Blackthorn

Blackthorn

I’m going to try and start doing a better job of posting about individual beers we make. To give you an idea of the background that went into developing beers and just an overall idea of what has gone on behind the scenes to create them. So here we go!

Blackthorn is back. Many of you probably just went “What is back? I never heard of Blackthorn the first time.”

Blackthorn is a Strong Ale fermented with Burton Ale yeast. It was first developed in 2015 as a beer to age in Rum Barrels with some wild bugs in order to utilize the jammy and dark fruit notes that the yeast can create.

So in December 2015 we made a 30HL (3,000L) batch and half of it was put on tap in the Tasting Room. It was so well received that we banked it to release on its own when we had some space to do so. The other half went into Caribbean Rum barrels, had some wild bugs added to it to sour it up, and ended up as a beer we called Tortuga.

So this is the second release of Blackthorn. However, it’s the first time you can get it in a bottle. Blackthorn has notes of dark sweet cherry, raisin, and plum jam. It is best shared with a friend, or an enemy you’re trying to make peace with.

The label was created by our amazing designer Sami Christianson and the photo was taken by our talented Packaging Manager, Andres Markwart.

Blackthorn is available in bottles and growler fills in the Tasting Room until it runs out. We are shipping this one to the Island, Interior and of course Metro Vancouver!

Cheers

-Jorden

 

International Women’s Day

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I’m sitting here at 8PM on International Women’s Day trying to figure out what to write. Truth be told I was sitting at 8PM last night and 10AM this morning and then again at 6PM trying to figure out how to put on paper (or internet fake paper) how much I appreciate the women in my life.

So although disjointed and likely grammatically incorrect I’m going to start at the beginning and just let it flow…

Steel & Oak wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for my Mom.

I was born in 1983 and growing up as an only child in our household I only knew one thing about women. They were bad ass. My Mom Karen was the epitome of an ass kicking women in the 80s and to be entirely honest through the 90s, 2000s and as I write this she still kicks ass on a daily basis.

Karen didn’t break through a glass ceiling or two, she destroyed them all.

My reality growing up was that all the women in my life (which was basically just my Mom) were at the top. Her hard work, tenacity, and kindness helped her become who she was in business and in life. With those traits she became a top executive and eventually the President of the largest magazine publishing agency in Western Canada. That was Karen’s reality, that was my reality. I understand this was unique in the grand scheme of things, but probably didn’t appreciate it enough until later in life.

Steel & Oak wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Karen’s ability to not only make sure she raised an empathetic, honest and (I like to think) kind kid while still showing that kid what hard work and not taking no for an answer can get you in life.

She’s my hero. I look up to her, and I look for her advice daily as I try and chart my own journey at 33.

Steel & Oak wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for my wife Alissa and my partner’s wife Diana.

In 2012 my business partner Jamie and I had a silly idea to open a brewery in our hometown. If it failed it would strip us of everything we had, it would eliminate the comfortable lifestyle that we had both come accustomed to, and more importantly, it would affect the lives of the two women we loved the most.

When you look into opening your own business it’s hard not to think of the worse case scenario. You plan for success, you prepare for failure.

I’d lay in bed at night talking out loud about “what ifs”. What if this goes wrong, what if this fails, what if no one shows up, what if no one drinks the beer? Alissa would lay beside me and say, “This isn’t going to fail. The four of us will succeed. We have what it takes. You have what it takes.”

If it wasn’t for Alissa’s encouragement, practical thinking and ability to put things in perspective, I would have quit the beer biz before we even started. I know Jamie would share the same sentiment about Diana if he was writing this post. (He’s likely hiking with the dogs while I write this).

Every day I relay ideas and situations that have happened to Alissa and she advises me on the correct way to handle things. She gets paid nothing, but she’s the real brains behind how I operate day to day. If it wasn’t for her I would have fucked this up a long time ago.

Steel & Oak wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Agata, Kat, Heather, Jamie, Rosa, Kristina, Natalie, Enry and Lizz.

