After 21 years, the Nelson Brewing Company has started a new chapter.
While there have been many beer launches in its time, the purchase of a new machine which will bottle 650 ml units opens the doors to the future of beer in Nelson.
“It’s a natural evolution to bring out new brands and explore different flavours and aromas, because that’s what we do as brewers: we try to make interesting and different types of beer,” said Nelson Brewing Company master brewer Mike Kelly.
The new machine will be used to bottle specialty batches of beers similar to those seen this summer with the Shambhalager and the recent release Hopgood — which will be sold in 650 ml bottles next year.
“What we are able to do is offer variety in a certified organic line-up, and that really sets us apart from the field because sure you can have other styles of beer, but very few are organic and there is definitely a market for people who want to eat and drink organic products,” said Kelly.
With craft brewing becoming the focus in the beer industry, more breweries are pushing the boundaries of conventional beers.
The Shambhalager —released in July in coordination with the 15th anniversary of the Shambhala Music Festival — was a Vienna-style lager which is rare in North American breweries.
“To me that was a great opportunity not only to give the people what they want, but educate them a little bit in terms of beer style and beer culture,” Kelly said.
One of the new beers which will appear on store shelves later this month is the BlissTank, an organic triple chocolate stout.
Nelson Brewing Company already has a stout as part of their collection, but Kelly said he didn’t just want to add chocolate to the existing stout, so he started from scratch.
“Our triple chocolate stout has been really interesting because it’s three different additions of chocolate and cocoa,” he said.
When Kelly began brewing beer 18 years ago he couldn’t have imagined adding chocolate to a beer, but said now brewers are pushing the boundaries of beer.
From coffee to butternut squash to bacon, craft breweries are doing what brewers decades ago would have considered “heresy.”
“You couldn’t add chocolate to beer, what are you nuts? When I started brewing I couldn’t imagine making anything outside of the Reinheitsgebot —the Bavarian Purity Law,” Kelly laughed.
“That would have been crazy talk. Who would ever think of doing that? Now it’s just lots of fun.”
In creating Nelson Brewing Company’s Hopgood, Kelly used the extra bitter style, but in using hops from New Zealand was able to bring new flavours and aromas to a traditional beer.
“I like to call it a Nelson special bitter because not only is it made in Nelson but we are also using Nelson, New Zealand hops which is really cool,” he said. “We have been getting a lot of fruity and tropical fruit flavours and aromas and a sauvignon blanc grape character just from the hops.
“When you’re doing these specialty batches you can explore ingredients you might not ever use.”
The introduction of the new machine is responding to a growing movement among beer consumers who have become more educated and informed about beer styles.
When Nelson Brewing Company started 21 years ago, and began brewing their first India Pale Ale, the idea was completely foreign to most consumers.
“To make an India Pale Ale or even our pale ale, which was an English style, was groundbreaking,” said Kelly.
“There were very few beers like that in the province. Now it’s commonplace and people are expecting that from us and we can’t just make the same old beer forever and ever.”
While Kelly has had many ideas for new beers, he said it’s important to introduce beers that have a demand in the market and represent the brewery.
With expanded creativity in the world of craft beer, Kelly said there is pressure to keep setting the bar high and pushing the envelope.
“It gives us the opportunity to show our chops as brewers and that’s why we get into brewing: to make different types of beers,” he said.
“There are so many different types and styles of beer in the world. To be able to craft beer based on those existing styles and modify them a little bit and stir and change them up is very interesting.”
Hopgood is on tap throughout Nelson, in addition to Nelson Brewing Company’s annual winter beer Faceplant.