Profiles

AWOL Brewery, a Canadian Armed Forces Veteran-owned brewery in the Moncton region, is up and running as of this month, and celebrating its Launch Party at the All Ranks Moncton Mess this weekend. We caught up with owner and brewer, Robert Black, to learn more about his journey to open AWOL, their current and future offerings, and much more!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and AWOL?
My name is Bobby and am the brewer/owner of a new craft brewery located in Moncton, New Brunswick. I am a retired Sgt. from the Army, and started this project after my medical release in 2015. AWOL Brewery is primarily marketed towards serving and retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as first responders, but not exclusively so. We are part of the Buy Veteran movement, and give back to Veteran non-profit organizations, through a percentage of sales from our merchandise and a selection of our seasonal/specialty beers.

Can you tell us about your brewery and plans for distribution?
The brewery is a 3 BBL (~350 litre) electric brewery, powered exclusively by solar energy, thanks to the panels on the roof of our building. While our current brewing location is not open to the public, we are focusing on providing licensees in the region with beer. The focus is on the development of the brand and getting exposure, before we expand into a new space, which could include a taproom. Where to find us on tap is always expanding, so it’s best to check the list on our website for the up-to-date information. Currently pouring at the All Ranks Moncton Mess (ARMM), Laundromat Expresso Bar, Timber Lounge, and Furnace Room in Moncton, and on the rotating taps at The Joyce Pub in Fredericton. The ARMM is not normally open to the public, except during special events.

Can you tell us about the beers you have available now, and plans for the future?
Currently, we have an American Pale Ale, Tactical Pause APA, as a regular full-time listed beer. This beer is a 5% ABV hop-forward pale ale, with German Caramel malts to give it some body and help balance out the bitterness of the Warrior and Amarillo hops used to make it 36 IBU.
Throughout the year we will be rotating different beer styles in our seasonal selection. By our second year, we plan on promoting the best performing seasonal beer to a permanent listing. Our first seasonal beer is a Smoked Amber Ale, called The Smoker, named after the (rare) post-military training exercise beer call and BBQ. Lightly smoked using traditional German Beechwood-smoked malt, along with German Caramel malts and American Hops to help balance the flavor. The Smoker Ale is at 5.1% ABV 24 IBU and displays a colour of 15 SRM. This beer pairs nicely with anything from the grill, and the smoke does not overwhelm your sense of taste.
The next seasonal beer is a Red Lager brewed with German lager yeast and German Cara malts. It weighs in at 5.0% ABV. No special for it yet, other than calling it AWOL R.E.D. Lager. All three of these will be available on tap at the Launch Party, and at the other licensees, then it’s hard at work on releasing summer seasonal beers.

What can folks expect at the Launch Party Saturday?
From 6PM on Saturday, at the All Ranks Moncton Mess (Building 47 at 299 Park Street), we are inviting the public to join the active and veteran communities to help us celebrate our launch. We will be onsite pouring our three beers, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, the BBQ will be fired up and we will have burgers and sausages available after 6:30, with merchandise such as shirts, glassware, and stickers available for purchase. And door prizes to say thank you to those who come out to support! We have more details on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

How can we keep up with the latest AWOL Brewery news?
We have Facebook and Instagram pages, and we update our website with new beer releases, merchandise, and licensees. Look for an online store for merch coming soon!

Congratulations to Robert and Julie Black on the launch of AWOL, we know it has been many years in the making!

Village Green Logo

The town of Cornwall, PEI, is 15 minutes outside of downtown Charlottetown, and offers a quiet area to stop and take a break while traveling the island. Now that stop can also include a visit to its own brewery, thanks to the launch of Modern Brewer’s Village Green. The Modern Brewer moniker is that of Bryan Carver, who has worked in beer and brewing on PEI for well over a decade, and is debuting his brand by opening the Village Green location at 30 Church Street. Over the years, Carver has worn many hats in the beer industry, including brewer, brewery consultant, equipment manufacturer representative, author, and everything in between. We caught up with Bryan in between brewing and pouring pints in the taproom.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Bryan Carver, I am the owner of Modern Brewer and the owner/brewer of Village Green in Cornwall, PE. I am a Certified Cicerone®, I write about beer on PEI for The Buzz here on the island and I have been working in the brewing industry here on PEI for close to 12 years, from keg cleaning to brewing, to design and consulting, hosting tastings and now running a taproom and nano system in Cornwall.

