status

Status update mid November 2016

It’s been a month since our last status update, and through that time we’ve had some really encouraging moments and some really disappointing ones. Follow our progress over the past month, since mid-October.

Property Search

Blackfoot Dining Room Rendering

A rendering of the interior floor plan for a location near the Calgary Farmers’ Market that Prairie Dog Brewing was considering leasing before pulling their offer due to issues with the landlord.

We decided to pull our offer for the South Calgary leasehold near the Blackfoot Farmers’ Market, which we’ve been working on since late August, and are back to square one with respect to our property search. Our decision to end the offer largely revolved around the dismal behaviour of the landlord over the past several months and other red flags that arose during lease negotiations, which we couldn’t ignore. We won’t say the name of the landlord here but over the past few months we have heard many warnings and stories about them, so perhaps this won’t come as a surprise to those of you that do know who they are. Anyhow, we are engaging with more brokers and widening our search parameters, as we are blocked on moving forward with of our project until we have a location secured. Although we are getting really impatient and chomping at the bit to get a space, we won’t sign a lease for a location unless the landlord can demonstrate that they truly want their tenants to be successful in addition to themselves (which they should want for a variety of reasons).

AGLC

We recently met with the AGLC representative that will be assigned to our business on an ongoing basis. The AGLC is the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission — the government agency responsible for taxing beer sales in the province and ensuring that liquor is served in a manner consistent with our societal values and ideals. The AGLC are the ones we have to answer to if we make a mistake, so we were a little nervous meeting up with them for the first time. However, any nervousness was dispelled within a couple minutes of getting in a room with our rep, who didn’t fit the stereotype of a regulator in appearance or the way he spoke, which was candid and friendly. We really appreciated the meeting and learned a lot from the AGLC, much of which we wished we knew months ago. We definitely recommend that anyone seriously considering opening a brewery get in contact with the AGLC as early as possible; there is a lot more to know than what is found in the handbooks and the regulations are constantly changing.

Calgary Economic Development

We were in touch with Calgary Economic Development (CED) back in early Spring, but we were not in Calgary yet and the relationship dissolved as we got busy with our move and subsequent priorities. Finally, we made the effort to get in touch with the CED and were thrilled to find out that they have a representative whose job it is to foster the creation of Calgary agricultural jobs and industry, from the farm all the way to the table, as well as scientific research and development. Guess what, that includes breweries! We scheduled a meeting with CED to discuss our business plans, and they have already been connecting us with other Calgarians and local businesses that we are engaging with in various ways, or will engage with in the future. CED is partially owned by the City of Calgary, which gives them an “in” with the City and could help in cases where permits are held up or where information is just hard to come by (as well as other things like helping with real estate). On the private side of things, CED is owned and led by a consortium of Calgary business people that are well-connected and able to provide valuable guidance. Regardless of your industry, if you are planning on starting a business in Calgary, CED are your friends, talk to them as early as possible.

Home-Brewery Move

We’ve talked many times about how we brew at home frequently in order to develop our recipes and try new styles of beer. Laura and I have been living with my parents since we moved back to Calgary, and Tyler and I have been brewing out of my mother’s single car garage, completely taking it over and forcing her to park on the street. Recently Tyler and Sarah found a great house for rent in Douglasdale with a large, insulated double car garage, with ample space for all the brewery equipment and even an  indoor office area for our lab equipment (yessss!).  So a couple of weeks ago we moved everything over to their place and spent much of our time since then building a more permanent, well-organized brewery in the garage.

We originally intended to move our homebrewing setup to our leasehold, where it will be used as a commercial pilot system, as soon as we gained access, but our visit with the AGLC made it clear that we won’t be able to do that until we are licensed to sell beer, so we will be brewing at home for a long time. Throughout the move we also added a third conical fermenter and expanded our homemade glycol chiller setup, which ensures that fermentation temperatures never get too high (which can cause a variety of off-flavours in the finished beer). Today we brewed a Berliner Weisse and it was the smoothest brew day we’ve had since back in California, purely on account of the improved layout and organization of the brewery.

