Brewing - Adapting and Growing

A lot has changed since we started KBC. Some of this change has been in reaction to how the realities of running a brewery differ from the aspirations we had for it during the planning phase. Some of it has to do with how our preferences as individuals change over time. Some of it is related to learning from mistakes we made along the way and the actions we took to rectify them.

In the position of head brewer, the area of change that I, Chris, am most closely responsible for is that regarding our brewing program. All three founders are avid beer lovers, and a lot of time was spent prior to our founding the company discussing in detail what kind of beers we wanted to make. While a lot of those ideas, like using Belgian yeast as our house strain to make a year round Saison, IPA, and Stout, are still visible in our lineup today, a lot of other ideas either never came to fruition or had to be changed due to not being feasible. 

A few examples:

  • Our original plan to start the Shunkashuto (Four Seasons) Saison series from our opening was delayed more than two years due to logistical issues involving tank space and yeast reuse.
  • A series of beers that used only locally foraged fruit or fruit that would otherwise go to waste due to being out of spec was shelved due to the time and effort involved in making it a reality.
  • Fruit sours and kettle sours in general were not in our original plans but now have a prominent place in our lineup.

While it is fun to look back at these changes with nostalgia, one of the more stark changes we have made is not actually something we said we would brew but didn’t, but actually something we swore we would never make but now have: a lager. When we first started KBC, we were very adamant that we would never make a lager. Part of this was influenced by the rebellious beginnings of the American craft beer industry, which labeled these beers as "pale yellow fizzy stuff" and disowned them in favour of highly hopped and high ABV IPAs. The other motivation came from the envious nature of the Japanese craft beer as well as conglomerate brewing scene: good lagers are in abundance, meaning there was less opportunity to bring something new or unique to the style.

We held this line strongly since our startup, but despite not making lagers ourselves, there was one dominating constant regarding them: at the end of a long day, we just wanted a beer. Not a fancy beer, not a "mind blowing" beer, just a pure, simple, delicious beer. Nine times out of ten, this meant that the beers we were most excited to order were those that we initially dismissed --pale, yellow lagers. As we started to find more and more good lagers, as well as unique interpretations of the style now sweeping the United States, we began to reconsider our stance. In addition to being a challenging style to brew, and therefore testing our abilities as brewers, brewing our own lager meant that we could make it taste just the way we wanted. While it took a while to gather the courage to propose the idea to the other founders, I couldn’t be happier with the decision.

Developments like this have inspired us to look more carefully at the initial decisions we made about our brewing program and assess whether they are still right for us or not. There will likely be other similar changes on the horizon, but for now we look forward to sharing our first lager with you.

More details about this watershed brew to follow!