If you ask any brewery owner I’m sure they’ll tell you that the most important part of their business is the Tasting Room. It’s the first impression. It can be the last impression. You don’t get any “do overs”.

We are so incredibly lucky to have a team of strong women who run the most important part of our brewery. Your beer can be great, but none of that is relevant if someone has a shitty time while drinking it. Not only is our team of women well versed in beer but they make sure that every experience of a Steel & Oak customer is a great one.

Alissa always reminds me of how incredible the women of Steel & Oak are. I’m sure I don’t tell them near enough. I hope they know how much I appreciate them and how much they are valued. I’m definitely going to tell them after I finish this post.

As a white, 30 something male I sometimes struggle with writing things like this. Who the fuck am I? I literally fit the exact demographic of who (statistically speaking) has it the easiest in life. What I do know is that when I travel to the Craft Brewers Conferences around the United States it’s a bunch of heavy set white dudes with a sprinkling of women. A light sprinkle. In BC it’s a bit better but still not good enough. This is our industry and it needs to change. We know it does. So let’s do better.

Happy International Women’s Day to all the amazing women in our lives. Now let’s act like we do today for the remaining 364.

Cheers,

Jorden

 

A New Sign at Steel & Oak

Occupancy!

Next time you’re by you may notice a new (less attractive) sign outside of Steel & Oak.

While our wonderful Tasting Room staff are prepped to answer any questions you may have I still feel like it’s important for me to share with you what the deal is. Really because it has been such a lengthy process and I’m sure a cause for some frustration amongst the members of our community.

If you’ve been by Steel & Oak this past year you likely had to wait to get in. I’m sure this was frustrating and I’m sure some of you said “forget this” and walked the other way.

Now if S&O was located in Vancouver I’m sure a wait would be expected. But this is New West. Wait to get into a place!? C’mon!

Even though I’m (partially) kidding trust me when I say I do feel your pain. It’s a bit of a hike to get to Steel & Oak only to be told you need to wait longer. And that sucks.

This isn’t because we don’t want more people in the room. I’ll be entirely honest, I have a family to support so I want as many of you in the place as possible! It was (is) because we had (and still have) occupancy issues.

When Jamie and I opened Steel & Oak in 2014 some of the new laws we all enjoy today in regards to drinking in a Brewery Lounge didn’t exist. We had what was called a “Tasting Room” and that was what it was meant for… tasting.  Occupancy didn’t matter too much at that point but as the laws changed we were excited to learn that we would be able to serve you a couple beers if we wanted to and even some cider as well. Operate more like a proper craft beer establishment! So while this was great news, S&O wasn’t equipped with the infrastructure to support an increase in occupancy. We were capped at 20 people (plus growler lineup) and that’s where we’ve been ever since.

It hasn’t been lost on us that this has been shitty for you (and us) and behind the scenes we’ve been making the changes and talking to the correct people in order to rectify this speed bump in an overall rad road of beer and fun goodness. Although a lengthy process I’m happy to say that we now have everything in place to take the first step in increasing our occupancy to 50 people.

Now don’t get super pumped that you’ll be able to bring your group of 30 to the Brewery next Friday. Because you won’t. This process is still going to take some time. It still needs some government approvals and there are still some hurdles to overcome. But I wouldn’t write this post if I wasn’t confident that there will be some good news in the coming months.

Hopefully soon you won’t have to watch all your friends have a good time while you stand outside because you’re person number 21.

Thanks for all the support and patience this past year.

Jorden

We’re Hiring!

BREWER AD

Steel & Oak Brewing Co. is continuing to grow and we are looking to hire a Brewer/Production team member.

We need someone awesome to help us continue to make great beer. If that’s you, perfect, you’ve made our lives a whole lot easier. Thanks!

This job will have you involved in all aspects of production which includes brewing, cellaring, cleaning, packaging, maintenance and everything else that’s needed to make great craft beer. A thorough understanding of the entire beer making process is essential. Previous brewery experience is a definite asset, but not mandatory. You must have a passion for quality and a commitment to continuous improvement. You should have a penchant for cleanliness and detail oriented work. You should also be handy and mechanically inclined so you can troubleshoot and fix things as necessary.