Fun Beer Experiments

Over the past year, the majority of our brewing efforts have been focused on beer that the average Calgarian would find approachable and could enjoy over and over again, especially if their reference point and expectations are based on the typical selection of styles already found on draft throughout the Calgary area, such as tame wheat beers, raspberry-flavoured seasonals, hefeweizens, and IPAs. We love those styles and drink them often, but we want to introduce our community to a wider variety of flavour combinations in beer. With us nearing completion on many of our “approachable” beers, we are finally able to move onto a few of our more interesting beer projects. Here are a few we are working on now – some of these may end up in the Prairie Dog brewpub, some may not.

Oaked Bourbon Blackberry Porter

Porter, with its slightly sweet caramel or toffee notes, dark chocolate undertones and robust maltiness, is a style ripe for experimentation. Much like with chocolate, many other flavours are complementary to the style, such as fruits, nuts, coffee and even tropical flavours like coconut or mango. To this end, I’ve always wanted to try a dark fruit like blackberry in a porter. I’ve tried a few blackberry porters in the past, but I’ve never liked them very much — something was always missing. To my mind, the smell and taste of blackberries recalls an intense, fruity red wine sipped deep in a cool wine cellar somewhere in Napa county, with the smell of oak barrels permeating my nostrils and commingling with the wine in some magical way. Why can’t beer do this? Of course it can! We drew a portion of our most recent batch of porter into an alternate vessel to prepare it for the experiment. Into the beer we added wonderful smelling lightly-toasted oak chips, which had been soaking for several days in American Bourbon whisky (which itself smells and tastes of intense oak and sterilizes the oak chips). Finally, we added several pounds of pureed blackberries to the mix, which will cause it to undergo a secondary fermentation over the coming few days. We will take samples of the beer daily and keg it off when the oak flavour is at desirable levels.

Chocolate Peanut-Butter Porter

As mentioned above, porter is great for experimentation with nuts, and the style already tends to have some chocolate notes from the malt, so why not try making a chocolate peanut-butter porter? Of course, when anyone thinks of chocolate and peanut butter, it is hard not to think of Reese’s Pieces, which I have to admit may have been an inspiration for this beer; however, it is important to remember that Reese’s Pieces are extremely sweet, and it would be very difficult to achieve anything resembling that flavour in a beer without forgoing fermentation altogether, not to mention the beer would be very hard to drink in any quantity. So instead we set out to make a beer that resembles dark milk chocolate with peanuts, like the toppings on a Peanut-Buster Parfait.

Because we wanted to work from a common base porter and make all our additions post-fermentation, we needed a way to add sweetness and body to the beer. Lactose, the sugar found in milk and unfermentable by beer yeast, does the job nicely. Further, the lactose may help the drinker recall the flavours of ice cream treats with dark chocolate and nuts.

Now for the peanuts. Peanuts are full of oils and fats, which are an enemy of beer both because they stale rapidly and because the fats destroy head retention. We are not equipped to remove the fat from peanuts, but thankfully someone has already done that for us with a product called PB2. PB2 is made by squishing roasted peanuts in a specialized press until the oils and fats separate out and can be removed. In the end, less than 15% of fats remain, making the product better for beer making than anything else. Additionally, because the peanuts are pulverized into a powder, they are easy to introduce at various points throughout the brewing process, such as into the fermenter, as we did after mixing the PB2 with finished porter on a stovetop and boiling for sanitation.

Finally, the chocolate. The base beer already has notes of chocolate derived from specially roasted malts, but we really want the beer to scream “chocolate”, so that isn’t enough. We found high-quality organic cacao nibs that would do the trick nicely; we wanted to add these to the fermenter too, but they must be sanitized first, which presents other opportunities. Much of the flavour of the cacao nibs is soluble in alcohol, but the low levels found in our porter may not be enough to extract sufficient flavour from the nibs, so we soaked them in the same American Bourbon whisky that we used for the blackberry porter above. Why Bourbon in this beer? Well, aside from the obvious woody complexity it adds, Bourbon is loaded with vanillins pulled from its oak cask. The vanillins impart typical vanilla flavours and aromas, and a perception of sweetness much like you’d find in vanilla ice cream.

