Author Archives: Adam Crandall

Guest Tap Two – Roxy’s Turn On The Red Light Honey Red Ale

Our Guest Tap features rotating brews from collaborators including local brewers (professional and homebrewers), cooks, vintners, distillers, or whoever has a beer recipe that intrigues us. The Guest Tap brews are small test batches available only at our tasting room, so once we announce them, you’ll have to hurry in to try them!

For our second Guest Tap, we will be pouring a Honey Red Ale brewed at Moody Ales by our very own Roxanne Cartwright. For those of you who have not been into our tasting room, Roxanne is the smiling face greeting you when you get here.  On top of serving all of you fine folks your beers with a smile, Roxanne is an avid home brewer.

Roxanne has been homebrewing for about a year and a half and has brewed a number of styles, both from kit and all grain.  Always up for a challenge, Roxanne asked her guests visiting for Christmas what beer they would like her to make.  “They said, ‘Honey Red Ale’ so I said, ‘OK, I’ll do it!'”

So what are the best and worst beers Roxanne has made? She’s most happy with the way this Honey Red Ale turned out. “You’d think that the tin can of ‘Canadian Adventure Ale’ malt extract syrup that I bought from Superstore would be the worst batch of beer I’ve made.  But it sadly was not”.  Her worst brew was a failed attempt at a pumpkin ale which started with roasting way too much pumpkin and finished with a carboy full of a super thick pumpkin beer solution that had to be filtered through a sieve.  “I learned my lesson.  Not that I won’t keep experimenting…”

“To me this beer smells like honey and hops!” says Roxanne. “It’s a blend of American and Canadian ingredients and it falls somewhere between an Irish Red Ale that is malt-focused and an American Red Ale that is more hop-focused.  The malts used are Pale, Munich, Crystal, and Black Patent, which combine to give it a reddish-hue and moderate malt aroma and flavor.  The malts are complemented with American Cascade and Willamette hops which are brought out a lot in the flavor.  Of course there’s honey added and some flaked oats for head retention.”  We think it’s delicious and can’t wait for you all to try it!

 

Roxanne Bottling

Roxanne bottling a batch of her homebrew, we love the use of the cutting board as a bottling platform!

 

We’ll be launching Roxy’s Turn On The Red Light Honey Red Ale on Friday February 20th.  There is only 100L of this batch, so get in and try this awesome beer while you can!  Roxanne will be working in the tasting room so you can ask her all about the beer.  She’s a bit nervous to be serving her own recipe, so come out, support her and show her some love!

– Adam

International Gruit Day

February 1st is International Gruit day.  What a great excuse to experiment!

On Friday January 31st we’ll be pouring the result of our latest gruit experiment.  Our gruit will be served in tasters and glasses all weekend, or until we run out.  We have two versions of this tart, refreshing ale.  One is the result of our brew with no alterations, the other had an addition of tea made from hibiscus flowers added to it. Both are really tasty, but with only 50L of each, they won’t last long!

What is a gruit? Simply put, a gruit is a beer without any hops that uses other herbs and spices to balance the malt sugars and to flavour the beer.

Beer has not always been the delicious balance between hops and malt that we enjoy today.  Before hops were used in beer, a mix of spices and herbs were the brewer’s secret weapon to crafting a tasty ale.  Ingredients such as wormwood, bog myrtle, dandelion, juniper, yarrow and many other ingredients were used.  Imagine the myriad of awesome ales you could make with all of those flavours!

Having made a dark, smokey and savoury gruit in the past, we decided to try to make something that was lighter, somewhat citrusy that only used a small number of ingredients.  We feel that many gruits would have been tart or even sour due to the fact that they don’t contain hops and their associated antibacterial properties, I personally feel that gruits would have often been dark, smokey and savoury – of course we don’t know for sure.

After experimenting with Wormwood (wow, that is bitter!) we decided to use the following ingredients:

  • Mugwort
  • Dried Woodruff
  • Dried Elderflower

Finally after the beer was finished, we experimented with Hibiscus.  The hibiscus adds aroma, flavour and an amazing colour.

If you’d like to learn more about gruits, or maybe try making one of your own, checkout http://www.gruitale.com/

We hope; you enjoy the results of our experiment, we really had no idea how it would turn out which is what made it so much fun.

