In August, 14 beer-loving Canadians traveled to the Mills River, North Carolina brewing facility of famed pioneer craft brewery Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. for a collaboration.
The result of that collab, the unfortunately named “The Eh! Team” beer, is a peppercorn-spiced farmhouse saison that has just hit the draught lineups of a handful of great Ontario beer bars, all of whom were on hand for the beer’s creation.
The beer was made as part of Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp collaboration series that welcomed Ontario beer writer Crystal Luxmore and the owners of Picton’s County Canteen, Kingston’s two Red House pubs, Toronto’s beerbistro, Birreria Volo, Bar Hop, and the Indie Ale House.
I spoke with Matt Bod from Bar Hop about the experience of visiting Mills River. “The Sierra Nevada brewery was unlike anything we’d ever seen,” he told me via email. “They have an uncompromising commitment to the quality of the product that is palpable from the moment you walk in the door and every inch of the facility seems to have a painstakingly thoughtful amount of detail put into creating the perfect space to brew and package beer.”
Bar Hop owner Rob Pingitore added, “I like shiny things and Sierra Nevada is a shiny place.”
Julian Morana, the co-owner of Birreria Volo, who participated in the three-day camp and collaboration with his father, Ralph, echoed Bod and Pingitore’s sentiments. “I have never seen a more sustainable facility,” he says. “It almost got to the point where it was a little overwhelming. They actually built their own train track that connected to the main train line in order to pick up their malt faster from the drop off point. This train was fueled by the grease from the restaurant’s grease trap.”
As for the beer, Luxmore says it was a recipe developed by the Canadian contingent attending beer camp. “We wanted it to reflect a unique Canadian element without being too gimmicky — I mean nobody really likes maple syrup beers, right?” she says. And so the beer was fermented with an old world saison yeast strain that was created by Guelph-based Escarpment Labs, Canada’s first company dedicated to producing unique, liquid yeast cultures for beer. “We wanted to add a touch of spice to amp up the peppery quality of the saison yeast,” Luxmore says, “so we played around with some ideas, like Grains of Paradise, but landed on pink and white peppercorns, which is fun because they correspond with the colours of our flag. Plus we wanted to utilize the incredible bank of whole cone hops that Sierra Nevada keeps on hand in a huge refrigerator and we chose old world Tettnang and new world Cascade.”
The result is a beer described as a bubbly and dry Old World farmhouse saison with delicate herbal and floral notes that clocks in at 7% ABV.
If you want to sample the fruits of their label, the beer is available now at Sierra Nevada’s Chico, CA, and Mills River, NC, brewpubs, and was tapped today at Bar Hop’s King Street location, Indie Alehouse, beerbistro, the County Canteen in Picton, and at Red House’s two locations in Kingston. It will also be on the draught menu at Birreria Volo when they reopen January 16th after a holiday break.