This beer will undergo a small secondary fermentation due to some sugar in the PB2 mixture, and will probably be ready to drink in 4-5 days – we are very eagerly awaiting its completion.

Berliner Weisse

Berliner Weisse is a highly carbonated, refreshing straw-coloured beer of German origins with very low levels of alcohol (around 3% ABV) and noticeable acidic or tart character. Though the beer can be quite sour at first, it is very easy to drink and gaining popularity rapidly. The tart acidity is the result of higher than normal levels of lactic acid in the beer (the same acid that makes your muscles sore after a workout, or that makes yogurt taste sour). How a brewer gets the lactic acid into their beer is a matter of preference and personal style, and can be as simple as directly adding laboratory-grade acid to the finished beer, or complicated by the use of probiotic bacteria to create lactic acid from the sugars in the beer.

Since late last year, we have been working on a method of safely and reliably culturing wild Lactobacillus, a bacteria that creates lactic acid as a by-product of sugar consumption, and the same organism that makes milk go sour. The culture grows in a “sour mash”, which starts as most beers do with a typical mix of grains and hot water, but is cooled after saccharification to a temperature where lactobacillus thrive. After cooling, the mash is inoculated with some Alberta barley, purged of all oxygen, and sealed for a number of days while being held at a warm temperature. Some days later the sour mash mix is opened, tested for taste and acidity, and blended back into a regular non-sour wort to achieve the desired flavour profile before boiling/sterilizing it. The past several days we have gone through this process using Alberta two-row barley as our inoculant and equipment that we’ve adapted to facilitate our sour mash procedure. This morning we brewed the remainder of our base beer and blended with our sour mash to the desired effect, perfectly achieving our planned sugar content and acidity range. The beer is currently fermenting away and will not be ready to try for at least a week, but samples of the beer as it went into the fermenter are promising.

Expect to find a write-up here at some point in the future about the sour mashing process we have developed.

CAMRA Cicerone Training

CAMRA Alberta is a volunteer-driven organization devoted to the growth of craft beer culture through education and promotion, and are involved in many of the beer-related events throughout Alberta. We have been members for a few months now and are happy to be a part of such an organization. CAMRA’s latest events are part of their Master Class Beer Education Series, are a three-part course devoted to training attendees about beer styles and off-flavours, with the goal being to better prepare attendees to pass a Cicerone exam (the Cicerone program is the beer equivalent of the Sommelier program for wine). Several members of Prairie Dog have taken part in the training so far, which has been quite informative, and we will be attending the upcoming off-flavour class, the last in the series. We are eager to see how well we perform at another round of sensory analysis and curious to compare CAMRA’s methods for setting up and organizing the tasting against the methods we recently developed.

Well, those are all of the interesting events and developments of the past month that we can think of. Interested in how our beers turn out? Want to learn more about our sour mash? Follow us or message us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, we’d love to chat more.

Status update mid October 2016

We have not posted a status update since August, which may make it look like not a lot has been going on, but the reality is that we’ve been quite busy and haven’t found time to put everything into a blog post. I’ll do my best to try to cover all of the milestones that have happened since the prior status update.

Late August: Tyler and Sarah Arrive

Sarah and Tyler go up the hill after fetching many carboys of water.

Sarah and Tyler hauling filtered water from our neighbor’s house up the driveway. Our house has a water softener that wrecks the water for brewing.

In late August our co-founders Tyler Potter and Sarah Goertzen arrived in Calgary, permanently. The two were living down in California up until July and had then taken a long cross-Canada road trip over the summer before arriving in Calgary. Their arrival allowed us to move forward with many more things in parallel, start into serious lease negotiations and legal work, and to do much more homebrewing and recipe development.

Late August: Found a Promising Leasehold

A rendering of a potential facade for the Prairie Dog brewpub.

A rendering of a potential facade for the Prairie Dog brewpub.

In late August we found a leasehold that we think really matches our vision, located in South Calgary near the Calgary Farmer’s Market. We are currently in negotiations for this space and really hope everything works out there for a possession date in January 2017. We are currently working on designs for the interior and exterior of the space.

