YEG Man Sept. 2015 - Situation Brewing

YEG Man – Situation Brewing | Edmonton’s newest brewery

YEG Man – Situation Brewing

Edmonton’s craft brewing situation

Beer drinkers rejoice. Edmonton’s newest brewery, Situation Brewing, aims to turn beer likers into beer lovers by giving an up close look at how a pint comes to be

What started as a hobby has turned into a large-scale situation.

Starting this fall, Wayne Sheridan, will own and operate Situation Brewing from it’s highly-visible Strathcona location just south of Whyte on Gateway Blvd.

You can get craft beer in Edmonton,” said Sheridan, “but people can’t see the process. That’s what actually gets a lot of people engaged in craft brewing.”

If you start brewing, that’s going to take your understanding and appreciation of beer to a whole new level,” said Sheridan.

Last year, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission dropped the minimum production requirements for breweries which gave Situation Brewing the ideal conditions to open up the brewery.

Previously, if you wanted to produce a lot of beer, you had to be in an industrial space,” said Sheridan. “We wanted to do it somewhere closer to where people were drinking beer or looking for beer so they could see the process behind it. We think that’s the way to engage people and turn people that like people into people that love beer.”

There’s no more legal minimum but there’s a practical minimum,” said Sheridan. “You can’t make 100 litres a week in your garage and make money, but it throws open the doors for new startups.”

For the foreseeable future, Situation Brewing won’t be offering bottles or cans of their brew, just kegs.

Strategically, keg to glass is easier than fighting for retail space,” said Sheridan. “The scale of our production is pretty tiny, only about half of the previous minimum.”

By only offering the brew in kegs, the company avoids having to compete for shelf-space against not only local craft-brewers but the entire world of beer-makers.

You’re really fighting with every producer in the world for shelf-space. About 90 per cent of the market share is enjoyed by the big three: Molson, Labatt’s, and Sleeman’s. They’re making good quality beer, but most people wouldn’t consider it interesting. Where craft beer comes in is that it appeals to a narrower market, and that niche is getting bigger and bigger every year. Less than 5 per cent of the market is drinking craft beer, but it’s growing.”

As far as competition goes, other craft-brewers aren’t the competition.

When more people set up shop and try to make craft beer in Edmonton, it’s better for everyone already doing it. They’re not competing against each other but building a critical mass to draw attention to craft beer,” said Sheridan. “The rising tide floats all boats.”

Once more people start making beer in Edmonton, it creates that synergistic vibe between producers so the overall quality of Alberta beer is going to rise over the next five to 10 years,” said Sheridan. “It’s totally possible to make world-class beer in Alberta.”

For Sheridan, his brewing experience started with a less-than-satisfactory home-brewing kit.

I started with a kit and it tasted terrible,” said Sheridan. “I started getting into all-grain brewing not fully understanding that there’s nothing wrong with kit-brewing.”

Beer is very shelf-stable before you brew it. You can make world-class beer anywhere in the world, but we’re growing a good supply of the world’s malt barley right here in Western Canada,” said Sheridan.

Hobbyists can start off brewing with a store-bought kit that provides a pre-selected set of ingredients that create beer as easily as following the instructions.

If you buy a home brewing kit, you’re buying wort, which is un-fermented beer,” said Sheridan. “You’re going to get a good product, but most of the creativity is done by the time you buy that kit.”

A home-brewing kit is exactly how Sheridan got started.

Sheridan dove right into the most sophisticated method of brewing, known as the ‘all-grain’ method.

You start with raw barley, pelletized hops, and you add your own water,” said Sheridan. “You boil it, mash it, and after five hours of work, you end up with the same mash you could buy off the shelf, but you designed the wort and made it yourself.”

If you look at it as a hobby, you get all this free beer that may have taken you hours to make,” said Sheridan. “If you looked at the time spent and how much that time is worth then all of a sudden that free beer becomes very expensive.”

What keeps people out of all-grain brewing is space and cost,” said Sheridan who admits a small scale operation costs about $1,000 to set up. “After that you can just crank through a bunch of batches pretty cheap. But if you have less space and less money up front you can buy some high quality kits and still make good beer.”

Luckily, from there, the process is scalable.

The time to brew beer is fairly fixed. It doesn’t matter the scale you’re making. The equipment size varies with what you want to make. You’re boiling for about an hour, and you’re mashing for about an hour, and there’s some transfer steps in between. It ends up being about five hours if you’re making 20 litres or 2,000 litres, or 20,000 litres.”

Right now, Sheridan and his staff, including one of the first graduates from Olds College’s Brewmaster program, are working on their recipes.

We’re getting it pretty nailed down,” said Sheridan. “It’s like a home brew scale except we’re using commercial grade equipment to develop our recipe.”

We expect to have mostly rotating product and some mainstays,” said Sheridan. “We’ll be rotating different recipes in and out frequently.”

Aside from the dozen or so beers Sheridan expects to have on tap, Situation Brewing will have an attached restaurant.

Situation Brewing is located south of Whyte on Gateway Blvd at 10308 81 Ave and the opening date is tentatively scheduled for October.