Friday, 28 October 2011

A Dust Storm is Picking Up!

It's been a big few weeks in the life of the Sawdust City Brewing Co., a lot has transpired since we last spoke dear Readers.
Firstly, we had a few beers showcased at the Griffin Pub up in Bracebridge, Ontraio; Ol'Woody Alt, which will be one of our regular products available at the brewpub when it opens next year and "I swear Sugarpants, it Was Your Idea", a lactose brown ale brewed with Masala spices.  The latter, was a latte inspired one-off beer that we brewed specifically for Volo CaskDays which will be held this Sunday at the Hart House in Toronto.  I happened to have a few extra kegs left over so my good brother Jed (kudos to him for supporting us in basically all that we've helps to have a great and supportive brother in bar business, it really does) put them on tap at the Griffin and a few lucky souls got an advanced look at what Sawdust City is going to be about.  Take a look at the logo for "Sugarpants", another great job done by Shannon.
While there sampling some of our creations, I got to talk to a few of the Griffin patrons about our beer and it was great to see the enthusiasm they had for not only our beer, but craft beer in general.  People were genuinely interested in how the beer was made and the process we used to brew it.
The tides are changing dear readers, the tides are changing!

After that uplifting weekend we were buoyed again with the news that the LCBO analysis on our beers was completed and the results were in.  As the next step in our ongoing process to get our manufacturers license, we sent in 4 brands to the LCBO to be analysed in their labs.  And I'm glad to report that there is exactly 0 poison in any of our beers!  Good news if I ever did hear it.  So now that we have the official reports back, we've sent them off to the AGCO and hopefully in the very near future we will have the final go ahead on our Manufacturer's License and we can then sell beer to the public.

This of course was extremely welcomed news and all of us at Sawdust City were glad to hear it, so to celebrate, we brewed our first "official" beer.  I'd like you all to welcome to the world our little bouncing baby beer, Golden Beach Pale Wheat, born Oct 26th at 4:07pm, weighing in at 11 Plato and just over 6hl in size.

It was a group effort with many of the students at Niagara College pitching in and helping to deliver our little bundle of joy.  Being the proud parent that I am, I couldn't help but snap a few photos.  I know it's tacky to show off the pictures of your baby, everyone thinks their's is the cutest, but seriously just look at these photos.  They'll just melt your heart, I swear it.
Ahhh, look at this first shot....still in labour here, but working hard.

More labour shots.  Don't let anyone tell you birthing is easy!

First "blood test"....every thing checks our okay!

We had to spank his bottom a few times and whack him with a few wallops of hops

But in the end, he finally let out that first bellowing cry and here it is living and breathing easy.  *sniffle*, oh geez, I promised myself I wouldn't cry....

So now that we have our first one in and bubbling away, it won't be long before you see Sawdust City Brewing Co., at a beer pub near you.  We do have a few accounts lined up already and at this point it's just the waiting...which as they say is the hardest part.  So please be patient with us dear Readers, it's still a few weeks off, but soon enough you'll be able to sample our wares.  Keep an eye on this hear blog, our facebook page and now on the Twitters (yes, I've broken through the event horizon and entered the Twitter-verse) and once we have an official release date and bars in which we will be available I will be posting them there just as fast as my little chubby fingers will allow me.
So yeah, it's been a busy few weeks, but it's about to get busier....and I couldn't be happier.
Well, that's about it for now.  Until next time, keep the beer in your mugs and the sawdust beneath your feet.

Friday, 14 October 2011

They Left After Spirits, towards Hastings Town.....

The title is a line stolen from "Violet and Jeffrey Lee", another morose ballad of loss and remorse from one of Canada's best acts, The Sadies.  I just so happened to be listening to that song the other day as I was driving around with the kids in the back seat hoping that for the love of all things holy that they might just fall asleep, when it dawned on me that my brothers next beer festival was just around the corner.  September came and went so quickly and now we're already half way through October.  Dang, where does the time go?

Either which, the Hastings Beer Festival is this weekend and Sawdust City is sending a keg of our Ol' Woody Alt towards Hastings Town.

Unfortunately we can't be there (really, the whole company is just the two of us at the moment) but the good folks at Spearhead are kindly letting us squeeze onto one of their taps, so kudos too them for the good sportsmanship!