This is a full-time position. The brew crew works as a team but often you’ll be doing tasks on your own. Reliability and flexibility are key. This position will involve some early mornings, some late nights and the possibility of some weekend work. Many aspects of this job are also quite physical and will require, for example, lifting of 25kg grain bags and moving 65kg kegs. A valid driver’s license is an asset.

If you think you’d be a great addition to our team, fire off your resume and a little bit about yourself to eric@steelandoak.ca. Please include “Brew Crew Application” in the subject line.

About 2016

SOFAM

As I’m sure your Facebook Feed has told you 2016 was a terrible year.

Now I’m not here to disagree with the fact that a lot of awful things happened around the world this past year. I’m not here to express sadness that an actor, actress or musician that was beloved by all passed away. I’m not here to utter anger that politicians are crooked and that often good doesn’t seem like it’s overcoming evil.

I’m here to talk about beer. And 2016 was a pretty awesome one for S&O.

2016, much like 2015 and 2014 was a year of growth for our little (but now not feeling so little) brewery on Third Ave. and Stewardson Way. We doubled our capacity once again from 2015 to 2016, expanded our beer’s territory into the interior and touched down in Alberta, introduced our first can to the marketplace and grew our own S&O team considerably. We created, we collaborated, we were recognized for beers that we’ve made from day one, and we continued to experiment and improve upon beers that will lead us into the future.

2016 wasn’t all sunshine and Smoked Hefe however.  We felt a pinch in production like we’ve never experienced before. We struggled to keep up during the summer months and were forced to run a very skinny lineup just to keep Red Pilsner and Royal City Ale available. This pinch made our Tasting Room one of the more boring ones as we fought to keep enough beer on tap to fill our local customer’s growlers while not shorting our draft and liquor store customers with the flagship brews they need to fill their shelves with.

Those days should be behind us now as we received a new tank just a couple months ago that will allow us to brew an extra 130,000L/year and as long as they are on time (fingers crossed) we’ll be adding another 2 tanks for an extra 260,000L/year production capability before the summer.

Not only will this mean that Dark Lager, Red Pilsner, Royal City Ale, and ESB will always be on the shelves and in the Tasting Room but it will free up our smaller tanks to do more of the stuff we love. Small, unique and experimental batches of beer to really geek out on.

I’m looking forward to 2017. Steel & Oak has never had a more creative team than it does today and I can’t wait to show you what we’re going to be brewing.

So now the real question. Will we finally make an IPA?

I’ll tell you next year.

-Jorden

Food at Steel & Oak

Food Truck

One questions we get asked a lot is whether we have food at Steel & Oak. The answer is… sort of.

To simplify, one of our license requirements is that we have food of some sort available to our patrons in the Tasting Room. However, that requirement wasn’t put into place until after we opened our doors… without a kitchen, or the ability to build one of any kind.

Thus, having quality food at S&O has forced us to get creative and I’m happy to report that we’ve just started a new partnership with Conte Foods, a wonderful Italian Food Importer and Deli down the street from us. You can now enjoy charcuterie fresh from Conte Foods right in our Tasting Room!  We’ll still carry Jerky Baron and other small snack items but at least now you can eat a meal’s worth of food while enjoying a beer.

Second question we get asked a lot is why we had Food Trucks, then didn’t have Food Trucks.

New West didn’t actually have a Food Truck policy in place when we opened the doors. You couldn’t have them parked on the street without having a special event of some sort.  However, about a year ago we were fortunate to be selected as the Food Truck Pilot Project location for 6 months and everybody was able to enjoy wicked Food Truck eats on Fridays and Saturdays at our brewery. Then that pilot project ended and the Food Trucks had to go.

However, I’m happy to report that New West now has a Food Truck program in place thanks to that pilot project and we have been selected as an official location for Food Trucks or Carts at anytime.  This month we have Melt City Grilled Cheese on Fridays and Chubby Mama on Saturdays. We will keep our Upcoming Events section of our website up to date with what trucks to expect when, so you can more accurately plan your trip to S&O!