-Adam

The Great Grätzer – Oak Smoked Wheat Beer

I can’t remember exactly how we found out about this style of beer, but I do know that once I read about it I had to brew it.  This is a pretty common theme for me–just ask Dan.  I’ll read about a style or try a new kind of beer and inspiration hits!  I then spend hours and days obsessively researching and (if possible) tasting examples of the style and then hopefully find time to brew it!

Grätzer, or “Grodziskie” as the Polish call it, is traditionally brewed with only oak-smoked wheat malt and no barley. When we first brewed this beer on the homebrew scale, we wanted to be as authentic as possible to the traditional grain bill. This presented some difficulty since none of the local homebrew shops carried oak-smoked wheat malt and we weren’t prepared to order a pallet of the stuff since we only needed a few kilograms for a five-gallon batch.  Luckily our friends at Beyond the Grape were able to get us the grain from Weyermann, a malting house in Bamberg, Germany.  It was worth the wait.

Given that this style has not been produced commercially in Poland for over twenty years, there is some debate surrounding what this beer should actually taste like–is it hoppy? Is it smokey? What is the alcohol content? Is it soured?  We had no way of trying an actual bottle of a traditional Grodziskie to know for sure, so we chose what we thought was accurate based on our research: a highly hopped, pale, smokey beer.  We decided to brew ours to end up being about 5.5% alcohol, which arguably is a little higher than it would have been historically, but it was the winter.  Maybe when we do this closer to the summer we’ll reduce the ABV and make it a bit more sessionable.

We had no idea what to expect from this beer never having even tried a Grätzer–from what we can tell, no brewery in BC had made one before, and we couldn’t find any imported examples. We had also never used this base malt before, but hey, that’s half the fun!  We decided on three ingredients for the brew: 100% of the grain would be Weyermann Oak Smoked Wheat, 100% of the hops would be German Saaz, and we would ferment with a German ale yeast. We lagered for a few weeks.  (A quick note: lager comes from the German word lagern which refers to storing something cold. Any beer can be lagered–lager does not mean a light coloured clear beer.)

When the beer was ready we were very happily surprised, not just by the fact that it was quite good, but also by the fact that many people who we didn’t expect to like it did!  We had a hoppy refreshing beer that was unapologetically smokey with some acidity and tartness.  Was it authentic and close to the original of this style?  We have no idea, but those five gallons did not last long and soon after we had sourced enough of the Weyermann product to produce a full batch in the brewery.

Some fun facts about the batch we are serving right now:

  • We used 550 kg of oak-smoked wheat malt special ordered from Germany.
  • There are nearly 44 pounds of hops in this batch.
  • Dan and the boys had an extremely long brew day for this beer: 22 hours!
  • This was the seventh batch we brewed on our brew house.

This is the first of what we hope will be many attempts at brewing historical beers.  It’s a lot of fun for us to explore the history of beer and brewing and hopefully it will be fun for all of you to try them!

Look out for a very limited run of 650 mL bottles of our Grätzer to be available in February.

Adam

We are bringing the Crowler® to Canada!

It’s been a busy couple of months since we opened our doors. You folks are thirsty and are keeping us busy! We’ve been working on new beers, and on getting those beers into bottles. Now we have some really exciting news, we have officially launched Crowlers® in Canada!

Moody_Ales_Crowler_2

You call that a can? This is a can! A Crowler® is a 946 mL can filled with fresh craft beer and sold within hours, or even minutes, of packaging. The Crowler® will supplement our other forms of packaged product–bottles and growlers. It holds the freshest available beer, but unlike a growler, it has a shelf-life of up to four weeks.

Update December 2015: We have been constantly working at improving the longevity of our Crowlers, we have a new packaging line for these and continue to test them, we can proudly say that our Crowlers will last on shelves just as well as our other packaged products we have tested them months out – of course, keep them cold for maximum shelf life.

Ever find yourself near a brewery but forgot your growler at home?  Can’t decide which of the awesome beers to put in the growler you did bring?  Don’t have room at home to bring home yet another growler? That’s where the Crowler® can help.  You can still get fresh beer, or an extra fill, without having to add a growler to your collection at home.