For those of you who haven't had a chance to try the Ol'Woody Alt, (which would just about about be all of you as we haven't released it yet), this is Sawdust City's take on an old German favourite.  Good and bitter, this lagered ale designed after the beers from the city of Dusseldorf in Germany's Rheinland, comes in at about 40 IBU's, but it's balanced with a rich blend of German Dark Munich and Pilsner Malts to give it an easy drinking body.  This is most definitely our session ale.  But like all our beers at this point, there are still going to be some tweeks and touches to the recipe before we officially open next year.  It's close to the final version, but we want to get it perfect before we kick open our doors.  So if you happen to try Ol' Woody Alt this weekend, let me know your thoughts, we'd really appreciate the feed back.

But outside of Sawdust City (and the aforementioned Spearhead) and a slew of other fantastic breweries from across Ontario and Quebec, there is also going to be some of Eastern Ontario's finest Cheeses, Wines and Ciders being showcased at this event.  Seriously can you ask for more at an event?   Check out all the goings on at the official Hasting Beer Festival Website -

Anyhoo, that's about it for now.  Until next time, keep the beer in your mug and the sawdust beneath your feet.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Another Baby Step

Another week and another small step for the Sawdust City Brewing Co.  On Wednesday, October 5th we received our go ahead from the AGCO to proceed to the second phase of the procedure to get our Manufacturers Licence!

The next step is sending our beer to the LCBO labs in Toronto for testing.  We have some of our brands brewed already, so that will be in their hands as early as next week.  They say it takes 3-10 business days to get the tests done, so it's getting closer.  Hopefully if all goes according to Hoyle, our beer will be hitting a local purveyor of fine ales by the middle of Fall.  So keep your eyes peeled.

This weekend is also Thanksgiving weekend and we've decided to brew a beer to mark the occasion and give thanks to everyone that has been supporting us during our long start up phase.  We brewed Noddy Pine Pale Ale at the Niagara College Teaching Brewery using a single hop, Galaxy.  Hailing from the Land Down Under, this hop packs a tropical punch.  Loaded with passion fruit aromas and citrusy flavours this ale will bring you back to those days of summer which now seem like a distant memory.  Depending on how it goes over, this maybe a flavour you'll see popping up in a Sawdust City brew in the near future!

Noddy Pine will only be available at the Griffin Gastropub in Bracebridge and there is a very limited quantity.  Once it's gone, it's gone.  It goes on tap tonight, so if you can make it out, swing by and try the Noddy Pine!

The next few weeks are going to be very exciting for Sawdust City.  Not only are we closing in on getting our Manufacturers Licence but we are going to be involved in a few beer events across Ontario and you may see another very special brew pop up at the Griffin in the very near future.  So stay tuned to our blog and our facebook page for further updates on the events and where you can find Sawdust City beer!

Anyhoo, that's about it for now.  Until next time, keep the beer in your mugs and the sawdust beneath your feet.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Iron Brewer 2011 and the Long, Dark Voyage to Uranise

On Friday, September 30th, I had the privilege of taking part in the 2nd annual Iron Brewer competition put on by Paul Dickey and the Ontario branch of the MBAA.

Held at the Black Oak brewery in Etobicoke, Ontario, the event featured 16 brewers, from all across Ontario, and from varying levels of experience, ranging from home brewers all the way up to brewers from the big Molson plant here in Toronto.  The vast majority of entrants were from craft breweries across Ontario.

The event is much like the Iron Chef you see on TV, except for instead of having a "feature ingredient", the brewers are given two "mystery" bags of malt, hops and other special ingredients to create their brews.  Once given those bags what they did with those ingredients was up to them.  Basically you could create whatever style you wanted...a brewers dream!

We were given our bags just over a month ago, so we had sometime to cobble together our brews.  I was one of the first people to pick up the bag and once I got back to the office, it took me about 5 minutes to decide what I was going to do.

I looked through the bag and saw a wide array of dark malts, some belgian candy sugar, a few spices and an oak spiral.  And seeing as I'm somewhat partial to the dark ales, I elected to brew an Imperial Stout spiked with Star Anise (one of the spices included in the bag).  No point in half assing it, throw the whole kit in and make a malt bomb.  Also, we only had to bring 10L with us to the competition, so I was going to have some left over and figured I might as well make something I would want to drink afterwards.

I went home that night and put together my recipe and by later that week I was brewing my beer up at the Niagara College teaching brewery.  I wanted to get it brewed and have at least 4 weeks for the beer to mature on the oak spirals, a beer this heavy was going to need that much time if it was going to pick up any of those wood characteristics.  Also, this was going to be a somewhat strong beer, so it was going to need some time to calm down and mellow.

