This is the latest instalment in the Hops Among Friends series, which is designed to showcase the people that make up the craft beer scene on the BC Ale Trail.
My most recent Hops Among Friends interview was with Chloe Smith and Cédric Dauchot from Townsite Brewing in Powell River. At the end of the interview, they picked who I would interview next, and they recommended Roxanne Cartwright.
I always enjoy speaking with other women in the craft beer industry, especially when they are as passionate about craft beer as Roxanne. She is equally passionate about life in Port Moody. When we are allowed to travel again, I’m looking forward to checking out the delicious craft beer scene in Port Moody and exploring the hidden gems in the area.
Kim: How did you get your start in craft beer?
Roxanne: I started out as a homebrewer. I started making my own wine and beer. At the time, I was a landscaper and gardener which is seasonal, so I thought I would like to work at a brewery in the off-season. Back in 2014, a friend of mine recommended a soon-to-open brewery called Moody Ales. She knew the owners of this brewery and she thought it would be a great fit for me to work with them. I reached out to them and ended up being one of their first employees. I started in the lounge working behind the bar there, but my goal was to work in the brewhouse. Within 6 months I was working in the brewhouse at Moody Ales. I learned to brew along the way with a lot of experimenting and researching.
At Moody Ales, I ran the experimental line of our cask program.
I love making smaller experimental beers, so when the owners of Moody Ales decided to open up The Bakery Brewing in 2019, they asked if I wanted to take that on. I was thrilled to, and I moved over to The Bakery.
I haven’t gone to brewing school yet, but I am planning to go to school in the fall. I’m planning to start at the Institute of Brewing and Distilling based in London, which is all done online so I can do it from home.
Kim: Tell me about the start of The Bakery Brewing? I understand it was previously a bakery?
Roxanne: Yes, the building was originally an Italian bakery. At Moody Ales, we started using the space for storage a few years before and we always referred to it as the bakery. So when we decided to open a second brewery, we decided to stick with the name The Bakery Brewing. Besides, beer is pretty much liquid bread, so the name just stuck.
Kim: The Bakery Brewing is known for experimentation and flavour exploration when it comes to beer making. Can you tell me more about this?
Roxanne: We are a very small batch brewery. We have a five-hL brewhouse, a little electric one. We typically brew 600-800 litre batches. Since we don’t do any wholesale beer, we are able to keep rotating through lots of different beers. We do have staple beers like our IPA and Lager, but even with our IPAs, we like to change up the hops or malts. We like to keep learning and having fun. We get to try so many different styles and combinations of different ingredients. We’ll make a plan for a beer and try it. The nice thing is that we can change things on the fly depending on what happens during the brewing process.
As an example, we made our first-ever watermelon sour. As we tasted it during the brewing process, we realized that it needed a little something more, so we ended up adding fresh cucumbers. Sometimes it takes some tweaking to the recipe. We do make some customer favourites as a repeat, but otherwise, we are creating a new recipe every time.
Kim: How do you come up with so many different beer recipes?
Roxanne: Often we’ll start with a homebrew recipe, or I will make up recipes as I go. I do a lot of research on a certain style. Once I decide on a specific style I want to make, then I create a recipe. I reference ingredients I’ve used in the past. For the watermelon sour, I had used cucumbers in the past, so I had an idea of how it would work when adding them to the watermelon sour.
It’s a bit of a risk because we really are experimenting and we don’t know how it’s going to go, but we have a good handle on ingredients and how they work well together. And, if at the end, something needs to be added, we can do that. It’s definitely a different model than most breweries. But this brewing style works really well for me.
Kim: How big is your brewing team?
Roxanne: There are just two of us on our brewing team, Emily and me. She came out of the Kwantlen program last year. We work really well together. We have a really well-balanced team dynamic. We both give ideas and we both brew beer. Emily comes from the quality control side, so she does more of our yeast management. I do more of our overall brewing management including managing inventory and batch planning.
Kim: What is it like being a woman in a predominantly male industry?
Roxanne: The whole time I’ve been in the craft beer industry, I’ve always felt very supported. Generally speaking, I find that women in these positions do get paid less than our male counterparts, and I find that sometimes we have to prove ourselves more. Overall though, I find people in the industry have been really good to work with and very supportive. Sometimes I find that customers assume women don’t know much about beer. I often get asked how I know so much about beer when I start talking about how a beer was made.
Kim: How do you manage to balance your brewery life and your personal life?
Roxanne: Balancing brewery life and personal life is really challenging. There is so much work to be done, especially in a small brewery. We were so busy opening up The Bakery and then, shortly after we opened, the pandemic started. I remember at this time last year, I was working 80 hours a week all by myself because we had to let a number of people go. We were in survival mode. I just kept thinking that I have to do this to keep this brewery in business. But through this last year, I have had to learn how to balance my life better. I wasn’t eating well. I wasn’t getting enough sleep, and I was really stressed. I really felt the impact of this, and now I am trying to get more balance in my life.
Kim: When I interviewed Chloe and Cédric, Chloe mentioned that the last time she saw you, you were literally putting out a fire. Tell me more.
Roxanne: Chloe came to the brewery to see me, but I didn’t get a chance to speak with her because I had an electrical fire I had to deal with. I felt so bad because I hadn’t met her before, and I wasn’t able to speak with her, but I was watching the wires melt in front of my eyes. Thankfully we were able to find the breaker and turn it off, and everything turned out okay in the end.
Kim: What do you love most about the craft brewing industry?
