For more features, click here.

Canadian brewers host White Labs

Editor’s note: David Edgar and Justin White, both White Labs sales representatives, travel frequently to meet with professional brewers and homebrewers. These are their stories.

By David Edgar

Chris White of White Labs and Hopunion’s Ralph Woodall hit the road for beautiful British Columbia one sunny February weekend, first to speak to the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild, north of Vancouver, and then to visit with homebrewers in Victoria. For the first meeting, craft brewers from Canada’s west coast converged in Squamish, B.C. at Howe Sound Brewing Co./Howe Sound Inn.

Driving up to the Canadian border from the Seatac airport, the White Labs-Hopunion "compact" caravan stopped for hoppy beers and lunch at Skagit River Brewing Co. in Mount Vernon, where they spoke to founder and head brewer Charlie Sullivan. Chris and Ralph also made one more IPA stop at Boundary Bay Brewery in Bellingham, where they were fortunate to visit with brewer Aaron Jacob Smith and owner Ed Bennett. For some strange reason Ralph and Chris ended up lagging a little behind schedule as they wandered through rush-hour Vancouver (following a fortunately uneventful, if slow, border crossing).

Event organizer Matt Phillips of Phillips Brewing and host Franco Corno of Howe Sound Brewing made sure there was plenty of good food on hand for the brewers that evening—and the brewers made sure there was no shortage of great beer. So when the Hopunion and White Labs guys showed up an hour late, nobody seemed to mind by that time. Quite a large crowd of B.C. brewers made the trip to scenic Squamish for the event. BC brewing industry veteran Gerry Heiter said it was the largest gathering of the province’s brewers he had ever seen (outside of the annual Great Canadian Beer Festival). Other participating brewers included Ambleside Brewing, Bedford Brewing, Cascadia Brands, Central City Brewing, Crannog Ales, Dix Brewing, Gulf Island Brewery, High Mountain Brewhouse, Longwood Brewing, Nelson Brewing, Phillips Brewing, R & B Brewing, Russell Brewing, Steamworks Brewing, Storm Brewing and Yaletown Brewing.

Ralph Woodall took to the podium first and discussed many of the challenges hop growers face each year in achieving a good quality hop crop. Chris White then followed with an intensive discussion about all aspects of maintaining healthy yeast for brewing better beers. After a long day’s travel, and despite the challenges of it being Friday night, with plenty of beer flowing and a rowdy crowd of brewers, both speakers were very well received and everybody appeared to appreciate White Labs and Hopunion making the effort to visit the B.C. group.

The next day Woodall and White took the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, and stopped for lunch at Nanaimo’s Longwood Brewing Co. before driving down to Victoria for the homebrewers’ event at Spinnakers. That evening, about 35 enthusiastic homebrewers (plus one professional, Ralf Pittroff from Vancouver Island Brewing) listened as Chris White and Ralph Woodall again took turns this time addressing the concerns for smaller-scale brewers relating to hops and yeast. Thanks to Ken Askim of Askim’s homebrew shop and gracious host Paul Hadfield of Spinnakers for a great evening at Spinnakers. Now more than 20 years in business, Spinnakers is still brewing and has branched out to also make its own chocolates, ferment gourmet vinegars and even bottle mineral water from an aquifer discovered directly below the brewpub’s property — along with also running a guest house, so when you visit Victoria you can book a room at Spinnakers, too. Chris and Ralph had an excellent time in B.C. thanks to their generous hosts in both Squamish and Victoria and British Columbia’s great community of local breweries.

David Edgar is a sales representative for White Labs and Hopunion. Contact him at dedgar@whitelabs.com.

More from Canada

By Justin White

In late January Chris White of White Labs and I attended the One Day Technical Conference in Ontario Canada, but before the conference began I had time to visit with several breweries in the area, including King, Robinson, Black Oak, and Trafalgar.

On Friday, January 28, Chris White gave a presentation to the Master Brewers Association of Canada titled “Viability and Vitality: How Values help solve Fermentation Problems.” 

That evening Chris and I had the opportunity to visit Steam Whistle Brewery (20,000 bbl per year brewery) in Downtown Toronto with John Mallett and crew of Kalamazoo Brewing. We were given a tour by brewer Jeff Pearson and President Cam Heaps. We even had the chance to pull the steam whistle (the brewery is an old roundhouse for trains, located next to the Skydome, CN Tower, Air Canada Centre in Downtown Toronto). 

Continuing our expedition, we stopped by Mill Street Brewery in the Distillery Historic District. We had the opportunity to share a couple of beers with brewers from Mill Street Brewing, Church Key Brewing and Walkerville Brewing.

On Saturday, January 29, we attended a birthday party for one of the local brewers at a beer bar in Toronto. It was a great chance to meet more brewers from the area. Everyone had a great time.

Chris White gave a presentation to CABA (The Canadian Amateur Brewers Association) in conjunction with Mike Ligas at Magnotta Brewing. The topic was lager fermentation. 

Like the rest of our Canada trip, we were greeted with a fine reception by the homebrewers.

Contact Justin White at justin@whitelabs.com.