Collaboration Casks with Situation Brewing

Over the past year Edmonton has become something of a home to me. It started in 2015, when I met two inspiring Ukrainian sisters at Burning Man. We did an epic road trip from Reno to Salt Lake City, and following that they invited me to visit Edmonton, an invitation which I accepted.

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Oh, the places we’ll go.

A 1-week visit turned into a 1-month visit, which then turned into a 2-month visit. I wasn’t even originally planning to stay with them, but their 6-person community house – “The Treehouse” – welcomed me with open arms and hearts, so I stayed, and became family.

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Treehouse family.

If I’m going to stay in a place, you better believe that I’m going to brew there. So I began poking my nose into the Edmonton craft beer scene…

The Situation

My first time in Edmonton was November and December 2015. I returned in May 2016. During that month a new local brewpub – Situation Brewing Company – opened its doors, so I checked them out. They seemed cool, but I was about to go to Europe for the summer, and didn’t have time to pursue doing something with them.

Fast-forward to September 2016. Once again I’m on an epic post-Burning Man road trip with the sisters, through Yellowstone and all the way up to Edmonton. This time I’m planning to kick it in Edmonton for two months. From previous experience I know that two months is long enough to get a collaboration off the ground, and Situation is the top partner brewery on my list.

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Situation Brewing Company.

I walk in on a Wednesday at lunch and introduce myself to Wayne, one of the owners. Situation has a really cool cask program in which they combine their beers with experimental ingredients, naturally carbonate them in casks, and tap a new one every day. I say to Wayne: I think that doing some casks together would be a great way to start collaborating. We exchange contact info, and about two weeks later I’m having lunch with Brandon and Jack, brewmaster and brewer, respectively, to talk cask ideas.

Harvesting Herbs and Making Casks

Despite being a global nomad, I’m really all about local stuff. When I arrive in a new city I strive to be as local as possible while there, to really get to know what’s special and unique about the place, and to bring lots of local flavor and influence into the output of Bushido Brewery, too.

My friends in Edmonton a part of a permaculture organization called Aspen Centre for Integral Living (“ACIL”). They have a demo site located just west of the city, and herbs are grown on the farm there. I tell Brandon and Jack that I want to do a collaboration that brings together local Edmonton elements, and to do that I want to use ACIL herbs in the casks. They’re into it.

That same afternoon I’m out at the ACIL site to harvest herbs in the snow!

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ACIL’s permaculture demonstration site.

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Harvesting herbs with Kurtis.

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Tifa helps with the harvest.

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Beautiful scenery!

Two days later I’m in the brewery and we’re making some casks!

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Inside the brewery.

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Preparing herbs for the casks.

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Herb infusions and teas, ready to be added to casks.

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Filled casks.

Cask making day goes smoothly and we produce three herb-infused casks and another using coffee from local roaster Iconoclast Coffee. We had fun with the first round and decide to do a second. For round two we use the remaining ACIL herbs and some interesting teas. With eight casks set aside to carbonate, it’s time to start planning the release night event.

“Let’s turn this into a big thing.”

Situation usually only taps one cask each day. I want to make a big deal out of the collaboration casks, so we agree to tap three casks on a Wednesday release night, and choose to show off the Wheat Ale w/ Hyssop & Ginseng Green Tea, the Double IPA w/ Black Currant Leaves, and the Cream Ale w/ Coffee Beans.

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We’re gonna open three casks in one night, a Situation first.

In order to draw a larger mid-week crowd and make the night extra special, I ask my buddies, who are local DJs, to play live sets. Situation has never done live DJs in their restaurant, so this is an experiment, and I am honored that they have faith and trust in me to put the event together.

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Fingertips.

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Tigerstyle.

I book local Edmonton photographer Luke GS to come document the evening. This is looking to be pretty cool. The Facebook event is made, I’m promoting it like crazy, and I expect the turnout of friends, craft beer fans, and local craft beer industry folks to be good.

The only question now is: will people like the casks?

Cask Release Night

Release night is upon us! The DJ booth is set up, the casks are prepared, people start arriving, the beers are being served, and… They’re all a hit!

Everyone is impressed with the casks and there’s at least one beer to suit each person’s taste. The special ingredients play in harmony with the base beers, and the Cream Ale w/ Coffee Beans, featuring a distinct coffee aroma and taste, but deceptively light color, is the crowd favorite.

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Collab cask beers are pouring!

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Looking sharp!

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Havin’ a good time.

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Not bad for a Wednesday.

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Tipping the cask means one thing: it’s almost empty.

Within three hours all three casks are empty! This is a new record for a Wednesday night.

Fingertips and Tigerstyle are spinning great music, Situation is filled with awesome community vibes, and a small yet enthusiastic dance party takes shape later in the evening.