Late August: Visited Revelstoke

View of a cloudy meadow on Mt. Revelstoke

View of a cloudy meadow on Mt. Revelstoke

At the end of August, all four of us went to Revelstoke for a few days to decompress and to take a tour of Mt. Begbie Brewing, where Tyler’s cousin works. We really enjoyed the brewery tour (and their beer), and partook in some of the other local attractions such as hiking on Mt. Revelstoke and the Pipe Mountain Coaster, and camped while we were there.

Early September: Attended First Yeast Wranglers Meeting

As long as we’ve been planning to move back to Calgary, we’ve been stoked about becoming involved in the Cowtown Yeast Wranglers, Calgary’s largest homebrew club. Unfortunately, we didn’t have an opportunity to attend any of the club’s meetings in the first part of the year before their summer hiatus, so September was the first meeting we could be a part of. The September meeting included judging of a plethora of homebrewed beers made with Red Shed malts. Red Shed had sponsored the competition by donating the malts and helped judge the beers. I was really happy with the level of creativity that the homebrewers showed and the quality of most of the beers. We are delighted to report that homebrewing is definitely strong in Calgary.

Early September: Visited Half Hitch Brewing

Half Hitch Brewing is a taproom/packaging brewery located out in Cochrane and is one of the latest additions to the Calgary-area brewing scene. We were invited out to the brewery by David Neilly, a retired brewer from Wild Rose and founder of the Yeast Wranglers, who is helping the family at Half Hitch with their brewing. We had a really awesome brewery tour with David and talked at length with Chris Heier, Half Hitch’s President, about their experiences so far in the business. It was a really great time and we would strongly recommend you take a trip out there to take a visit.

Mid September: Visited Hobo Malt/Bear and the Flower Farm

Hobo Malt was founded recently by Christopher Fasoli, just East of Irricana, Alberta. Chris has a classic homebrewer attitude, building a lot of his own malting equipment from scratch, and is willing to experiment with small-batch (<1 ton) malting processes to produce unique malts that can only be found here in Alberta. We really liked what we saw and are excited to work with Chris in the future.

At the same time as starting a malting business, Chris and his wife, Jessica, also started a pig farm, which they call The Bear and the Flower. This is not your typical pig farm – pigs are pastured, pampered, and fed a healthy diet of non-GMO, antibiotic-free feed. You can already find Bear and the Flower pigs at several Calgary establishments, and we hope to add Prairie Dog to that list after we open our doors in 2017.

Mid September: First Off-Flavour Tasting Event

Off-flavor tasting night

Discussion at the first Prairie Dog Off-Flavour Tasting Night.

If you’ve been following the blog, you probably already know about our first Off-Flavour Tasting Event, where we brought together a collection of homebrewers and beer enthusiasts and made them drink some really awful beer, for science. The event was a great success and we plan on holding another one sometime in the near future. Please read the blog post linked above and send us a private-message on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram if you are interested in attending one of these in the future.

Late September: Alberta Beer Week and Calgary Oktoberfest

Every September, Alberta Beer Festivals celebrates Alberta Beer Week. The week coincides with Oktoberfest celebrations all over the Northern hemisphere, which celebrate the harvest and availability of beer. As part of the celebrations, Alberta Beer Festivals held a fairly large Oktoberfest at the Stampede grounds. Tyler and I went to the festival on both Friday and Saturday while the girls were out of town. We were pleased to find most of the Alberta breweries present and serving a variety of traditional and non-traditional beer and one-off casks, and the festival had a variety of food offerings as well as food trucks outside. While at the festival we ran into Graham Sherman, a co-founder of Toolshed Brewing. Graham was really friendly and encouraging, and so we set up a meeting with him for the following week to check out the brewery.

Late September: Toured Toolshed Brewing

We met with Graham on a frosty morning for a tour of Toolshed Brewing while they were closed and things were a little quieter. Graham took quite a bit of time out of his day to take us through his entire operation, showing off the new canning line and answering our questions about equipment, ingredients, and methods. What was most impressive was Graham’s willingness to share information about the business side of starting and running Toolshed; he gave us ideas about ways to allow people to invest in our brewery that we hadn’t thought of before, we really appreciate his openness. Since our tour, Tyler has helped Toolshed can beer on a voluntary basis, as well.

