Bridge Brewing Company has been in the news quite a bit lately with the planned opening of the new brewery for Halifax this Summer. I recently exchanged emails with Peter Burbridge, the man behind the new brewery to complete the following Q & A:
Atlantic Canada Beer Blogger (ACBB): Tell me about your background as a home brewer.
Peter Burbridge (PB): I have been all grain home brewing for about 3 years now. As for number of batches I looked over my notes and I am approaching the century mark.
ACBB: What are your favourite beers to brew?
PB: I love to brew Belgain Abbey style beers, especially doubles. I have also been experimenting lately with a farmhouse saison style beer, I love how open to interpretation this style is and we will definitely be brewing one at Bridge.
ACBB: Why did you decide to get into brewing professionally?
PB: As I’m sure it is for everyone deciding to brew was born from a passion for craft beer and the desire to create something with your own hands. I was deeply into coffee (the flavour not the caffeine) in my early 20s and had decided that I wanted to start my own coffee related business. SInce I didn’t know what the first step to starting a business was I decided to do an MBA and during that time my interest began to shift from coffee towards beer. While studying at Dalhousie I came across the concept of a zero emissions brewery in an industrial ecology class, where traditional waste streams are diverted from landfills and used to create new products. The concept stuck with me and as I considered the brewing scene in Halifax I came to believe that there was room for an innovative young brewing company to gain some traction. That was over three years ago and since then I have been doing everything I can to get this business off the ground.
ACBB: What resources have you used to research brewing professionally?
PB: The wonderful thing about the internet age is that you can learn a lot about virtually any topic and once I decided that brewing was the direction I wanted to take I began to read as much as I could on brewing. Of course the starting point was John Palmer’s “How to Brew” an amazing online resource for anyone who wants to start home brewing. With the basics under my belt I moved on to (and am still reading) titles like “Brew Like a Monk”, “Designing Great Beer”, “Radical Brewing”, “Wild Brews: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition”, “Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the European Tradition” “Standards of Brewing: Formulas for Consistency and Excellence”, “Cellarmanship”, “Belgian Ale”, “The Brewer’s Apprentice: An Insider’s Guide to the Art and Craft of Beer Brewing, Taught by the Masters”, “New Brewing Lager Beer: The Most Comprehensive Book for Home and Microbrewers”, “The Brewers Association’s Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery”.
In addition to my own research and talking to other home brewers I am working with a professional brewer in a consulting capacity to help me transition from home to commercial brewing.
ACBB: You have a goal of becoming a zero emissions brewery. Do you know of any brewers with similar objectives? Do you have a background in environmental causes?
PB: Many people are aware of steam whistle’s efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, but fewer seem to know about Storm Brewing in Newfoundland which has implemented some of the steps in the zero emission model (www.zeri.ord).
I don’t have a background in environmental issues, but I strongly believe in the need for change in business practices . It is clear to me that the way business is conducted today is insanely wasteful and unquestionably unsustainable. I would like to have a local impact on implementing the changes that I believe are necessary. Obviously beer is not going to change the world, but the goal is to make Bridge Brewing Company into an example of what is possible when you start a business with a vision for change. I can’t afford to implement the zero emissions model out of the gate so the first step is to establish a brewery that makes great beer that people want to buy. Often people forget that business sustainability is part of environmental sustainability and not in conflict with it, or at least that is what I believe. Once the brewery doors are open we will begin to implement projects to build out the steps required in the zero emissions model and these projects and the progress will be documented on our website. We intend to operate as an open book to consumers so that our customers can feel confident that we are not engaging in green washing but actually working towards real change. In this way consumers can vote with their dollars if their values and goals align with Bridge Brewing.
ACBB: What supplies are you planning on sourcing locally?
PB: In sourcing equipment, ingredients and other products Bridge Brewing is guided by the following criteria:
- What is the most environmentally responsible decision that is still economically viable.
- What decision best supports the local economy.
The above two criteria guide the decision making process at Bridge Brewing and we follow them in the order they are listed. Sometimes the two criteria may be in conflict, for example when the most environmentally responsible option comes from outside of our local economy or when ingredients needed to craft a competitive product are not available locally.
With this framework in mind we are currently talking to a couple farmers that are interested in growing hops for us in Nova Scotia. I am optimistic that we can find a relationship with a local grower to source our hops. For the base of our beers we will be using Maritime and Quebecois malts, since the malting facility is located in Montreal these malts have traveled similar distances before coming through our doors.
ACBB: Are you planning on selling your beer through the bottling / canning and / or pubs / restaurants? Have you had any discussions so far with NSLC or Private Liquor stores regarding distribution or are you planning on selling directly to consumers?
PB: We will be bottling in 660 mL bomber bottles, kegging and selling growlers. We are currently working with one of the bars in Halifax to create a custom beer for them. We are not looking to distribute through the NSLC for now, but we will be approaching the private liquor stores. Of course we will also have a retail storefront in the North End of Halifax.
ACBB: What is your target date for having your first beer available?
PB: We are optimistically aiming for mid July, but August seems more likely.
ACBB: When are you planning on expanding to a 2nd beer offering?
PB: We are planning to open with at least two beers and with a third one not far behind.
ACBB: What kind of production system are you using and what is the capacity / batch?
PB: Our brewing system is a custom built 4.7 hL system
For additional information on Bridge Brewing Co. you can check their website or follow them on Twitter (@BridgeBrewing).
Good up-&-comin’ piece!