How did you get into the world of beer?
I have always been a beer lover. In 2000, I spent a month in Dublin ‘studying’ Irish Literature, definitely spent more time in pubs than studying. At that time Guinness was brewing a witbier called Breó, having my first pint of that was a real eye opening experience. I grew up in Ottawa, and we had a bit of exposure to the early craft beer movement, I would drink Big Rock ‘Traditional’ and ‘Grasshopper’ while also being exposed to Unibroue over in Hull, QC. I have always enjoyed trying different beers, and am often pretty grateful I have been able to make it into a living.

In 2008, I joined Gahan Brewery to help build the only operating production brewery on PEI. From there I went to Gahan House to brew for a couple years and was present for the initial growth of what would become PEI Brewing Company. I moved to the production Gahan Brewery in the year leading to the opening of the current PEI Brewing Company’s home on Kensington Road. We opened the larger brewery, perhaps one of the largest craft breweries in Atlantic Canada at the time, and I came to the realization that my perspective on brewing wasn’t aligned with the company’s anymore.

I left my position as Head Brewer from PEI Brewing when any opportunity to consult a start up brewery in New Delhi came up. I spent a little over a month in Northern India working with the team that became White Rhino Brewing. The founder Ishaan Puri had developed a thorough plan on launching the brand, and it was a great experience to work with him.

Coming back to PEI, I needed to find work close to home and landed working with DME Brewing Solutions. I spent a little time working on the shop floor, assembling pumps and working with the piping crew. Then I began to travel to install and commission breweries all over North America. During 2014, I travelled to roughly 25 different cities to work at breweries. It was a tremendous experience and gave me massive exposure to what was happening in craft beer across the continent. Eventually, my wife Amy and I were expecting our first child and I moved into an office position with DME, managing the after-sales and technical support. There I helped breweries across the globe resolve any issues they were experiencing.
I used my free time at home to study for the Certified Cicerone® exam in Halifax. I would like to write the Advanced Cicerone® exam, but that won’t really happen until we are through the pandemic.

VG Draught System

What made you decide to take the steps into opening a brewery?
When DME Brewing Solutions went into receivership and everyone lost their jobs, I decided to commit to opening a brewery. I had been working on business plans for a few years but that wasn’t gaining traction. Unfortunately, I had no money. While at DME, I had been thinking on how nano breweries operate, and what the function of a tasting room in a community was, drawing inspiration from micropubs in the UK. There was a suitable building in Cornwall that was soon to be available, and I developed a plan to squeeze a small brewery into a small building! That was the beginning of Village Green.

What is the ethos of the Modern Brewer and Village Green?
I started working in the initial business plan under the brand Modern Brewer, which is a brand of the beer we produce. Modern Brewer’s Village Green, or just Village Green, is the physical location in Cornwall. I hope to expand the Modern Brewer brand to another location or two in the coming years. We are developing a culture aimed at celebrating diversity. I feel that diversity in beer can be a great vehicle for celebrating the diversity in people.

Can you tell us about the beers you plan on offering initially?
The focus at Village Green is to create a community pub, with a diverse selection of beer. The initial plan was to brew a different beer every batch, but certain issues in the PEI Liquor Act made that cost prohibitive. We are launching with a Blonde ale and a Pale ale, to be joined soon enough by an IPA, with a few more coming in the next couple of months as well.
We’re keeping the naming of the beers simple, so you know what you’re getting! The Pale Ale comes in at 5.9%, with an estimated IBU in the high 40s. Brewed with West Coast water treatment, it features malt from Island Malt House, as well as some Vienna from away. It was fermented with Cali Ale yeast and modest dry hop of Cascade and Centennial. The 5.7% Blonde Ale features a similar grain bill, with Island Malt House Pilsner, along with some Maris Otter. It features a lower IBU, and was fermented with an English yeast strain, allowing some lovely fruity esters to shine through.