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Fingertips.

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Dance party.

The remaining casks are served over the next week. All are well-received. The collaboration has been a success for both breweries, and I hope we can work together again!

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Josh and Brandon, proud of their work.

South for Winter

However, future collabs will have to wait, because it’s time for me to move on. My two months in Edmonton are over and I’m heading to the United States for a bit. The reception of Bushido Brewery in Edmonton has been terrific and I’m very grateful for the community’s enthusiasm and warm welcome. It’s been a pleasure to bring together so many local participants for this collaboration, and I hope that Bushido Brewery will return to Edmonton soon!

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Bushido Brewery retreats from the Edmonton winter!

Gypsy Brewing in Santiago

I moved to Santiago, Chile in July 2015 with the goal of reproducing the gypsy brewing success I was able to achieve during five months living in Buenos Aires.

Moving from Buenos Aires to Santiago

Things were going well for Bushido Brewery in Buenos Aires, so continuing to brew there was tempting, but I wanted to make sure that success wasn’t a fluke. My plan was to live in Santiago for two months, and in that time I wanted to work with at least one local brewery to produce a collaboration beer. Bootstrapping my gypsy brewing from scratch in Santiago was a goal with many challenging aspects: new country, new culture, new city, and a much shorter timeline.

As soon as I knew my departure date from Buenos Aires, I got to work on Santiago. I started by researching craft beer in Chile. I read about Chilean brewing history and learned about the state of the craft beer scene in Santiago. I didn’t have any connections in Santiago and I didn’t expect anyone to know about me or have tried Bushido beer, so I wrote a short piece about the work I did in Buenos Aires to share with potential brewing partners, which I eventually published.

I made a list of all the craft breweries in and around Santiago, read more about each of them, and collected whatever contact information I could find online. I identified the breweries that seemed like good partnership candidates and drafted letters to them in English and Spanish.

Since I was planning to be in Chile for only a few months I knew I didn’t have time to wait and contact breweries after I arrived, so I sent the first round of introduction letters a few weeks before heading to Santiago. A few breweries didn’t reply, one wasn’t interested, some weren’t able to collaborate given the short timeline, and one brewery responded immediately with an enthusiastic interest in collaborating: Cerveza Loom in Bella Vista!

Cerveza Loom

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Outside of Cerveza Loom.

Loom is the local brewpub in Santiago. Boasting great burgers and fries, local beers, and a fun staff, Loom is an excellent place to hang out with friends in the hip neighborhood of Bella Vista.

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Yummy pub grub.

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Tasty beers and cool visual art.

Loom and I exchanged messages and made a plan to meet. I visited the brewpub the night I arrived in Santiago. There I met Jaime, the brewmaster and one of the founders of Loom, and JP, the brewer. We drank some beers and talked about collaboration ideas. At the end of the week I returned to Loom to help JP brew a beer and become familiar with their equipment.

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Loom brews on a SABCO Brew-Magic.

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Six 1 BBL jacketed fermenters.

Jaime and I talked beer style ideas and exchanged recipe drafts via email. We both wanted to do a strong dark beer that would play well to the type of water at the brewery, so we decided to do an Imperial Stout.

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JP contemplates the lauter on brew day.

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Celebrating a successful brew day with a pint of fresh wort. 😛

Jaime asked me to name the beer. We sought input from Loom’s followers on Facebook, and JP and I talked for a while about different themes from which to draw upon, including names from Chilean folklore. I decided to give the beer a name that would communicate something about the style and sound good in Spanish, English, and Japanese. I also wanted a Japanese name that would be easily pronounceable by the mostly Spanish-speaking clientele at Loom.

That’s where Noukoumizu (i.e. Agua Oscura in Spanish, Dark Water in English) came from!

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Noukoumizu Imperial Stout!

Loom’s graphic designer created a logo for the beer release announcement and a Facebook event was made to promote the evening. The beer went on tap on a Friday night and friends and strangers came out to try it. Noukoumizu was well-received by everyone!

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What’s on tap? Loom & Bushido!

Goaaaaaal!

I succeeded in meeting my goal to gypsy brew in Santiago within two months. The collaboration with Loom was a success. Had I stayed in Santiago longer, for sure I would have wanted to brew with Jaime and JP again.

While living in Santiago, I continued to explore the local craft beer scene and reach out to other breweries to talk about collaborating. Once I was “on the ground” I found local breweries that I didn’t discover online before arriving. Some of those breweries would have been great partners and we would have brewed some kick-ass beers together if I had stayed longer.

However, that’s the end of this Chilean chapter, and it’s time for me to return to the United States. Where and when will Bushido Brewery brew again? Stay tuned to find out!

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Bushido Brewery departs South America.