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