VG Stout Glass

Enough talk, how can folks enjoy your beer?
The best way is to come to the taproom, as our batches are very small at just 250 litres. The main focus will be at the taproom in Village Green, where folks can grab pints, samples, as well as growler fills (BYO clean growler). In addition to our Pale Ale and Blonde Ale, we have a handful of other Island beers pouring, always a PEI cider, as well as some wine for those looking for something different. Occasionally, a few kegs making their way to Charlottetown, mainly Hopyard, as I have a great relationship with them and have worked with them for years in different capacities. Co-owner Mike Ross was actually my boss for a year or two back in my Gahan days!

We know that a new brewery does not spring up in a vacuum. Care to give a shoutout to those who have helped you along the way?
Definitely, I have called on everyone for a favour at some point! Chris and Symond at PEI Brewing are old coworkers and always a great resource for help. Spencer Gallant at Lone Oak, Mike “Hogie” Hogan from Upstreet, Andrew “Esty” Estabrooks from Foghorn [ed note: the feeling must be mutual, as Foghorn has a Stout named Bryan in Carver’s honour!], Jeremy White at Big Spruce. All these people have been very supportive.

What can we expect from Modern Brewer in the next 2-3 years?
I want to see Village Green be established as a community hub in Cornwall. I want to be working on a production focused brewery in the next 2-3 years, with a larger packaging component and space to grow.

Let’s get nerdy! Please tell us about the brewery and unique brewhouse…
The system is designed to produce roughly 250 litres of finished beer per batch. I worked with East Arc Metalworks right on the Island, which was started by Ryan Court and Calvin Harris, two fabricators that worked at DME on the shop floor who opened their own fabrication shop. They approached me about a small system for my brewery; I was looking at other options on the larger scale home brew equipment market, but would rather give my money to East Arc, as I knew their work was excellent.
The system was basically drawn on a few pieces of notepad paper. Electric Hot Liquor Tank and Kettle, with a Mash Tun that was cladded in oak by Jordan Stetson who owns New World Foeders. Jordan is a good friend and also a former colleague from my DME days. He and his father John did most of the interior construction at Village Green as well. I can’t say enough good things about Jordan, he is a great guy and his work is exceptional.

The set up is the three vessel brew house, with six open-top fermenters, and nine serving tanks in a walk-in fridge. The serving tanks are really designed for the wine industry, but I designed a fitting using ball lock connections to convert them to work for beer. East Arc added a 4″ ferrule to each so I could clamp on my dispensing set up.

The gear at Village Green is truly one of a kind, and designed to minimize the necessity of kegs, making it more streamline for working in a taproom.

Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery you enjoy drinking?I love Saison DuPont, it’s probably my desert island beer. I love hoppy beers too, a massive fan of Firestone Walker in Paso Robles California, their Pivo Pils is another perspective changing beer for me. Also love Bell’s Beer in Michigan, if I am ever anywhere that sells Two Hearted you can bet I am picking it up.

How about favourite style or ingredient to brew with?
I always enjoy brewing a dark beer, stouts and porters just smell some incredible in the mash tun.

Congratulations to Bryan and the Village Green crew on their launch! You can pop by the taproom today to grab the first pints of their Blonde and Pale Ales. They are open Mon-Thurs 4 – 9 PM, Fri & Sat 12 – 9 PM, and Sun 1 – 6 PM. Keep up to date on the latest news on Facebook, Instagram (both Modern Brewer and Village Green have pages), and tag ’em on Twitter too! They will be announcing the details of their Beer Appreciation Society soon, so you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled so you don’t miss out!

serpent brewing logo

For the first time, the community of Spryfield has a brewery of their own. Serpent Brewing has moved into their space at the Spryfield Shopping Centre. While owner and brewer Glen O’Keefe and crew are putting the finishing touches on their retail and taproom space, the first of their Belgian-inspired beers are now available for pickup and local delivery. We caught up with Glen to learn more about his journey into brewing, Serpent Brewing’s history, and their plans for their location.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m from Port Saunders, Newfoundland, and spent my teen years in Corner Brook. I showed up in Halifax with the prog rock band Oceanic and stayed for the beer. [ed note: Listening to Trappist in the background while writing this up was pretty freaking rad, check it out]

How did you get into the world of beer?
Music was my first passion, homebrewing was something I took up in my attempt to have a hobby that didn’t completely consume my life. I don’t do hobbies anymore.

