Homebrewing in BC is catching on like wildfire!
Recently, the Tri-Cities Cask Festival group held its Winter Pro-Am, which was a competition between amateur and pro brewers. The sold-out event hosted 570 guests at the Coquitlam Executive Plaza and craft beer fans came from all over to sample casks on offer from 35 breweries and 11 homebrew clubs. Full Barrel Brew Club from Langley took the prize for Best Amateur and Fuggles & Warlock Craftworks (which coincidently was started by homebrewers) won Best Pro and Best of Show.
The success of the Pro-Am event demonstrates that there’s a dozen or more homebrew clubs from all over BC with amateur brewers perfecting their skills. Some are brewing simply for the love of it, and some are aspiring to make the leap to pro brewer. These are exciting times!
VanBrewers, with 175 members, is one of the largest homebrew clubs in BC and boasts several members who have gone on to become pro brewers including (but not limited to):
- Four Winds Brewing – Brent Mills and Kylo Hoy
- Parallel 49 Brewing – Graham With and Hiroshi Tsukada
- Gladstone Brewing – Tak Guenette
- Vancouver Island Brewing – Danny Seeton
- Superflux Beer – Adam Henderson
- Callister Brewing – Chris Lay and Diana McKenzie
- Doan’s Craft Brewing – Evan Doan
- Moody Ales – Adam Crandall and Dan Helmer
- Boombox Brewing – Kent Courtice and Phil Spurgeon
I’m going to shine the spotlight on Boombox Brewing, which just won the RateBeer award for 2016 Best New Brewer, BC.
Boombox started in July 2016 as one of four breweries operating out of Callister Brewing in Vancouver’s Yeast Van. Callister operates as Canada’s first co-working brewery incubator to support new independent brewers to grow their business. I caught up with Kent Courtice of Boombox Brewing to get more insight into his own evolution from VanBrewer homebrewer to pro brewer.
Kent was a homebrewer for about six years before starting up Boombox Brewing with his wife Erin and fellow homebrewers Ryan Seller and Phil Spurgeon.
“I joined VanBrewers after brewing on my own for a while and my friend Marc Raymond dragged me out to a meeting. I still remember it. I was blown away by the quality of the beer being produced by homebrewers.”
How did being a homebrewer prepare you for starting Boombox?
“It provided a solid background in recipe design. Once you have a recipe dialled in it just becomes an exercise in scaling. I also developed many industry friendships that are professional brewers from homebrewing. If you open a brewery in BC you need to know Graham With!”
What did it not prepare you for? Any surprises?
“Time. I didn’t project I would be spending as much time on brewery-related chores. It’s not just brewing and cleaning. Picking up and dropping off kegs, tasting room duties, dropping yeast, securing hops, transferring beer, moving grain. It all takes time and it adds up fast. My wife Erin has really been a lifesaver dealing with many of the operational and financial duties, not to mention all the brew days and tasting room work!”
Did you win any awards as a homebrewer? If so, name the one you’re most proud of.
“Yes, I am proud of many of the awards I have won but some of my favourites are the ones I brewed with other VanBrewers. I have won awards doing collaborative beers with Marc Raymond and Alvaro Reyes. In fact, Marc and I won Best of Show with our Sour Cherry Oud Bruin!”
Boombox has already won a few awards too. Which ones?
“Boombox won 3rd place at the 2016 BC Beer Awards for North America IPA. We were only four months in when we won this award and it really took us by surprise! Machine/Superflux brewed a collaborative beer with us that won the 2016 BC Beer Awards People’s Choice award. That beer was all Matt from Superflux’s hard work and it was an amazing beer!”
Your fave style of beer to brew?
“Sour beers. Specifically beers soured in oak barrels and not in stainless steel.”
Your prediction for the next beer trend?
“There definitely is a huge upswing in demand for the Northeast style of IPAs. I think that will continue to increase in popularity. They are a more approachable version of IPA with a softer mouth feel, lower bitterness and massive citrus flavours so it is appealing to a broader market than a ‘traditional’ West Coast IPA. Superflux Colour & Shape is world-class as is Steamworks Flagship IPA.
The one to see if it will stick around is the Milkshake IPA. There are some really fun local examples of the style like Two Straws from our friends at Twin Sails Brewing and Shake Yo Fruity by R & B Brewing.
Any advice to homebrewers hoping to make the leap to pro brewer?
“Send your beers to as many competitions as you can and try to get as much feedback as you can on your beers from beer judges. Make sure you can consistently make quality beer.”
“Try and work in a brewery — doing anything — even if it’s only a few hours a week.”
Boombox’s beers on offer at Callister Brewing are ever-changing and diverse. Check the brewery’s website for up-to-date information on its latest beers, what’s on deck and where to find them on tap in and around Vancouver.
This past weekend was the launch of Boombox’s collaboration with Twin Sails Brewing called Tone Def Blood Orange DIPA. Since Twin Sails distributes outside of Vancouver, this will allow people elsewhere in BC to get a taste of what Boombox is up to.
On a last note, the Tri-Cities Cask Festival folks have another unique festival coming up on April 22nd. Siris Cask Fest – Celebrating the Women of Craft Beer. Tickets are on sale now.
For more information on getting involved in homebrewing, visit your local homebrew supply store or look for a homebrewing network in your area, such as VanBrewers or BrewVic.