Only available in our tasting room, the Crowler® is a single use 946 mL can that is filled and seamed one at a time in the brewery. We use a Dixie Canning table top can seamer found at a at a local auction in in Port Coquitlam. In order to to be able to seam the large format cans produced by Ball Corporation, we ordered a conversion kit from Dixie in Athens, Georgia.

Update April 2015: Our Crowlers are now available on store shelves!

How does it work?  We fill cans every morning and throughout the day as needed, right in front of you. After the can is purged of air with carbon dioxide, it is filled with beer directly off our taps. This is where the fun happens,  the seamer is turned on, we push a lever down, the can spins, and after some mechanical clicking and whirring, the the can lid is now permanently attached to the can. We affix the label and it’s ready to go out the door.

Update April 2015: We continue to improve the packaging on our Crowlers, in order to obtain maximum shelf life we no longer package these on demand, or even each morning, they are packaged weekly along with our other packaging formats.

Moody_Ales_Crowler_3 Moody_Ales_Crowler_4

We first saw these cans when Dan and I were in Denver for the Craft Brewers Conference.  The Crowler® cans were launched by Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado earlier this year and are now popping up at breweries across the United States. The cans contain 68% recycled material and are fully recyclable and returnable like any other beverage container. Their light weight makes them easier to transport and they chill faster than bottles. Unlike bottles, they also block all light which can cause off-flavours in beer. Best of all, due to the quality of the seal, they last much longer than traditional growler fills.

A big thanks goes out to Jeremy at Oskar Blues Brewery for all his help in getting us setup with the cans. Also, Matt Leslie of West Coast Canning for his help in making sure our can seamer was operating within tolerance.

Come get a Crowler®!

Adam

One year, one month, and one day

One year, one month and one day.  That is how long it took from the day I told Dan I was going to open a brewery and asked him if he wanted to join me in this crazy adventure to the day that we brewed our first batch of Moody Ales beer at the brewery.  We brewed all weekend to fill fermentor #1 with our IPA–I think we put more hops into the kettle this weekend than I’ve put into all the beer I brewed at home in the last two years.

It’s really easy to forget how far we’ve come.  For instance, our space was an empty box only two months and nine days ago.  June 30th was when construction started in earnest and the floor in the rear of our unit was removed by West Coast Cutting and Coring.

At this point, our brewery is functional and mostly finished.  We have some issues with equipment that we need to figure out, but they are not stopping us from the most important task at hand – brewing you fine folks some delicious craft beer.

Now the challenge is going to be filling all four of our tanks while finishing off the rest of our construction on the tasting room.  It’s coming along–once our drywall work is complete we’ll paint, get our bathroom fixtures and bar plumbing completed, lighting and electrical finished, and of course, get our beer taps installed–it wouldn’t be much of a tasting room without those.

My friend Brian asked me the other day what the most unexpected part of this entire process has been since I left work six months ago.  It stumped me a bit, probably because I was exhausted, but I’ve been thinking about it.  There have been a lot of things that I expected to happen that have. A few of the things I did expect:

  • Not spending nearly enough time with my wife and kids (My wife is amazingly supportive and my kids are super excited).
  • Super long days – 15 hours is pretty average.
  • Getting up early – I’m not really into mornings, I’m drinking way more coffee than I expected 😉
  • Being pulled in 15 directions at all times.
  • Having some stressful moments with Dan. It’s to be expected when you are working this hard–there is a lot going on and we are exhausted.  We typically follow these moments up with a beer and a laugh and try to remember why we got into this in the first place.
  • Being hands on during the construction–Dan and I really wanted to get our hands dirty.
  • Everyone being so friendly and helpful.
  • How physically hard the brewing process would be.  We made tradeoffs to keep our initial capital costs down knowing it would take more hard work.

