Big Hand Brewer Neil Moran filling up

Steam Whistle to Top Shed

Ironic, serendipitous call it what you may but we returned from a family and business trip to Canada and got the news that we had made the newspaper. Not just any newspaper — the Echo. Let’s just call it great timing.

Here is a picture of the Top Shed Crew yesterday taste testing some Steam Whistle from one of their Lunch Box Six Packs we brought back from Toronto. We also got to taste test batch 3 of our East Coast Cream Ale from our little Nano Brewery. Both tasted very drinkable and went well with our lunch.

Liquid Lunch Box

Liquid Lunch Box from Left to Right: Aubrey Cromwell, Greg Cromwell, Alison Cromwell, Matt Bleakley, Neil Moran, Dan Hill (abscent-not advised)

From Steam Whistle to Top Shed

Steam Whistle Stop

Always fun to visit the Round House and say hello to some of the Good Beer Folks. Here are a couple of photos from my visit to the Steam Whistle Tasting Bar. Have to say the Unfiltered Steam Pils is pretty darn Spesh.

Dr and the Venutian

Cold outside. Warm welcome and Cold Beer inside.

Liquid Lunch in a Box.

Upper Canada Rebellion Revival

Rebellion Lager Banner

There’s a Rebellion brewing. We’ve just got news that Upper Canada Brewings Legendary Rebellion Lager is being brought back from the dead by Henderson’s Brewing. I have been honoured that Steve Henderson asked me to put some words down about my recollections of the days of Rebellion at Upper Canada. Before what I recall I’d like to share some other rebellious memories. The first from Shaggy aka Alan Knight.

REBELLION…..

There’s a name that brings back memories….some of them a bit HAZY I’d admit. Like the time we knocked off a 30 litre keg in that chap’s flat in the apartment block down on the waterfront and I rode back up in the lift from the swimming pool minus any clothing at all and singing an Ivor Biggun song at the top of my voice.

But the best memory I have of it was the day the bottling line was set up incorrectly and we ended up bottling…..Well, I’m getting ahead of myself a bit there. Let me back it up a bit.

Upper Canada had a very agreeable Staff Beer policy. Everyone who worked there got a two-four of their choice each week for free. Plus, if they decided to actually buy another, they’d get a second one free, effectively giving anyone keen on owning that much beer seventy two bottles for the price of twenty four.

As I say, a most agreeable policy.

BUT…..This open handed approach did not extend to either the Bock beer or the Rebellion Lager. If you wanted those you had to buy them. Which was fair enough as the Rebellion was 6% and the Bock 6.5%. When you consider the excise tax those beers attracted you can see why the management were not keen to hand those out for free.

Anyway..On one particular day the bottling was ready to begin. I forget how many people it took to run the entire line but it would be something like nine or ten just to get the old bottles fed in at one end and haul the full two-fours off the other end and stack them in the approved manner before wrapping the entire skid of seventy four boxes in clear film ready to be trundled into the chiller.

The night shift would have spent their time filtering into the two huge bright beer tanks which would then feed the bottling and kegging lines. This was done via a complicated stainless manifold system that had to be got exactly right for everything to work properly.

On the other side of the wall, in the bottling hall, the right labels for both body and neck had to be fitted into the feeder, the right boxes brought out from the stores and folded out into shape ready to be fed through the hot glue machine to seal them once filled.

It was all quite involved. But, once everything was set up and all the workers in their alloted places, the huge filler head would begin to revolve and the bottles would start coming off the line.

On this particular morning, the line had been set for the brewery’s delicious Light Lager, a 4% offering that still rates for me as one of the truly GREAT lawnmower beers. The various huge machine rumbled into life and the noise of a thousand beer bottles on the move filled the hall. The first skid of 1,776 bottles was completed, each carton fitted in a sensible way allowing all seventy two cartons to be safely wrapped before being hauled away. Skid number two followed it soon after.

We were about half way through skid number three when the lab tech came hurtling through into the hall yelling “STOP! STOP BOTTLING! STOP BOTTLING!!!! YOU’RE FILLING OFF THE WRONG TANK!!!!”

There were a few minutes of confusion as the various machines were halted. Everyone wore large ear defenders so communication took a while to achieve. But, once it had all stopped, the truth was there, plain as day, though a fair bit more EXPENSIVE.

For sure enough, the lab guy was correct. We had just happily filled somwhere just shy of FIVE THOUSAND bottles of Rebellion, all of them incorrectly labelled as Light. What could be done? Not much as it turned out. There was no way of re-labelling them or offering them for sale in any way. Canadian law would frown mightily on such an attempt. So, all that could possibly be done was to write, in huge letters all across the plastic covering of each skid; ‘STAFF BEER ONLY!’

So it was dear reader that the merry and hard working boys and girls of the Upper Canada Brewery got to take home their free bottles of The Good Stuff for the best part of a month before the naughty, wrongly labelled stocks of bottles finally ran out.

I seem to recall it was a FINE MONTH, though for some reason my normally sharp memory seems dimmed on this subject.

Alan Knight

Here’s my first go at a quote or should I say, my daughter, Aubrey’s transcription of a bathtub recording recollection during our recent visit to Canada.

“At Upper Canada Brewing we did many things well. One thing we did really, really well was brew a beer called Rebellion. It was the feather of our brands*, from the day it was bottled to the day we brewed the last brew; Rebellion had many, many followers. It was truly a feather, people loved it and there were plenty reasons why, the flavour, the colour, the taste and probably the big thing, the bang for the buck. At 6% it really did something special to you and I’d love to crack another bottle right now. Looking forward to trying some from Henderson, well done at bringing back that brand, there’s a few others might be worthy of consideration as well from the Upper Canada past. Cheers, Greg Cromwell.” – GBC

Reference to feather is described in a blog post and idea from a while back. Simply put I contrasted what it was like to sell beer at Upper Canada compared to Creemore Springs a real while back.