Late September: Completed First Draft of Business Plan

Businessing… #prairiedogbrewing #yycstartup #brewpubcomingsoon

A photo posted by Prairie Dog Brewing (@prairiedogbeer) on

So, it may sound silly, but up until the end of September, we didn’t have a completed business plan to show to anybody. We took a bottom-up approach to the financials, which required about eight months to put together and revise to a point that we were confident in them. Further, much of the business plan is dependent on the location we are looking at, so we couldn’t finish it off until we had settled on something. After loads of late nights, we are happy to say that we completed the first draft of our business plan, at over 125 pages long. We are now revising some aspects of the financials based on feedback from lenders.

Late September: Annex Ales Root Beer Launch

#prairiedogbrewing and @iamjeuro hanging out enjoying @annexales rootbeer launch @bandedpeak_brewing

A photo posted by Prairie Dog Brewing (@prairiedogbeer) on

Annex Ales is an up-and-coming Calgary brewing company founded by Andrew Bullied, formerly of Village Brewing. Andrew is still building his brewery space but has been working with the guys over at Banded Peak to brew pilot batches, and has already launched his own craft soda brand, Annex Soda Mfg. Annex held the launch party for its first soda, a craft root beer, at the Banded Peak taproom on September 29, 2016, and we were there to take part in it. The root beer was really great, and it should be — Andrew said it took him something like 35 test batches to arrive at the current revision. We hope that Annex keeps making the root beer after they have their brewery and liquor production permit because we’d love to carry it on tap at Prairie Dog as a non-alcoholic option. Of course, while at Banded Peak, we also needed to partake in some of their excellent beer, too.

Early October: OnBeer.Org Article about Prairie Dog Brewing

On October 3rd, @abbeerguy Jason Foster published an article about us on his website based on an interview he conducted with me sometime in late August. The article did a good job of explaining our ideology and plans, and we really appreciate Jason putting the time into promoting and educating the public about Alberta beer. If you are interested in Alberta beer, please follow Jason’s website or subscribe to him on twitter.

Early October: Went to Denver and Attended GABF

The Great American Beer Festival may be the largest beer festival in the world. With thousands of beers and hundreds of breweries exhibiting their creations, and tens of thousands of attendees, the pulse of craft beer can definitely be felt at GABF. Prairie Dog’s founders all traveled to Denver to attend the GABF this year, as well as to partake in many of the local Denver-area breweries. We also paid a special visit to New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins and Avery Brewing in Boulder. The trip was a huge success; we tasted hundreds of beers, visited sixteen breweries and several tap houses, and of course attended the GABF. Stay tuned to the blog for a larger description of the Denver trip in the future.

Mid October: Set up Calgary BABES

As part of our plan to work with the community and ensure that women are included in the craft beer movement, Laura has founded a Calgary chapter of the Barley’s Angels, a women’s group devoted to craft beer education and appreciation. The chapter name is the Barley’s Angels Beer Education Society of Calgary, or Calgary BABES, for short. The chapter will host events at various local breweries where women can learn about the various styles of craft beer and the offerings of local craft brewers, as well as how beer is made, beer off-flavours, and a lot more. Laura is currently building a facebook page for the group, and expect to see more here on the Prairie Dog website in the future. Please contact Laura at babes@prairiedogbrewing.ca if you are interested in joining the group.

Okay, that’s about all of the status updates I can think of right now, although I’m sure I missed one or two things along the way. All of us at Prairie Dog hope you enjoyed this post and look forward to any feedback you have. Make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for more real-time updates about what is going on with Prairie Dog and its founders, or craft beer in general.

Status update early August 2016

Prairie Dog Level at the Palliser One parking garage in Calgary, AB.

Prairie Dog Level at the Palliser One parking garage in Calgary, AB.

TL;DR: Not all founders are full-time in Calgary yet, but we met up recently to finalize plans, visited with other brewers and got a good a feel for Calgary craft beer. We’ve been looking at properties and are getting serious about a couple of them, but nothing picked yet. Finalizing business plan and making a lot of beer to develop recipes, can use feedback. Anticipating opening no earlier than July 2017.

