Once upon a time, in a land so beautiful they put the adjective on their license plates, there was a corridor. And if one traveled along this corridor, this narrow tract of land starting at the sea and reaching for the sky, one would bear witness to a beauty so profound that scholars gape and artists weep. Within the confines of the corridor, this so-called sea to sky, there was a brewery. It wasn’t the first of its kind in the region, nor was it the latest, but a little over a month ago, for a magical moment in time, it was the greatest. I use that adjective without exaggeration and by no means does it diminish the other breweries who bath in the sea and stare at the sky. For it was they and them that added to the one, becoming something so much more than e’re there was before. Like fucking Voltron.
Wait-wait-wait. What are you talking about? I’m one paragraph in and all I’ve got are flowery words about a flowery place and a link to a kids cartoon from the 80s.
What I’m talking about is a collaboration involving the breweries in Sea to Sky Country. All eight of them. I don’t have time to pump the tires of all the breweries in this BFF but I sure can list and link them so you can do some exploring of your own:
In Squamish you’ve got Howe Sound Brewing Company, A-Frame Brewing Company and Backcountry Brewing. In Whistler you’ve got Whistler Brewing Company, Coast Mountain Brewing and Whistler Brewhouse. And in Pemberton you will have Back 40 Brewing and the Pemberton Beerworks (The Beer Farmers) both of which to be opening soon. The Sea to Sky craft beer situation is poppin’ like an overly carbonated Bomber-Bottle Baby!
So one day, while thinking and drinking deeply on ways to promote the craft beer community within the corridor, Kevin Winter (Owner/Brewer at Coast) came upon the idea of a collaboration beer with ALL the aforementioned breweries in attendance and helping out. Calls were made and a recipe for a session ale was crafted and all the parties involved had a gander and agreed, with various versions of, “Yes. I’m onboard!” A brew-day was chosen and representatives from the aforementioned breweries were all on hand to stir the pot, as it were.
A brewery collab can take on many forms: from ingredient-grabbing to pot-stirring to hand-holding while pint-hoisting. And from the sounds of things, all that and more was in the mix that day. So much so that extra ingredients (oats) were added, some time targets were missed and the ABV steadily rose, to the point where the finished product could no longer be classified as “sessionable” or simply an “ale”. And so, thru serendipity and fortunate accidents and all those cooks in one damn kitchen, a fresh-hopped Hazy Pale was born!
Oh, did I not mention the hops? Well let me do so now. Ben Reeder, from Backcountry, brought bushels of Centennial from Maple Bay Hop Farm on the Island and these were cryogenically frozen (using liquid nitrogen) and smashed up for dry-hopping.
And as for the fresh-hopped additions, Sam Quinlan from Harvesters Of Organic Hops (HOOH) brought the thunder with thirty kilograms worth of certified organic Cascade hops from his farm up in Lillooet. Starting at noon, Sam picked, bagged, bundled & bugged outta Lillooet en route for Whistler. The hops made it into the tank around three o’clock in the afternoon and I have a couple things to say about that. First of all, three hours from hop-bine to brew-brine? That’s. Fucking. Fresh. Secondly, take a look at Sam’s car:
How good must that car have smelled? I mean, just look at the size of the bloody air fresheners? Forget those dangly, wanna-be pine trees people put on their rear-view! Sam had big-ass bags of high-concentration hops to huff for the haul. I’m getting woozy just thinking about it!
There are many ways to skin a cat. That is a saying that we, as a society, should think about abandoning. I worry and weep at having to explain it’s meaning to my 7 year old, cat-loving daughter, but digress. Like a good ol’ cat-skinning party, there are also many ways to prep a hop for beer-making. You’ve got the previously mentioned liquid nitrogen smash route, and that’s super cool and science-y and stuff. Also, you can just toss them into the tank, which is a little less sexy but definitely gets the job done. Or you could dump the hops into a bucket and go all medieval on their ass with a weed-whacker. That way seems pretty satisfying and was how most of the HOOH hops were handled. The sticky aftermath was then put into a cheese-cloth, tossed in and left to marinate. And just a writer’s note here: liquid nitrogen? Hop-whacking? Brewing beer seems pretty awesome and I think I’ve missed my calling.
So with the dirty deed done and the beer developing, all the parties involved hugged and high-five’d and made their way back to the various corners of the corridor they call home. Insert clock with rapidly advancing hands here. And… BoomDone!
The end result, the Fresh-hopped Sea to Sky Hazy Pale, is delicious. It smells like an ocean breeze and looks like the Sun coming up over the mountains and tastes like the third turn in a powder run once you’ve locked-in and found your groove. As of this writing the beer was available in the A-Frame, Backcountry & Coast Mountain taprooms, with a couple of Whistler bars sprinkled into the mix. I was fortunate enough to grab a pint and a growler fill but fear, by the time you read this BFF the magic may have dissipated. If that is the case then I’m truly sorry, but don’t despair. Don’t go chasing waterfalls, hurling yourself off high places just yet. Wait a bit. First of all (and in all seriousness) nothing is so tragic and sad that time can’t heal. Second of all, Kevin hinted that this many-headed Brew-Beast may return next year under a different roof. An annual collaboration in the Sea to Sky? Now that is something to look forward to!