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.
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.
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.
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 BriefLooking 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 feather. Two years later 3 Fired Guys (3FG) Steam Whistle Brewing opened its doors.