A brown ale brewed in Prince George, B.C., was recently named the best craft beer in Canada – leaving the man who created it choked up with emotion at how far his favourite home brew has come.
Deadfall Brewing’s Basal Brown Ale took home the Canadian Beer Cup last week, beating out over 1,200 beers from 250 breweries across the country.
Co-founder and brewmaster Brandon Baerwald tells CTV News he’s been working on refining the recipe for almost 20 years, despite the fact that “it’s nobody’s favourite.”
That’s one reason he said he had to ask the Canadian Craft Brewing Association if they were absolutely sure the beer had won.
“I must have emailed them back a few times asking if they made a mistake. It was absolutely, literally unbelievable.”
Although it has been one of the brewery’s six core, year-round offerings since its opening last year, Baerwald says it was on the verge of being retired due to lacklustre sales.
“We were taking a look at sales this summer and it’s by far not our biggest seller – at all, not even close. We almost considered dropping it and switching it for something else,” he explains.
“And I just thought I’d give it one last shot and a couple of tweaks to try to really put it over the top and give it one last chance and it turned out that was the little brown ale that won. It’s pretty amazing.”
The brewery’s four founders accepted the award via video because they couldn’t attend the ceremony in person.
“I am so happy that it’s getting some recognition,” Baerwald says, his voice breaking
“So thank you, and cheers.”
The brewery is co-owned by Baerwald and his wife Erin, as well as another couple, Jane Fowler and Will Emery. The Basal Brown Ale, like the idea for the brewery itself was “forged in friendship.”
The homebrew that would become the award-winning beer was almost always on offer at dinners the couples would have every Wednesday as a way of keeping in touch and getting over the mid-week hump
“It was the very first beer I brewed on our system at Deadfall Brewing and I made sure it was the first because it just means that much to us,” Baerwald says.
The four founders boast an impressive set of academic credentials that don’t obviously connect to the business of beer. Three have PhDs in the sciences and one is a medical doctor.
Baerwald, whose PhD is in animal physiology, says the combination of having a background in hard sciences and a genuine appreciation for the craft of brewing has influenced Deadfall’s approach.
“Brewing beer is kind of the perfect marriage of art and science. The artsy part comes from putting together your own recipe, with a sprinkle of this and a dash of that. But the science behind the water chemistry and the yeast health, it runs deep,” he says.
“You can get as nerdy as you want about that stuff.”
Figuring out how to tackle a new style of beer is something that he says can be approached as a study of sorts – reviewing the available literature, learning the history, studying existing recipes, and experimenting with ingredients and proportions.
“That’s just research, just giving myself the best data available to brew the best beer I can. So it definitely helps,” he says, when asked how his background influences his brewing.
‘GOOD BEER AND GOOD VIBES’
The brewery itself is also an homage to the founders’ days of sipping Baerwald’s creations while enjoying each others’ company.
“You can come in and grab a pint, I’m probably going to be cleaning a tank somewhere or mopping the floor and we can chat. Same with my wife, she pours pints often,” Baerwald says, adding that while Fowler and Emery live in Vancouver they “jump right in” whenever they visit.
“We just want people to feel like they’re walking into our living room and sharing our space with us – the good beer and good vibes.”
The 30-seat tap room, where Baerwald says customers can “see the tanks and hear the beer bubbling away and fermenting” has already attracted a dedicated group of regulars, many of whom were on hand to celebrate the announcement that their local brewery had won the Canadian Beer Cup.
The honour has also attracted new customers, something that Baerwald says he is grateful for given the business is still basically a start-up.
“We’ve seen a lot of new faces in the last week and we hope to see more.”
This photo from Deadfall Brewing shows the Basal Brown Ale , which recently won the Canada Beer Cup.