So thanks for your patience as we’ve worked through the challenges of bringing in quality food to a place that doesn’t have the ability to make its own.

Now onto fixing our occupancy…

-Jorden

Analog: Pop Up Vinyl Shop

Analog: Pop Up Vinyl Shop

We’re super excited to have partnered with the Arts Council of New Westminster to bring Analog: Pop Up Vinyl Shop to the Royal City!

On Sunday, October 23rd from 12-4pm, indie record labels from across Metro Vancouver will descend upon our brewery for a day of live music, beer, food and of course vinyl!

Indie labels La Ti Da Records, Northern Electric, Scrape Records, and New West’s own Bully’s Studios will be set up in the brewery with crates of records showcasing BC’s local talent for visitors to peruse.

Highlife Records and Music Madhouse Records will also be on hand for those in the mood for some classic releases or a rare press or two.

Of course an afternoon of vinyl shopping wouldn’t be complete without local music! On the Arts Council Stage there will be live performances by Sarah Wheeler, 2-Bit Horse with special guest Jimmy Roy, and a DJ set by Dale Davies.

Analog: Pop Up Vinyl Shop hits Steel & Oak on October 23rd from 12-4pm. No tickets needed, just swing on by!

-Jorden

Rousing Yeast in German Wheat Beers

Roggen Weizen

One question I get asked a lot is “what’s the deal with the layer of yeast at the bottom of your wheat beers?”  When I tell people “that’s where the good stuff is” I always get a confused look in return. This got me thinking that with the release of this year’s Roggen Weizen and for the amount of other German Wheat Beers we make here at Steel & Oak it’s probably time to write a blog post on Rousing Yeast in German Wheat Beers.

Believe it or not some beers are meant to be hazy. These include our Seasonal Wheat Beers – Smoked Hefeweizen, Roggen Weizen and Smoked Dunkelweizen, along with our Limited Release Weizenbock. The haziness comes from yeast and proteins within the malt, wheat and rye with which it’s brewed. After a beer sits for a short while the yeast settles out at the bottom of the bottle and we want that yeasty goodness back in suspension as it adds to the flavour and mouthfeel of those wheat favourites.

Lucky for you we have the 2nd Best Hand Model in New West along with the 4th Best iPhone Photographer available at our brewery to create a photo series on how we recommend you rouse the yeast in your Steel & Oak weizen.

We prefer the tilt and twist method at Steel & Oak but you can use any rousing technique you’d like to try. Just don’t over agitate the bottle as you don’t want a “Pop Champagne” type of situation.

Cheers to wheat beers!

– Jorden

Steinbier Collaboration With Freigeist

Steinbier Freigeist x Steel & Oak

A while ago I wrote about our VCBW Collaboration and how I didn’t entirely agree with Stephen Smysnuik of The Growler BC on collabs being a regular brew day.

Stephen should have attended this collab.

We partnered up with Sebastian Sauer of Freigeist Bierkultur out of Germany to make an old world Steinbier. Here’s how it went down (note I’ve taken a lot of liberties with this as my memory isn’t as good as it used to be).

