Archive for June 2015

Back to Victoria: Lighthouse Brewing

June 10, 2015
CANOE IPA

CANOE IPA

I have no idea how I managed to write an entire post about a brewpub and not include at least one photo of their beer, but somehow I did accomplish that feat yesterday when writing about CANOE Brewpub. So here’s a photo of their IPA. The 1-litre container behind it — sometimes called a “Boston round”, a “growlita” or a “growlette” — is actually filled with water, not beer. As you can also see, there were no large sea otters lounging about in the background, at least while I had my camera ready.

After lunch, we decided to head over to Lighthouse Brewing. Specifically I wanted to catch up with fellow graduate Matt Lyons, who had just moved out to Victoria after a year at Trafalgar Brewing of Oakville, Ontario. I was interested to see what he thought of life on the West Coast.

Lighthouse is a 17-year veteran of the BC craft beer scene, founded by brewer Paul Hoyne (brother of Sean Hoyne of Hoyne Brewing). Paul started with a single beer, kegged for sales to restaurants and bars, and quickly expanded to four canned products. Now Lighthouse is a major player in the BC craft beer market and regularly brews eleven mainstays as well as a number of seasonals.

Lighthouse Brewing

Not built for beauty, but man, they make good beer.

However, unlike nearby Vancouver Island Brewing, a popular draw with tourists, Lighthouse isn’t built for visitors. Housed in an anonymous industrial building down an obscure alley, Lighthouse is never going to win the prize for most beautiful brewery. But they brew a lot of good beer.

Brewhouse

Lighthouse three-vessel brewhouse

Matt was kind enough during a busy day to take us on a tour of Lighthouse, starting with their 25-hL brewhouse. This is a 3-vessel brewhouse: a combined mash/lauter tun, a kettle and a separate whirlpool. This allows the brewers to make more batches — instead of having to leave the wort in the kettle at the end of the boil in order to whirlpool it (to remove coagulated proteins and hop residue), the brewer can move the wort into the whirlpool vessel, move a fresh batch of wort into the now-empty kettle and save 25 minutes of brewing time. Twenty-five minutes may not seem like a lot, but if you are brewing around the clock, that will allow you to brew several more batches of beer every day. And more beer means more money.

Fermentors

Matt Lyons in front of 100-hectolitre monster fermentors

And if you’re going to be brewing more beer, you need fermentors — lots and lots of fermentors. And Matt showed us lots of fermentors, including roomfuls of 25-hectolitre vessels (each holding a single batch) and several quad-batch monsters capable of holding 100 hectolitres.

Where there are many fermentors, there’s also lots of cleaning — well, that’s the life of a brewer. Kids, don’t become a brewer if you complain about washing the dishes.

And what are you going to do with all that beer when it’s ready? You’d better have a quick way of bottling or canning a lot of beer every day.Yes, Matt showed us the packaging lines, including a rotary filler for bottles.

bottling line

Rotary bottle filler

A rotary filler is a neat piece of equipment: empty bottles arrive on a conveyor belt, enter the large wheel, are filled and capped as they make make one revolution and then are shunted down another conveyor belt to be cartoned. Like I said, neat. A lot of moving parts though — I have heard them called an instrument of the Dark Lord by other brewers.

We also saw canning lines, stacks of pallets of cans, cartons of hops — this place is set up to make and package beer.

As a postscript, in the time since we visited, Matt has been given the opportunity to develop new recipes for Lighthouse, and one of his beers won a medal at this year’s British Columbia Brewing Awards.

Go, Matt!

 

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Back to Victoria: Canoe Brewpub

June 9, 2015

O what a rogue and peasant slave am I! Not only have I neglected this blog as of late, but I realize, to my chagrin, that although I visited a number of breweries in Victoria almost a year ago, I still haven’t written a word about them.

So let’s set the Wayback Machine for last July. Elaine & I were again visiting relatives  in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. Despite the fact that the Valley is the third largest population centre on Vancouver Island, there were NO breweries in the area.

(Such is the incredible growth of craft beer in BC though, that since our visit, THREE breweries have opened in the Comox Valley: Cumberland Brewing, Forbidden Brewing and Gladstone Brewing. Gladstone actually just won a bronze medal for their porter at the Canadian Brewing Awards this past weekend. Definitely worth a visit this summer.)

Java the Hut

Java Junction, aka Java the Hut

Back in 2013, I had managed to visit about half of the breweries and brewpubs in Victoria. Given the lack of local beer near us, I managed to convince Elaine that we should head down to Victoria for a couple of days to see if we could visit the breweries I hadn’t seen yet.

Armed with espresso-based beverages from a small establishment we call Java the Hut, we started early and, aided by the 110 kilometre per hour speed limit, we made the pleasant drive down-Island. When we arrived, it was noon-ish, so what better way to start our visit than with lunch at CANOE Brewpub?

Canoe Brewpub

Canoe Brewpub

CANOE is housed in a 19th-century warehouse down by the harbour. On a warm summer day, with the sun shining down, people walking by on the wooden boardwalk, boats sailing past, and cold beer in front of you, this might be the best place in the city to have lunch. Actually it might be the best place in Canada to have lunch.

As if to emphasize this, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of brown fur beside us. Expecting to see someone’s dog out for a walk, I turned and realized a large sea otter was gamboling down the boardwalk less than six feet away. Before I could get my camera up for a shot, the otter slid into the water and disappeared.

patio

No otter in sight

It certainly gave Elaine and I something to chat about while our drinks arrived. I had ordered an IPA, of course — this was the West Coast, after all, and who am I to swim against the tide? The IPA turned out to be very tasty, so I asked our server if it would be possible to speak with the brewer. No, apparently the brewer was not in today. But the assistant brewer was here, would I like to speak with her? Sure.

Now remember, I was currently sitting 3500 km (2200 mi) from the college. So imagine my surprise when a few minutes later one of our Brewmaster students, Hannah Lee, appeared at our table. Hannah was on her summer break between the first and second year of the program, and had chosen to come to Victoria to brew at CANOE. Not only was she brewing for them, she had designed the recipe for a saison that was currently on draft and in the warm summer sun, was selling like the proverbial hotcakes.

Hannah Lee

Hannah Lee in her domain, holding a glass of her saison.

Hannah offered to take me on a tour of the brewhouse, so I left Elaine to sit in the sun and watch out for large otters, and headed inside.

CANOE has a 20-hectolitre brewhouse, and like several other brewpubs in older buildings that I have seen, it is kind of shoehorned into a small space. Of course the less space the brewhouse takes, the more tables for paying customers you can fit in.

Hannah seemed to be having a good time working here, so after tasting some of her saison — I didn’t want to be rude, right? — I said goodbye and headed outside to finish lunch with Elaine.

Verdict: great beer, good food, world’s best patio.

 

 


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