Things I didn’t expect:

  • Spending so much time in industrial parks.  We pick up a lot of things in industrial parks.  I really like the ones in Burnaby.
  • Equipment issues. Seems like a no brainer, but I just expected things to work.  We had a problem with our kettle which is no longer slowing us down, and will be dealt with soon–more details in a future blog post perhaps.
  • The support of all my friends, family, and co-workers.  I expected support, but not to the extent that we’ve received.  Thank you.
  • Shipping costs.  Buy stock in Fedex and UPS.
  • Having awesome trades that love what they do and take pride in making sure it’s done right.   I’m not sure if we’ve just been lucky, but after hearing horror stories from so many people, I just wasn’t expecting it.  They have done some very high quality work and are great people to have around.
  • Having a golf tournament opportunity presented to me at least once a week.  Who knew there are so many golf tournaments?  Maybe we will have one someday…
  • BC Safety Authority process for getting our gas kettle up and running–that delayed brewing by two weeks and was truly something we had not planned for.  If you are starting a brewery with a gas kettle in BC, come talk to us and we’ll help you save a few weeks!
  • How much wire and piping we have in the brewery.  It’s a bit mind boggling considering we have a pretty simple setup. I’m pretty sure we can measure the wire in kilometres at this point.
  • Destroying a pair of pants and two pairs of shorts completely–construction is hard on clothes.
  • Really liking my super comfortable work boots–just ask Dan and James how much I talk about how comfortable they are.
  • How physically hard the brewing process would be.  Yes we made tradeoffs to reduce our capital costs, and I don’t regret that at all, even though it’s harder than I thought it would be.
  • Losing 10 pounds while eating worse than I have in years?  Did not expect that.
  • How much room 1500 growlers take up.

Things are (mostly) going to plan, and even when things deviate from the plan, we are dealing with it and adapting.  The trick now will be to get up and running without breaking through our razor thin budget.  I’m confident that we can do this, and although I’m saying no to a lot things when I want to be saying yes, I’m confident that this will keep us financially strong through the first critical year of operation.

So, to answer Brian’s question, the most unexpected thing for me: surprisingly, it is how well I sleep at night.  I’m not stressed.  Tired?  Yes.  Stressful moments?  Um – yes.  Hard conversations?  Oh yeah. But I’m sleeping really well, maybe even better than one year, one month and three days ago. And I hope that continues, even if I don’t expect it to!

Adam

name list

Easily one of the most stressful parts of starting our brewery was choosing our name.  I’m not going to explain how you should name your brewery or business–it’s going to be a different process for everyone.  I’m also not professing to be an expert at this; after all, I’ve only been part of naming one brewery. I’m pretty sure this is not something unique to breweries, but it may be more difficult to choose a unique name than if you were starting, say, a sock company.  The sheer number of breweries that are open or opening makes finding something unique and interesting difficult, especially for a couple of guys who have always been a bit more technical than creative.

Early on, Dan and I brainstormed a lot of names and we registered the domain for all of them.  It seemed like every day we chose a new name we really liked and I registered the domain.  My Godaddy account saw a lot of action. We eventually decided to be strategic about choosing a name and focused on certain themes:

  • Local landmarks (Port Moody Brewing, Newport Brewing, Vancity Brewing, Tri-City Brewing, Barnet Brewing, Terminal City Brewing, Common Thread Brewing).
  • IT, programming, and computers (8-Bit Brewing, 1024, 404, Constant, Exception).
  • Words that had something to do with starting over, taking a big risk, or that aligned with our values (Curiosity, Penchant, New Co, New Line, Constant, Cloud).
  • Something that would pay homage to where we had both worked for the last few years (Collaboration Brewing, New Portal, Red Portal, Blue Portal, Sustainment, Thrive).

And we had a few leftovers: New House, Local, Red Barrel, Haze, Round Tuit (some real winners).

With each name we considered, we made sure to do some basic research to see if there were other companies with the same or similar names, or any trademarks that seemed to conflict (see the links at the end of this post for relevant resources).  If you search for most of the names above in a trademark database and Google, you’ll find something close enough.  Each time we searched and other breweries or trademarks showed up, we would scratch that name off the list. One name kept seeming right, and wasn’t showing up in our searches.  We liked it, others liked it, it came to us easily.  Rocky Point Brewing Company.  Done.  That was easy!

But at that stage we still hadn’t fully convinced ourselves that we should quit our jobs.  We had not reserved our name with the province or incorporated a company. We had commitment issues. A few months later, we had prepared a good business plan, the bank was nearly on board, and investors were lined up. We sent a note to our lawyer asking him to incorporate our company, but it turns out someone else had incorporated a company with a very similar name and our name request was denied by the BC name registry. Cue the end of the world.

