Adam Chatburn is originally from Blackburn, Lancashire and recently moved from Vancouver to Comox, BC. He is a former professional wrestler, past President of CAMRA Vancouver, and former owner of Real Cask at Callister Brewing in Vancouver. He now teaches the Craft Brewing and Malting Program at North Island College and at the MVP Brewpub in Campbell River, BC. This is the latest in a series of profiles of some of Adam’s new “North Island Neighbours.”
My newest friend and neighbour is Patti Savard, the brewer and brains behind the excellent New Tradition in Comox BC. Like myself, Patti began brewing at an early age, inspired by her father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, all of whom were home brewers. Patti recently came out as a trans woman—a brave journey that is supported by her family, colleagues, the local community, and the craft beer community everywhere.
Since opening in 2019, New Tradition’s beer lineup has had a slight Germanic influence, but still shows plenty of punch with big stouts and IPAs. You can taste that teutonic perfectionism in the “Cure for the Common Kolsch.” Like many breweries during the pandemic, New Tradition has moved into canning quite recently and have found excellent local success with their “Liquid Tuxedo” Schwarzbier and “Noon Patrol” IPA.
New Tradition is located in a mall close to the water in downtown Comox, an unusual but very effective location that provides great views out over the Salish Sea to Royston and the stunning, but unfortunately named, Goose Spit Park. It’s not far from Land and Sea Brewing, but the nearest craft neighbour is only two blocks away: the excellent Church St. Taphouse, which is the best place in town to try a variety of Island craft offerings.
Hi Patti, thanks for meeting me! Your journey has ended here in Comox, but where did it all begin?
Well, it began long before I was born! My family is from Ontario and brewing is in our blood. My great-grandfather made bathtub gin during Prohibition and the family tradition of alcohol manufacture continues right through to me. Great Grandpa’s old still was only a block away from the police station so Great Grandma apparently used to burn sugar in the kitchen to hide the smells from the street.
Is this the “New Tradition”?
Yes, the old one wasn’t entirely legal, so it was time for a nice new legal tradition. I was inducted into the family tradition at 19 and graduated to all-grain brews quickly. I moved to Golden, BC to work in adventure tourism, eventually ending up in Vancouver as a contractor. My partner Tammy and I moved back to Ontario in 2010 where I wound up teaching a sustainable building course. The plan was always to move back to Vancouver and, when we sold up in Peterborough, we hoped to buy in the city, but prices had exploded during our absence so we held on to our little nest egg for the future. The future came quickly when, one night, Tammy and I held a party where I was pouring my beer to friends and I opened my mouth and said I wanted to do this professionally. Next day, I read an article that said people who talk about things they’re going to do never do them. I cursed the article and started hatching my plans. After a trip to the Comox Valley, we instantly fell in love with the area and we found ourselves here on the Island.
So how did you manage to pull a brewery together?
I had a couple of friends who were interested in investing in a brewery and, once we found this space, we figured that it was worth a shot. It was not an easy journey though! The mall owners were very keen on having a brewery onsite, so that helped. My construction background came in very useful as we planned out the build, although mistakes were made… We managed to cut power and water to the other businesses a couple of times but they were all pretty understanding. Luckily, many of them are now our best customers! We had to take out a wall to put in the roller shutter and that was a real pain. We have a gas boiler because the mall didn’t have enough electricity to accommodate an electric brewhouse. As much as I love my steam jacketed system, I would have preferred an electric system as I don’t believe that natural gas is the way forward with the environment in mind.
What is the design concept for the tasting room?
The whole tasting room is fabricated from upcycled materials, the stools were put together from the pallets that the equipment arrived on, tables are former packing cases, and my old barrel helps the bar look good. Naturally, all the serving equipment is new, but even the walls here are Earthen Plaster, an unusual but cost-effective and sustainable construction medium.
Why the North Island?
I think that it’s just like Vancouver, only more, and it’s cheaper! We have mountains, ocean, lakes, forests, everything even closer than we did in the city. I still love the outdoors and this is a great place for all of that. The whole area is stunning and the people have been so welcoming.
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How have you been able to sustain through the pandemic?
With it being our first full year, we didn’t really know what to expect, but we’ve managed to keep at it and establish ourselves here in Comox. We started canning a bit earlier than expected, but that’s been a great success and, even with reduced seating in the tasting room, it’s been good through the summer. As you know we’ve been really lucky on the Island so far, but everyone’s obeying the rules and, hopefully, 2021 will be much better!
Tell me about your connection to your core beers.
The Kölsch is my baby, I wanted a tribute to Reissdorf Kölsch, the first beer I ever had. My mom is from Köln and I bought one from a vending machine on the streets of Germany at the age of 14. I tried to get it as close to the traditional ones I remember from my visits to the old country. I’m probably way off, but it is not easy getting your hands on the real thing here in Canada. We’re able to get Fruh Kölsch, but that one is not where my efforts were put on emulating. It’s our light gateway beer for the Lucky drinkers. Converting Lucky drinkers isn’t our prime directive, but we’ve seen it here and there and it does feel good to do. The Kölsch is quite delicate and was definitely my biggest challenge when converting to the 12-hec system we have.
The Schwarzbier is our dark lager—a nice and simple recipe. This was scaled up from my homebrew days and was my pride and joy on opening day. It tasted just like the way I’ve always brewed it, which brought a smile to my face. I knew I wanted a dark beer and this way it stands out from the Kölsch.
We also have our Pale and IPA. the “Noon Patrol” IPA is an homage to our friend group of surfers who sleep late and turn up long after the keeners. My intentions with this one were to go juicy, give it just enough bitterness to fit the IPA category, and drop the ABV to a modest 5.5% so it can be sessionable on a surf day. The pale ale is a throwback to the pale ales I remember drinking with my dad (A.K.A Papa Don) at the Great Canadian Beer Festival back in the day.
What’s coming down the pipe?
We’ll have our sour ready for the summer, but at the moment I’ve just put out Ginger Me Timbers, a ginger beer with Kveik yeast, which I co-designed with one of my staff members, Sydney. I encourage our staff to have beer ideas—we will design them together and release a small batch for the lounge. We wanted to have an ’80s-themed Mall party in Spring 2020, I’d still love to do that… and will one day!