Starting a new business is a complicated affair. Being a producer of alcohol, a brewery may be one of the most regulated businesses you can start up, even more so when you add food production to the mix. There is a lot for us to do and a lot of things have to go on in the background before many of the sexy, customer facing announcements can be made. However, there have been a few interesting developments of the past few months that we can talk about.

The Three Ranges Brewing Company are a small-town company making full-flavoured beer in Valemount, BC.

3RBC are a small-town company making full-flavoured beer in Valemount, BC.

In late May Laura and I went up to Valemount, BC to work at Three Ranges Brewing Company (3RBC), which was founded by our cousins Michael Lewis and Rundi Anderson. We spent about nine days in Valemount, and I spent most of my time at the brewery helping Michael and his assistant brewer Clayton in all capacities. While there I prepped and filled a lot of Sanke kegs, learned to use industrial chemicals like caustic and peracetic acid to clean out tanks post-fermentation, harvested and reused yeast, mixed a honey addition for a batch, and of course brewed a lot of beer. Laura and I also spent time learning more of the back-office side of things, getting familiarized with software and accounting, ingredient purchasing, and filing for excise tax and provincial markups. I also learned about tap maintenance and even made a delivery to a local customer. It was a lot of twelve to sixteen hour days that felt like three weeks of work condensed into one, but we had a blast and were able to learn a lot of things that you just can’t do at home as homebrewers. A huge thank-you goes out to Michael for letting us monopolize his time for the week and for taking so much of his limited personal time to go over our financials and assumptions with us.

Shortly after this time we began an engagement with First Key Consulting out of Vancouver, who are providing us with feedback and advice for our business plan. We learned about First Key on recommendation from another startup brewery owner we had met in Valemount, Bjorn Butow, who is founding CrossRoads Brewery in Prince George, BC. FYI – CrossRoads are currently looking for a qualified head brewer and brewery manager, spread the word if you know someone.

In early July our partners Tyler and Sarah relocated their belongings to Calgary, leaving the San Francisco Bay area behind. At the same time, our Executive Chef flew to Calgary so that we could all be together and get on an even footing, finalizing many of the details about our business plan and familiarizing everyone with the local Calgary scene. The Calgary Stampede was going on at this time, adding to the sense of what Calgary is all about.

During our “business summit”, we visited several local businesses and breweries. At Trolley 5, another brewpub that opened only a couple of weeks prior to the Stampede, we were lucky enough to bump into Ernie Tsu, one of the owners and a veteran of the Calgary scene. Ernie gave us a private tour and had a lot of great advice for us — we were thrilled that he was so eager to share information and give us pointers, and we are certain that he will be a good friend of the brewery moving forward. And he took the time to do this during the first Saturday night of Stampede!

Later on the same night we visited Last Best, and quickly made a connection with Phil Brian, their Director of Operations and brewmaster. Phil shared samples of his latest Berlinerweisse from a brite tank and ended up chatting with us over pints of his other excellent beers for over three hours! We had been looking at leasing space nearby and asked Phil what he thought about having another brewpub within spitting distance of his own — his answer, “Wonderful!”. Phil believes that the more breweries we have in Calgary the more we all benefit, and having breweries clustered together makes it a lower-risk proposition for someone to go to the effort of commuting down to the Beltline and spending an evening there, since there would be more options if their first target was packed or closed for a private event, making the area more of a brewery destination. We really like the Beltline area and are currently in talks with a landlord there about a space, but there are significant financial and logistical barriers to entry here, so we are also considering other options.

Also during the same week we made pilgrimages to BrewstersWild Rose and Dandy. We would have loved to visit many other breweries as a group but unfortunately ran out of time. Tyler and Sarah left after our summit to begin a six week cross-Canada road trip, something they had to do before starting full time on the brewery, knowing that it could be a long time before any of us get the time to be away for more than a few days at a time. We expect Tyler and Sarah to return to Calgary in early September, and will be out and involved in the scene much more after they return.

