The Collaboration Brew

Brew day at the Big Rock Brewery is a special day. Especially when the Calgary brewery is set to introduce a new collaboration recipe into their already lengthy lineup of beers. It’s special because you’re essentially in on a giant experiment. Tests and refinements have been covered to this point so that you get a basic idea of the flavour going in to the brew, but it’s a different thing entirely when you’re brewing on a larger scale.

It might be the worst kept secret in the Alberta craft beer industry. The boys at Tool Shed Brewing Company, and Big Rock Brewery, along with the help of the students at Olds College are taking a particular coffee bean from Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters, and turning it into a wicked stout.

Sherman, and his fellow technologically inclined beer geek, Jeff Orr, who make up the tandem team at Tool Shed Brewing Company were not long ago brewing out of a tool shed.  It took a lot of effort to successfully adapt their craft beer recipes for production brewing.  With an experimental beer like this, the difficulties only increase. Rallied around Big Rock’s smaller brew kettles, the four groups plan and debate the proper course of action. Let’s not forget, because of the inclusion of Olds College, this is a teaching day for the students, and they’ll take in all the information they can. The proceeds for this project will go towards the Brew Master and Brewery Operations program at Olds College. There are only two such programs in Canada, the other being at Niagara College. Olds College will be at the forefront of the industry because of their inclusion in projects like this.

It’s safe to say that Phil Robertson, The “Phil” in Phil and Sebastian, was the one mind who was visibly cautiously optimistic. He has every right to be. He’s been down this road called collaboration before, and the end result didn’t meet his standards. Since the first meeting of the minds in January, Robertson has asked the group to maintain the ideal of being able to distinguish a particular bean of coffee within the taste of the beer. So long as that goal is achieved, Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters are happy to put their name on the product. The idea for the project began in the tool shed. Sherman and Orr brewed a stout, using Kenyan coffee beans from Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters. Sherman began explaining to Robertson how he created the recipe. It turns out, most of Robertson’s staff are home brewers.

At the same time on the other side of the city, Sherman began developing a relationship with Paul Gautreau, the Brewmaster at Big Rock Brewery. The two were in talks to do a collaboration regardless. The pieces fell into place shortly there after. In the group’s first meeting, the essence of making the project a way to raise funds for a cause was discussed, and Olds College was brought up. As Gautreau colourfully puts it: “The discussion ended after that.” Despite the fact the beer took longer to brew than what Sherman and Orr had anticipated, this was the result, and likely the same thing will occur for customers when the beer is finally released.

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