Roxanne: It’s such a vibrant industry. There is always so much fun stuff happening all of the time. You’re never bored. Even during the pandemic and with all of the closures and restrictions, everyone is so creative and so resourceful. It’s so great to see. And of course, the beer festivals are so much fun. I’m so excited to get back to beer events again.
I think we’ll all be so much more grateful to have beer events back again at some point in the future.
Kim: How has your brewery been impacted by COVID-19?
Roxanne: It’s been a real challenge for all breweries. For us, it was really tough because we had just opened, and so we had a lot of opening costs. Then we went right into the pandemic, which was really challenging. We are still hanging on, but we want this to be over. I appreciate our lounge staff because they are working so hard to keep everyone safe. It’s been a real roller coaster. Our first summer was so great. We packed the patio and made lots of great beer and it was so much fun. But we just keep going on, making beer, and hoping we’ll get through this sooner rather than later.
Kim: What are you most proud of at The Bakery?
Roxanne: When the pandemic hit, our owners closed the doors because we didn’t have enough packaged product to stay open. At that time, we only had three beers in bottles. We had an online store, but with layoffs, we didn’t have the staff to manage this.
However, we had planned a fruit beer event and we had 20 different beers almost ready to go. So, I suggested that we bottle all of these beers and sell them online. We ended up releasing a new beer every week even though we were closed. Within a couple of months of the pandemic, we had 20 different beers in bottles. I was so happy I could help get us through a very tough time.
Kim: How did you pivot at The Bakery?
Roxanne: We’re a small brewery with a lot of manual processes. When we first started, we didn’t plan to do a lot of packaged product. But with the move to having more packaged beers, we ended up buying a label printer.
We create our own labels, we print them in-house, cut them, and manually stick the labels on the bottle.
We even brought a filler out of retirement, and we fill bottles on a 2-head filler, which is a very manual process. This allows us to be very flexible when putting out a number of new beers. We can print out 100 labels if we need to. There are pros and cons to this. It’s time-consuming to do everything manually and on such a small scale, but it also allows us to be very flexible.
We’re hoping that when the pandemic is over that we can buy some more equipment. That’s the plan.
Kim: What do you have planned for this summer for The Bakery?
Roxanne: We’ll be releasing some fun new beers for the summer. We’ll also be bringing back some customer favourites. We’ll be bringing back our Boysenberry Pie Sour and our Pink Lemonade Radler. It came out right before the closure and people loved it, so we plan to bring this one back again.
I’m also really excited to release some delicious barrel-aged beers that we have been aging. We recently released a Wild IPA in 750ml bottles. It is made with one of our favourite brett strains that is nice and fruity and juicy with light funk.
We aged it in one of our flex tanks, then we dry-hopped it with Azacca and Mandarina Bavaria. It’s easy-drinking, but it has a wild side that I really enjoy. It’s refreshing but funky.
Kim: You have five breweries located closely together on Brewers Row in Port Moody. How do you enjoy this?
Roxanne: I really love it. It’s such a great community. It’s great not only for the customers but also for all of us that work at the breweries. We’re all friends. We have a Slack channel for all of the breweries. The lounge teams in particular use it. We are always lending and borrowing stuff. It’s just like going to a neighbour to borrow a cup of sugar.
Kim: What do you love about Port Moody?
Roxanne: When I first started working at Moody Ales I lived in Burnaby, but I fell in love instantly and moved to Port Moody. I love being right on Burrard Inlet. The gorgeous ocean is right at our doorstep. We have the beautiful Shoreline Trail that goes all the way around.
It’s getting busier as more people learn about us, but it’s still a small community. My husband Phil and I have paddleboards, so we go paddleboarding quite a bit. We see the seals when we are out on our paddleboards. I live on the other side of the inlet so I walk the trail to get to work and it’s so gorgeous.
I’ve been in Port Moody for six years and I just love it. I can’t imagine leaving here.
Kim: Tell me about some hidden gems in Port Moody for when we can start travelling again?
Roxanne: When I first moved here, I discovered that there are lots of amazing lakes and hiking trails right behind us up in the mountains. There are trails all around the lakes. There is a kayak rental place right in the park so you can rent a kayak and explore around the bay. There’s a great place that has handmade ice cream in the park called Rocky Point Ice Cream. There are some breathtaking views of Indian Arm and Vancouver if you are willing to climb up high in the mountains. One time we rented sea kayaks and paddled from Port Moody up Indian Arm to the very end. We camped there, and then paddled back. It was 9 hours of paddling each way, but it was incredible.
Kim: Do you have any final words?
Roxanne: I would love for people to know how small our brewery is. A lot of people think that all breweries are the same. But we have a really small brewhouse with really small equipment. We are basically making micro-batches of beer and it’s a very manual process. This is part of what makes The Bakery Brewing so special. It keeps our customers coming back and it keeps them excited.
We know that it can be a bit scary for some customers if they aren’t adventurous with their beer styles. But we always have lagers and IPAs and a variety of fruit sours. Fruit sours are such a great choice for people that think they don’t like beer. We always try to have a pink beer on tap because it’s so appealing to people.
I find the psychology of beer fascinating. I like seeing how the beer name and the colour make people feel. There is so much more to beer than just American light lagers.
Kim: Who else in the craft beer industry do you find interesting and why?
Roxanne: I have a really good friend, Marinna Perry, the lounge manager at Strathcona Beer Co. She’s been in the industry for quite a long time and she’s just lovely. She knows so many people in this industry and I’d love for you to interview her next.
Stay tuned for the next instalment of the Hops Among Friends blog series, where I speak with Marinna from Strathcona Beer Co. on the Yeast Vancouver Ale Trail. Until then, cheers!