One thing we can’t forget to mention is our visit to Red Shed Malting near Red Deer, Alberta. We have always planned on using ingredients from locally-owned businesses, and Red Shed fits the bill perfectly. We met up with brothers Matt and Joe Hamill, who have set up a small but relatively sophisticated malting facility on their family farm. Matt and Joe are homebrewers turned businessmen, and are no slouches when it comes to malting. The two use barley from their own family farm and surrounding fields to produce both a base malt (pale 2-row), which forms the majority of backbone in a beer, and more complex roasted varieties that can give beer caramel, raisin, plumb, chocolate and coffee flavors and aromas. We toured their facility and picked up some of everything so that we could get a feel for the different malts and develop recipes that exemplify the terroir of their local barley. Since the visit we used their malts to brew up a batch of Southern English brown ale, specifically chosen because it is a malt-forward beer that highlights the qualities of the malts being used, and is easy to drink at about 4.5% ABV. The beer came out quite delicious and I can find very few faults with this first recipe, which I developed specifically for the malts available, which begins with a delicious nuttiness and finishes with coffee and toffee dominating and leaving an aftertaste that begs you to drink another. The beer is deliberately dry for a brown, without a lot of residual sugar or cloying aftertaste, which I prefer in my beers in general. Definitely expect to see this beer brewed again and more Red Shed malt used in Prairie Dog’s future!

Beautiful day at Red Shed Malting

A beautiful day out at Red Shed Malting near Red Deer, AB.

As we mentioned earlier, we have been looking around a space for lease for quite a while, all the way back to April or May. We have visited many locations and found more than one with good potential to be a brewpub. Every space has benefits and drawbacks either based on the space itself, the location, the mentality of the landlord, or cost. At this point we haven’t committed to any single location, but have engaged with a couple of landlords to begin more serious negotiations, one in the Beltline and the other in South Calgary near the Calgary Farmer’s Market. The location we choose will have a tremendous impact on the details of our business plan; a location downtown would have a very different set of demographics, operating hours and costs than a location in a business park, so our plan will not really be finished until we have settled on one location.

Once we sign a lease for a location, the rubber will finally meet the road on this project. From the moment we have a location picked out we can begin working with designers, architects and engineers to design the space and decide on any necessary building modifications. All of these modifications and a full sets of drawings must be submitted to the landlord for approval, then to the city for permitting and approval of the land use. A condition of our lease will be obtaining city approval for our land use and building permits from the city, which may take two to four months, after which we could physically gain access to the space and begin work such as demolition, adding floor drains and sloping floors, bringing in a boiler and building the boiler room to contain it, upgrading electrical service, HVAC, fire suppression systems, sewage, and water, as necessary, and at some point, ordering and obtaining our brewhouse, fermenters, and serving tanks. After this we need to build the restaurant and kitchen, update building facades, get inspections from the fire department, health department, and building inspectors, as well as putting in our applications with the AGLC and Federal Government to be allowed to produce and sell beer. After the brewhouse arrives, we have a ton of setup to do with the manufacturer, and plumbing in of various systems such as steam, water, and glycol. At least one chiller system will need to be installed on the roof of our building, as well. Then we have to think about staffing and start sourcing ingredients, building out menus and brewing calibration/test batches.

As should be abundantly clear by now, this is a massive project and it will take a long time to get to a point where we are actually producing beer and opening our doors to the public. We anticipate it taking until at least July of 2017 before our doors open based on our current situation. In the mean time, we are doing our best to get out there and meet other local business owners and as many brewers as possible, and we will be working to meet with more of the local homebrewers through the Yeast Wranglers club and other efforts.

Glycol chiller got a facelift and now will cool two fermenters at once. Also all protected behind a GFCI.

A photo posted by Gerad Coles (@geradprairie) on

We are brewing a lot of beer at home right now, iterating on recipes as much as possible so that we have a large set of well-developed and proven recipes to draw upon at opening. We recently increased our homebrewing capacity from 10 to 15 gallons per batch as well as adding a second fermenter, allowing us to now produce about three times more beer than before. If you are interested in learning more about the process of brewing beer, shoot me an email at the same address and we can arrange for you to work with us for a day while we brew beer.

We are also very excited because we have tickets to the sold-out Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver, Colorado in October, where we hope to learn more about what others are doing in the industry around North America and taste many fine examples of beers made from high-quality local ingredients by passionate brewers, just like ours.

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