What made you decide to take the steps into opening a brewery?
After sharpening up my homebrew skills for a few years, I began serving some of my efforts at weddings and even our band’s album release. Seeing a large group of people enjoying my beer really did it for me in a similar way to performing in our band… I was looking for an out from construction as that was getting tired, and commercial brewing is easy right?

What is the culture or ethos of the brewery?
Our logo represents the beautiful harmony that’s found in harnessing of the chaotic nature of Belgian brewing: once you put that yeast in, you step away and go back to being a janitor – they are now in control. There’s something about that alchemical process that inspires all of us when it comes to brewing and that’s what the brewery is based around.

Serpent Bottles

Tell us about Serpent’s initial releases!
To start, we are offering up three of our flagship beers that we will be doing in our greatest volumes.

  • White Mountain is a 5.5% Witbier or wheat beer. It’s truly an explosion of orange peel flavor and aroma with the subtle hint of coriander at the back.
  • Patey’s Bier is our 4.6% Belgian single, my grandfather Theo Patey often home brewed as did many people from my hometown, so renaming the patersbier somehow had to be done. Our Belgian single is a pretty standard easy drinking ale, the Miller Lite of Belgium if you will. Brewed with yeast from the Westmalle trappist monastery, however brewed with a desire for drinkability on the Canadian side.
  • Eden is for our beer hop lovers, a beautiful 6.0% Belgian IPA brewed with half spicy hops from over there and citrusy hops from here. A Belgian tuxedo over an American dress. Although it’s got Belgian in the name, this beer drinks mostly like a regular NEIPA with a subtle spice hint on the back.

How can folks try your beer?
We will begin distribution to local bars/restaurants shortly, but in the meantime, 500 mL bottles are available now for curbside pickup and delivery at our space. Ordering details are on our website. Once our 60-seat taproom is open, we will operate under the standard hospitality license which allows us to serve our own product at our location (pints, flights, and growlers). We will also have a cider license and plan to do some mead.

Have you had any assistance from other breweries/people in Atlantic Canada (or elsewhere)?
Steve Crane from The Church Brewing has been like a brewing brother to me and acted officially as my mentor. Mike Gillespie from New Scotland seems to always there to answer an email, Keith Forbes from Ol’ Biddy’s Brewhouse has been very helpful. The Brewnosers homebrew club of course is where I’ve learned so much.

Where do you hope to see Serpent Brewing in the next few years?
If I can get beer flowing back to NL, establish Belgian beers as the drinkable and approachable beers that people are missing out on, and develop an extensive barrel program I would be pretty happy.

Serpent Brewhouse

Let’s get nerdy! Let’s talk about your brewery equipment.
The 3 vessel brewhouse is a 600 litre (5 BBL) capacity system from Tiantai. With it, I expect to be able to pump out 500 hl annually.

Care to share some info on your brewing history?
I started brewing in Spryfield 10 years ago, my first batch was a Leffe clone. I dabbled mostly in IPAs and malty German beers before getting back into trying to master Belgian styles. No commercial brewing experience up until opening my own place. I’ve placed in a competition here and there and won my category at the Stillwell Open.

Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery you enjoy drinking?
Belgians of course, but ultimately the customer will dictate where we head with beer styles. I love to brew everything and am very experimental by nature, so people should expect a wide variety of beers pretty continuously. Even a pumpkin spiced Tripel at some point.

How about favourite style or ingredient to brew with?
The Belgian Single has to be my favourite, it’s so simple but it’s such a fine line between a work of art and a terrible homebrew. It’s really a yeast derived beer which is where my heart is.

Serpent Delivery Orders

Thanks very much to Glen for the insight into Serpent Brewing! Keep an eye on their Facebook and Instagram pages for news of the next releases and taproom opening. In the meantime, you can pop by their spot to grab some beer Monday to Friday, 12 – 2 and 4 – 6 PM. Located behind Canadian Tire, the easiest way to access their location is off Sussex Street just below Herring Cove Road. Online ordering is also available, for either pickup (a notice will be sent once ready) or local delivery (Tuesday and Thursday). Congratulations on the launch!