Failed Rebranding and Relaunch Poster

 

Elephant or Feather?
Last night in the shed I was talking to Alison about our forty acres and described it as a feather in comparison to other properties which were more like elephants. This is an analogy I first came up with in the 80”s as a young gun slogging micro brewed beer in Canada.
I get lots of ideas in the shed and some of them make it to one of the white boards and generally the ones I really like turn into domain registrations and fledgling websites. Elephant or Feather has not only made it to the white board and a domain registration; it has also been hosted and I have even written a brief which I will share with you for a logo and website design. This idea must truly be a feather!
Creative Brief
Looking for very simple illustration style to depict an elephant and a feather.
Would prefer them to be created from scratch rather then i stock.
Like the idea of working with black, white and orange.
Here is a quick background.
When I worked at Upper Canada Brewing we had the best, hardest working team in the micro brew business. Man we worked hard.
Every draft tap we got every promotion we secured we did through very very hard work. It was just like pushing an elephant to get the Upper Canada brand to grow. The second we took our shoulders off the big beast she would stop.
Then there was our competitor Creemore Springs brewery. They came on the scene just after Upper Canada in the mid 80”s in the early heady days of the Ontario microbrewery scene. Sporting just one brand the little ah shucks brewery in the sticks had no sales or marketing people. They did not need any because there was a waiting list to have the honour of serving their product. Somehow this brand was like a feather.
When I got fired from Upper Canada brewing on my way out the door I knew I wanted to start my own brewery and when I did it was going to be a featherTwo years later 3 Fired Guys (3FG)  Steam Whistle Brewing opened its doors.

 

Neil checking the filter bed

Brew 3-Cream Ale

Third time lucky. Brewer Neil Moran was joined by Top Shed Mates Jon Howe and Steve Davis to make our 3rd 100 Litre batch.
We are slowly getting the hang of our little Nano Pilot brewery. As part of this brew we got a chance to taste the fruits of our efforts from Nano Brew 2. Here’s Alison having a sip and sharing her thoughts.

Do we put cream in East Coast Cream Ale?

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Greg milking his Jersey. No cream was used in our Cream Ale.

Good news if you are lactose intolerant. No, we do not put actual dairy cream in Top Shed’s East Coast Cream Ale. However, we can promise you that if you get it fresh off the tap it sure does taste clean, creamy and delicious. Hats off to our brewers Dave Allen and Liam McKenna for our serendipitous journey with this historical and misunderstood style of beer or should we say ale?

I say you should read the article below that just came out in Bon Appetit. Thanks, mate Thor Milton for putting me onto another great craft beer story. Whet your whistle on this extract from the article below.

Cream ale, the bastard son of German lagers and English ales, was actually born in America, unlike most styles of beer. In the mid-1800’s, American ale brewers started losing business to German-inspired lager breweries, so, as any innovative business will do, they figured out a way to adapt. They invented an ale that drank like a lager, which later became “cream ale.”

http://www.bonappetit.com/story/what-is-cream-ale-beer

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Neil found us a buyer. It's a secret for now.

G W Barth Coffee Roaster 90 kg

Update: Barth sold to a secret buyer and proceeds have been used to purchase more stuff to make Beer. 

Neil found us a buyer. It's a secret for now.

Neil found us a buyer. It’s a secret for now.

Here is a picture of another prospective buyer who we had hoped would keep the Barth in Byron Bay. Oh well.

Taking the Barth for a Test Roast.

Taking the Barth for a Test Roast.

After successfully bringing back our 1960’s Barth Coffee Roaster from a pile of bits and parts we are now in the process of taking it apart again. We had hoped to get it fully commissioned at the Shed we rented on 1026 Friday Hut Road but that did not work out. History almost in the Making.

Here are some photos, videos and links of the restoration led by Neil Moran and Justin King. We have a number of people interested in working with us to realise our Specialty Coffee Roasting Dreams for Top Shed. We also have a few people sniffing around to see if they might take the Big Barth off our hands.

Flickr Albums. Click on the main image to get to the Albums.

Friday Hut Top Shed

GWBarth-Top Shed Friday Hut

16-18 July 2013

We are making a Cap for the ROK Grinder

A sneak peak at a bit of history in the making. We’ve teamed up with local Byron Designer Nathan Pollock to come up with a custom cap to cover the beans in the ROK Manual Coffee Grinder. This cap was designed to keep the coffee beans from jumping out of the hopper. We are also doing tests to confirm that the cap reduces noise and helps reduce and even eliminate static.

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Organic Cream Ale

Top Shed is looking at making some more history in the next few months. After several successful and well received test brews of our East Coast Cream Ale we have decided to go back to the drawing board. Don’t Panic. It’s going to be Organic!

Brewmaster Liam in St. Johns and Brewmaster Dave in Morpeth are working on sourcing organic barley, organic corn and organic hops to concoct an Organic Cream Ale Collaboration.

Once we have successfully sourced suppliers it will not take us long to sort out this next Top Shed Craft Brew.

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Liam McKenna Smelling the Roses

We hop(e) you can smell what we are stepping in. Here’s Liam McKenna having a big sniff of a new strain of hops we got to wiff at the Craft Beer Conference in Philadelphia in May.

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Philly Love Your Craft Style.