In this latest edition of “North Island Neighbours”, Adam Chatburn chats with Tak Guenette, Head Brewer at Gladstone Brewing Co.
So far in this series, I’ve chatted with new friends; Patti From New Tradition and Dave from Loveshack Libations. This time I get to reconnect with an old friend, Takeshi Guenette, aka Tak, from Gladstone Brewing.
I first met Tak through the influential VanBrewers homebrew group that has spawned many professional brewers. I suspect the first time we met would have been at a regular meeting in the sweaty secret attic bar above the Grandview Legion or possibly at the legendary VanBrewers Summer BBQ. Tak was assistant brewer at Steamworks Brewpub where he learned the ropes from Conrad Gmoser, who would go on to co-found Brassneck Brewery on Main Street in Vancouver. At that time, Steamworks was launching its William Street brewery location and much of the production had been moved there, but Tak managed to keep on in the Brewpub working on the British ale styles that we both love. After that, he had a spell at Parallel 49 under fellow VanBrewer Graham With until he moved to the Comox Valley in 2016 with his new wife, Ashley, and young family.
Today he is head brewer at Gladstone Brewing in Courtenay where he brings his savant knowledge, impeccably recreating classic styles.
Adam Chatburn: Tak, do you remember the first time we met?
Takeshi Guenette: The first time I remember meeting was at the VanBrewers winter AGM in 2012 (I think). I had brought in eggnog base with the intent to mix beernog, and you brought a plastic pin of fireweed mead. I proceeded to drink some rather sweet and boozy meadnog in a 1L tankard I’d won earlier that night, and we talked about brewing, mead, and many other things.
AC: No wonder I don’t remember it very well! I think that was my first ever VanBrewers meeting. I think I made a lot of friends with that mead. The AGM was held at the Parallel 49 site, months before it had any equipment or started brewing. So what brought you out of the city and into the Comox Valley?
TG: Ashley and I had our first child in November 2015 and we were looking for somewhere more spacious to raise our family.
AC: We have so much wonderful space up here; lots of young families are moving out this way. I’m sure you miss lots of things but are you happy with your move? What makes the North Island special?
TG: Definitely happy! The North Island is a beautiful place, especially the Comox Valley. Ashley and I both have a love for food, and being closer and more connected to where and who we get our food from has been a wonderful experience.
AC: That’s a great point, I’ve found myself at farm stands and local butchers a lot more since I moved. We’ve been raising our own chickens and putting in our own kitchen garden this spring has been very rewarding.
AC: Do you remember March is Mild month? Each Saturday, you’d homebrew a low alcohol British mild, then, after 3 days of fermenting, it would go into the cask and be served the following Saturday. Grain to glass in seven days. Friends would swing by on Saturday afternoons for a few pints of 2-3% beer giving feedback on the recipe before going about their day. How did that idea get started?
TG: I believe Ron Pattinson had been complaining on his blog that CAMRA’s Mild Month was moved from March to May in the UK. The recipes provided, along with Kristen England’s brewing and tasting notes, really helped me improve as a homebrewer. The challenge of brewing, fermenting, and serving in such a short period gave me and everyone who participated in the tastings a better understanding and appreciation of cask production and serving. The first three beers brewed would have been the 1987 Boddington’s series (Mild, Oldham Mild, East Lancashire Mild), and the fourth was an amalgamation from what I had learned.
AC: Growing up in East Lancashire at that time, I had an affinity and nostalgia for those styles and, although Boddington’s is now a Budweiser brand and the iconic brewery has long since been demolished, finding a friend in Canada who recreated those styles with such fondness was wonderful. What many people won’t know is that you developed the recipe for “Blackburn Best Bitter,” my only core Real Cask beer. Your help was invaluable and thousands of real ale fans in BC are grateful. Do you still get your British Ale fix from the excellent seasonal Porter?
TG: Ha! Despite our porter being a core beer, and winning the most awards of our lineup, we only brew it about four times a year due to the people’s taste for more “exciting” beers. While we love our porter, I do wish we would brew more British Beers. However, it’s a hard sell. Most of the styles aren’t flashy, and really rely on proper serving methods and tasting the beer evolve glass to glass. The same drinking culture doesn’t really exist in North America.
AC: It‘s true, the styles don’t “excite” most craft beer lovers and that’s a shame. Luckily, folks like you and I will try to keep it alive. Gladstone has been very successful, I’m sure you need more space, are there plans to expand?
TG: We are planning to add 16 serving vessels, as well as doubling our fermentation/cellar capacity in the near(ish) future, with more room to expand after. I’m hoping to see more limited release beers in our tasting room, as well as just having more flexibility and fun, in addition to extended distribution of our core beers.
AC: You have one of the biggest and best patios in BC. Hopefully that won’t be sacrificed! What’s new and what’s coming up? I hear the excellent Cream Ale is becoming a core beer?
TG: Cream Ale is becoming a permanent addition to our core lineup, which I am thrilled about. It’s an absolute crusher and a favourite of the brewing team at Gladstone. Kölsch is also in tank and should be released in cans and draught at the end of April.
AC: Cream ales are a huge hit up here so great to hear that yours will be year-round. Thanks for giving me a taste of the Kölsch; it’s one of my favourite styles and your team really nailed it. Keep up the great work mate. Hopefully we can get together in the summer for some mild or even meadnog!
Gladstone Brewing is on the Vancouver Island Part II Ale Trail.
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 Program at North Island College. This is the latest in a series of profiles of Adam’s new “North Island Neighbours.”
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