After a quick education in the difference between trademarks, trade names, and corporate names we went through the five classic stages of grief.  We assumed it was a mistake (denial). We wondered: “who would do this to us!?” (anger).  We called our lawyer and tried to find ways around it (bargaining).  We felt like giving up and ignored it for a while (depression).  Finally, we decided it may be a good thing, and we started looking for a new name (acceptance).

We spent the next few weeks working on finding a new name.  We enlisted the help of our amazing branding agency and the help of our friends, family and colleagues.  We used dictionaries and thesauruses looking for definitions, synonyms, and antonyms.  We made lists of words. Lots of lists. So many words.  Every time we found something, we checked the trademark databases in Canada and the US and every time it was inevitably taken.  I’d wake up in the middle of the night with the perfect name… taken.  When you have thousands of breweries in the US and Canada, and thousands more in planning, finding unique names that mean something to you, reflect your brand, and help tell your story becomes difficult and frustrating. At this time we were lucky enough to spend time with one of our advisors who has a background in beer and alcohol branding as well as Don and Tak at Free Agency Creative.  Don and Tak worked with us to get clear on what type of company, brewery and brand we were trying to be.  With them, we figured out what we did and didn’t want:

  • We didn’t want to use classic BC wilderness and coastal imagery, or have a name that evoked that type of imagery.
  • We wanted something that reflected us.  We are a couple of normal guys.  Names like ‘Penchant’ were out.
  • We wanted a name that gave a nod to where we were located, without being all about where we were located.  It had to mean something to people who don’t live where we live.

Dan and I are detailed planners and when needing to make a decision in an area where we don’t have experience or expertise, like this one, we generally look for evidence to make decisions.  So we started surveying.  This helped us a lot.  We were still holding on to Rocky Point Brewing as an option – it wouldn’t be easy, but we figured it could be done.  What we learned through the surveys was that when people heard Rocky Point Brewing, they saw west coast beach scenes, BC forests, and lighthouses.  So many people saw lighthouses.  If there is a brewery in your market called ‘Lighthouse Brewing’ that makes great beer, you better make sure the name of your brewery doesn’t make most people think of lighthouses!

After a lot more brainstorming, surveying, consulting with our advisors and many sleepless nights, we decided on a name, and we love it.  This name means something to us and the people who are part of our community and at the same time it has built in branding opportunities and will evoke an emotional response from people who don’t know about Port Moody at all.  More than that, we are happy that we didn’t go with our original name–it didn’t reflect who we are and what we are trying to do.  It wasn’t easy, but nothing good ever comes easy.

Adam

Name Search Resources

Bitter Sweet

I wrote the following on our first Monday of unemployment!

Friday was our last day at Habanero. It wasn’t until about 11 PM–in the middle of an amazing going away party–that it hit home that I wasn’t going to be coming back on Monday. As exciting as starting a new business and opening our brewery is going to be, it’s going to be equally hard not seeing all of the people at Habanero on a daily basis. I consider many of them to be some of my closest friends and family and I miss them immensely already.

I’ve been told that I must be very confident and/or crazy to leave a leadership role at the one of the best companies to work for in Canada–but it’s because of this job that I have the confidence to do this. I’ve learned so much from everyone at Habanero and have had the amazing opportunity to serve as part of the leadership over the last three years. The time was right though. I’ve wanted to start my own business for a long time and it was only recently that my family and I came to peace with the facts that there would be no “right” time to do this and that all we were risking was just stuff–if things went south, we’d still have each other (sappy, but true). With this new found peace, I knew it was time to leave this amazing job and do something crazy.

Now the new task begins. Now we get to learn how to apply our experience and background in IT and consulting to building, opening, and running a brewery.

So, this morning, after shaking off the grogginess and remembering that I didn’t have to go to the office today, I headed out for the first day of our fundraising blitz. We are working on getting our financing all in place before the end of March so that we can commit to the lease we’ve negotiated.

So, how was day one? It was a great day in what I’m sure will prove to be a roller coaster of good and bad days. We received verbal approval on our bank loan today. The timing couldn’t be better given the number of investor conversations we have this week, and as good as our plan is, it helps to have the bank on board. Things are moving in the right direction!

This week we will be putting deposits on our fermentors and kettle. We will also be sending in our liquor license application to the LCLB, brewing test batches, meeting with a number of potential investors, and trying to spend as little money as possible. We are unemployed after all.

Adam