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.
THE BREW DAY
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).