The OG on the beer ended up being 20P, which was a little lower than I wanted, but hey it'll do.  I brewed it to 100 IBU (completely theoretical, there was going to be a lot of residual sugars so I needed to balance that with a big bitter kick) and 2.57 billion SRM (again completely theoretical, but more on that later) It fermented out over the next week down to 5.2P, so I was left with a beer about 8% abv. Not bad.  I moved it from the primary ferementer into a secondary and threw in the oak spiral.  Then I waited.  And waited.  And waited until earlier this week when I decided to taste it and see how it was coming along.  I like it, but it was missing a little something.  I had originally thrown in some star anise in the boil, but that "licorice" flavour was getting lost in all the big, roasted, chocolate malt flavours.  So I brewed an "anise" tea and added it to the secondary. It didn't overpower the brew but it gave it a hint of anise, just enough to let you know it was there.
The next day, I kegged the beer and then bottled it the day before the competition.
I went home that night and tasted a bottle.  I was duly impressed about how it turned out.  It wasn't overpowering in any particular way, it was nicely balanced.  I mean, you knew it was 8% but it was still drinkable.  The addition of the belgian candy sugar probably helped out there.  Also, the oak and the anise flavours blended quite well with the strong, dark malt profile.
And seeing as this was going to be a Sawdust City entry, I had Shannon put together some lables, which I had to put on by hand, but they looked so great, I had to have them on the bottles.  And here they are, first the front label -

And then the back, which if you can read it, tells the story of the Long, Dark Voyage to Uranise (get it?)

 So there you have it, my entry into the Iron Brewer 2011, Long, Dark, Voyage to Uranise!  So about that 2.57 billion SRM, well it also happens to be the shortest distance between Earth and Uranus.  (I had to tie the whole thing up in a nice little package.)

Anyhoo, I showed up at Black Oak on Friday with no real expectations for my beer.  I liked it, but hey, it was mine so that doesn't really count.  Also, I knew some of the other brewers that were coming and I knew that they would be creating some amazing brews themselves so competition was going to be tough.
I staked out my table and waited for the attendees to come in and sample my beer.  People slowly trickled in and made their way from table to table sampling beer after beer, many coming by and tasting the Long, Dark Voyage and mostly to positive reviews too.  I poured out the samples and gave the schpeel about the beer and Sawdust City, it was a good time.  Then I put down the bottle and went out to try some of my compatriots beer.  The one right next to me brewed by Luc at the soon to be Bellwoods brewery was a Berliner-weiss.  A pretty out there and under appreciated style and it was quite fantastic.  Doughy, cheek puckeringly sour and with a hint of saltiness and at only 3.5% it was a real drinker.  Also, it showed the absolutely enormous style variety available at the competition.  Everyone was given the same two bags, with the same ingredients, but each brewer came up with his own ideas and his own unique recipes!  And here were two booths side by each and basically were at opposite ends of the beer spectrum, Luc with the light and sour berliner-weiss and me with a black as pitch, over the top, heavy Imperial Stout.  Ain't beer is awesome.

I then made my way around the room tasting as much beer as I could.  The quality of beer there was ridiculous, each brewer brought their A-game and it showed.  Styles ranged from a rye/vienna lager, to spice induced ales, to black and tans all the way over to Weizen dopple was beer heaven.
With all this great beer and all these great brewers, it really showcased how far the Ontario brewing scene has come in a few short years.  It was truly exciting.

Unfortunately I had to leave early and wasn't able to hand out my beer for the last few hours of the competition.  But duty called.  Such is life.

I found out later that James Thein of Muskoka had won with his excellent version of a hoppy American style Wheat beer.  It had a fantastic lemon profile that made it ludicrously drinkable.  Jaime Mistry came in second with his overtly sessionable dunkels (wonderful beer) and Michael Hancock came in third with his amazing Weizen Dopple Bock, closest thing to Aventinus I've ever had.  And what of Sawdust City and Long, Dark Voyage, well I came in a very respectable 5th place, which considering the competition I'm very happy with.  That being said, I wonder if I could of done better had I stuck around to pass my beer out for the last few hours of the competition.  We'll never know.  But I have to say, as far as labels go, I think Sawdust City had that one all wrapped up.  Well, we were the only ones with actual labels, but still, awesome job by Shannon.
Either way, it was tonnes of fun and I was proud to take part in such a fantastic event.  Congrats to James, Jaime and Michael and all the rest of the brewers for making such fantastic beers.  And thanks to Paul Dickey and the Ontario MBAA for putting together the event.  Can't wait until next year and Iron Brewer 2012.
For those of you with a Facebook page, head over to the Sawdust City page and check out the video we shot while at the event, it will hopefully give you an idea of how great it was.

Anyhoo, that's about it for this time.  Until next time, keep the beer in your mug and the sawdust beneath your feet.