously juicy, tropical hop burst.
HEADSPACE – Aug 16
This beer was another one-off hit we had earlier this year and we've been dying to bring it back. It's not our typical New England IPA, as it was fermented with Norwegian Kveik yeast to elevate the juiciness factor and complement the exotic, tropcal flavoured Cashmere hops.
SPRUCE TIP – late-August Release Date TBD
Our last batch of spruce tip pale ale will be hitting the taps and our bottle fridge soon enough. Stay tuned for details.
DIVINE INTERVENTION – late-August Release Date TBD
This big, barrel-aged beer comes out only once a year. It's a strong golden-hued Belgian-style Tripel that has been aging in bourbon whiskey barrels for about 8 months. It's incredibly smooth as per usual. Look for it in bottles later this month.
JAGGED LITTLE PILS – Aug 28th
Our favourite (and only) lager, JAGGED LITTLE PILS (German Pilsner) will be back end of August – in bottles and on draught. Always so sad when this refreshing brew runs out, as it’s a great beer to round out the selection.
That's right, 'tis the season for Spruce Tip beer! Our first batch of Spruce Tip Seasonal Pale Ale (5 %) will be released this Saturday, June 8th starting at noon.
As usual, it will be available in 650 mL bombers and on draught. Heads up our Crowler machine is down currently, so plan on bringing your own growlers for draught fills to-go. Also this year we are doing double batches so that each batch doesn't sell out so fast. No need to panic if you can't get here on the release date, though bottles tend to sell out the fastest.
It takes a community to pick spruce tips.
For this beer we harvest spruce tips each spring, enough for several batches to last us through the summer months. It's a fun foraging activity we look forward to every year and requires expert timing and many hours of battling prickly spruce boughs. This year thankfully we had many little helping hands! With our recipe and brewing process we get a slight candy-like, citrusy sweetness and unique raspberry flavour out of the spruce tips, so it's not overwhelmingly piney or sappy. We hope you enjoy this years brews.
In celebration of our 4th Anniversary we are releasing two brand new beers! Yes you have to wait to try them at our birthday party on June 1st , unless of course you have tickets to the Haines Beer Festival this weekend, where we will be previewing them there.
This year we have attempted our first fruited beer. Introducing, Rainbow Brite Strawberry Rhubarb Kettle Sour (4%). There was definitely a learning curve for us to brew this beer. Just figuring out how to add the 168 lbs of both strawberry and rhubarb puree into the 7 barrel fermenter was a fun challenge. We ended up transferring the beer from one fermenter after primary fermentation was done, into another fermenter to get the beer on the fruit.
We didn't want to let any of that delicious fruit go to waste.
The recipe was based off the Berliner Weisse style using pilsner and wheat malt. The wort was then soured in the kettle with a Lactobacillus strain to achieve a nice, crisp sourness. The strawberry and rhubarb are in perfect balance with no over-the-top sweetness or tartness. You can see from the before and after photos that the fruit also lends a beautiful light pink hue.
The 'Before' and 'After'.
Next up we have a brand new Double New England IPA – Velvet Thunder (8%), hopped to high heavens with Citra and Simcoe hops. It has been a while since we released a hazy IPA of this magnitude. You may remember fondly our Cult of Rye Double NEIPA with rye malt, which we wanted to call ‘never again’ just because of the shear cost of the ingredients and a very long brew day. We may be suckers for punishment for doing something along the same lines again, but hey it’s our birthday! Velvet Thunder is juicy and smooth with huge tropical, citrus and stone fruit hop aroma and flavours.
Get the first taste of these brews at Haines Beer Fest or hang tight until our 4th Anniversary Party next weekend.
Velvet Thunder transfer.
Some details on the party to wet your appetite for next weekend…
Stay tuned to our event page (link above) for updates! We are looking forward to celebrating with all of you. Cheers to 4 years of doing what we love!
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).