  • April 2nd: I’m in a Ford Winstar van with Ben Coli (Dageraad), Mike Coghill (Yellow Dog) and Adam Henderson (Copper & Theory) driving from Calgary to Edmonton. I say “Hey Adam, I’d like to do a collab with one of the breweries you import.” Adam says, “You should do one with Freigeist. They’re German, you pretend to be German when it suits you, I think it’d be awesome.” A high-five is given waking Mike up who had been sleeping on Ben’s shoulder. He’s a cuddler.
  • April 4th: I tell the guys we’re doing a collab with Freigeist. Our brewer Eric jumps for joy, our Operations Manager Brian scowls at me as once again I’ve agreed to a collab with no tank space to do it in.
  • May 1st: “Let’s do a Steinbier” says Eric. I say, “A what now?” Eric explains to me that a Steinbier is made by heating up rocks super hot and running wort over it creating an intense boil and a lot of steam.  “It sounds super dangerous, let’s do it!”
  • May 2nd: We run the idea by Sebastian from Freigeist. Sebastian suggests we do a Gose instead as it would be less dangerous. About 5 minutes later ever brewery in BC comes out with a Gose so we decide to live dangerously. *Disclaimer: I love Gose and I’ve enjoyed a lot of great ones brewed in BC this summer, that sentence was used purely for entertainment purposes.
  • May 25th: We decide that the easiest way to get the Steinbier effect is heat up granite rocks in old kegs that we’ve cut holes into. We can then move the kegs into a vessel and pump the wort into that vessel and then back out again. Simple!
  • July 24th (9:00am): Brew Day. I go grab some coffee and meet up with the guys at the brewery. We begin heating the rocks in the kegs over a propane burner. Eric has a neat temperature gun. I hope it’s not expensive.
  • July 24th (11:00am): Sebastian brought some crazy beers and it would be impolite to not start drinking them.
  • July 24th (11:01am): Eric reminds us that we should probably do the forklift driving and all the hot rocks stuff before drinking. That’s why he’s also the Safety Manager.
  • July 24th (12:13pm): Eric lifts the hot rock kegs up with our forklift and Sebastian guides them into Pacific Breeze’s tank with an oven mitt. That’s right, an oven mitt. We all sigh with relief as the rocks are in the vessel and no one has died yet.
  • July 24th (12:30pm): Eric yells at Chardonnay to start the pump and we all lean over the tank watching the wort run and caramelize over the hot rocks. Steam builds, Sebastian says “who’s stupid idea was this?” we all laugh, drink more beer, and let Chardonnay deal with the rest of the work.

We’re super excited about this collab and hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it! Thanks to Sebastian at Freigeist for coming by to brew with us. If you’re ever making a trip to Germany definitely pop into Freigeist Bierkultur.

The Steel & Oak x Freigeist Steinbier collab will be released on September 8th in our Tasting Room and shipping out to select liquor stores shortly thereafter.

-Jorden

 

A Note on the City of New West

New West / NWHeritage.org

I’m a pusher of New Westminster. I think it’s the best city in the entire world and I love it with all of my heart. I was born here, I grew up here, we opened our brewery here, and my wife (also from New West) and I will be raising our son here.

However, when you own a business (especially a small one) cities can sometimes be difficult to deal with. Items pop up, whether it be road construction, increases in taxes, bylaws, etc., that make it harder on a business. I’ll be honest, I believe that most of these are necessary evils in order for any city to run and for New West to continue to become the city that we all want it to be. It doesn’t make it any less of a pain in the ass though.

Now one of my favourite things about our city is the communication that can be had by picking up the phone and instantly getting someone on the other line that can help you directly. I don’t think there are a lot of breweries in Vancouver that have this luxury. Maybe Brassneck, cause… well… they’re Brassneck.

Back to my story. Last night I received a phone call from our Tasting Room staff saying that our lounge was unusually quiet for a Thursday night. I drove down to the brewery to find that construction crews had blocked off access to Steel & Oak entirely. You could not get in. This construction (according to one of their staff) was going to continue until Sunday.  I freaked. “You aren’t going to be able to access or business on our 3 busiest days of the week!?”

So like any small business owner would do I wrote an email to the City, at 9pm. By 10pm I had 3 responses about looking at ways to fix this issue.  By 9am this morning (12 hours later) members of city staff had shown up at the brewery to rework the construction plan to suit our business needs as well as Pacific Breeze Winery behind us, who are hosting a wedding on Saturday if anyone is looking for endless wine and some Steel & Oak beer. Kidding, don’t crash it please 🙂

In 12 hours the City of New West had a solution for us.

Now I understand that these solutions are not always doable. I also understand that there are other businesses who are hurting in New West because of Front St. construction and the current traffic issues in our city. And those are real issues that the City should be working on to improve. But I also find that in our local papers and on social media city politicians and city staff are often painted in a negative light even though quite often they are doing things that I believe better our city.

So I thought I’d share a positive story for your Friday, on how cities and businesses can work together to make sure people are able to enjoy their well deserved beer after a hard work week.

– Jorden