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Behind the brew

From alpha acids to mash tuns, Whistler Brewing brings the beer home

The fortunes of war favoured Hrothgar. . . .

So his mind turned to hall-building: he handed down orders

for men to work on a great mead-hall

meant to be a wonder of the world forever . . .

– from Beowulf (trans. Seamus Heaney)

Back in the 7th century (thereabouts), once one had vanquished thine enemies and smite their lands, the task that lay before any great warrior was to build a great mead-hall — in short, now that the fields of neighbouring barley had been plundered, it was time to get down and build a drinking palace of epic proportions. Beowulf, the founding tale of English literature, now a horrendous relic of a 3D film, teaches us all this traditional lesson: never let a great victory go by without a tremendous amount of post-traumatic drinking.

Thankfully, Western civilization has evolved beyond the thick, syrupy honey-broth known as mead. Mead is closer to a meal. With the aftertaste of rancid honey and the consistency of oatmeal, even the mediaeval knights were increasingly unable to down this alcoholic stew. The mead-hall withered into disrepair. Hrothgar's descendents were eaten and avenged by the monsters of Cain.

With the Enlightenment came refinements in the aesthetics of booze. After the Reinheitsgebot was ratified in 1516 — better known as the Bavarian purity laws — there was at least some sense as to what beer should (and should not) be. A century before Galileo searched the heavens and Spinoza perfected eyeglasses and ethics, the Germans ensured some order to the coming celebration of the Copernican revolution: beer should consist of water, barley, and hops.

Of course this was quickly fooled with. Thanks to post-Enlightenment scientists concerned with better states of drunk — Louis Pasteur, actually, in the late 19th century — yeast was identified as the active agent in recycled sediment; thereafter it was intentionally added. Wheat malt and cane sugar were toyed with, along with all matter of strange flavours in the mash, from grapefruit to pumpkins, cinnamon and other spices to apples and oranges. Barley was originally singled out to keep the beermakers from using up all the breadmakers' dough (the peasant population could not be drunk all the time — they had to eat something). Once agriculture became proto-industrialized and the guild laws disintegrated, weissbier followed. Such is the inevitability of beer, and its long-historical trajectory to where we are today: the post-Renaissance renaissance of the microbrew. This is our alcoholic eschaton, and Homer Simpson's theory of progress has been confirmed as correct: at the end of history lies beer heaven.

Or so goes this tale of tastes (don't quote it in school, kids).

A class culture of the craft

"Craft beers have a grittier appeal here," says Bruce Dean, president of the Whistler Brewing Company, which has operated since 2009 in the old transit facility down in Function Junction. Though he has dealt in wine for Mark Anthony's Mission Hill and marketed products worldwide for Gillette, Bruce certainly understands his beer. "There's a certain rawness to the recipes that the B.C. craft consumer likes," he says, explaining how Whistler Brewing came to produce the wide range of tastes it does today.

We sit in the conference room, which looks out upon the two copper boilers and the great garage doors of the former bus depot. Bruce continues: "They like the experience that that tastes different from that, and that tastes different from that." Bruce gestures at the bottles before him. Grapefruit Ale, reads one; the brewery can barely keep this vitamin C laden fix in stock. Powder Mountain Lager, reads another. With his characteristic Australian accent, Bruce expresses the experience of the contemporary craft beer consumer: "And I didn't like that one, but it was OK, I only paid six bucks to not like it, not like fifty bucks for a bottle of wine, so I'll try something else next time."

B.C. has become a small paradise of ales, where diverse tastes can be sampled for a few bucks. But there are also economic reasons for diving into craft brew making. Where Bruce originally envisioned Whistler Brewing and where it is today are two quite different trajectories. In 2003, Whistler Brewing was still owned by parent company Big Rock, which really didn't know what to do with the malt mashers. The old Whistler Brewery — which launched in 1989, eventually moving into what is now the U-Lock building in 1995 — had long been abandoned to other tenants. After selling-out to Big Rock, the "Whistler" Brewery had been relocated to Kamloops, though apparently making its brew with trucked-in Whistler water. Valley locals didn't consider the beer geographically authentic, and its tastes, though pragmatic, had drifted toward the predictable.

Bruce was brought onboard to revamp the brew. He imagined a brand oriented around two classic export recipes. He also envisioned Whistler Brewing as the local partner for the 2010 Olympics, which would serve as a springboard for the international market. But two things happened: first, Big Rock's board of directors didn't go for it, and second, the Vancouver Olympic Committee handed over 100 per cent of alcohol sales to Molson at Olympic venues — which is to say, to the American Coors empire (unlike other Olympics, no secondary, local beer partner was found, a decision that appears to have fudged Provincial Tied-House laws that guard against 100 per cent exclusivity). Labatt's, meanwhile, bought out many local bars with Kokanee. It's worth noting that indie brewers live nearly wholly within the 10 per cent set aside for local brews in bars, a kind of Canadian Content/CANCON regulation for beer.

So Bruce laid it all down on the line. He raised the hard capital, bought out the Brewery from Big Rock, and brought it home to Whistler, applying for his Canadian citizenship in the process. Within a few months of setting-up shop — which required extensive investment in equipment, refurbishing the building, and hiring staff — the Brewery was crafting its own ales on the premises. Three years later, and the Brewery is canning in-house; by July, the Brewery will be bottling. It's fair to say that the Whistler Brewery is back — not only in substance, but in style, too, as one of the top five indie brewers in the province for capacity.

"So the original strategy of premium export lager, classic pale ale — two recipes, etc. — was not relevant for optimizing growth in B.C.," says Bruce. "And at the same time, we happened to hire one of the best, most experienced brewmasters, who built arguably one of the largest and most successful craft breweries in B.C. — Granville Island."

The brewmaster was none other than Joe Goetz, who now operates out of Whistler Brewery's larger facility in Kamloops, and who apprenticed for his Brewmaster's ticket at Ferdinand-von-Steinbeiss-Schule in Ulm, Germany. Starting at Granville Island Brewery in 1986, Joe was the man behind the microbrews for nearly 25 years until Molson bought it out (and transfered operations to the Burrard Street castle in 2009). Joe foresaw the industry's shift from bland to distinct brand, and is now at the point where he is "taking beer to places it has never been before" (to cite from his quirky bio).

"Joe opened the doors to recipe experimentation," says Bruce, with an evidently pleased grin. Bruce, after all, loves beer; each brew has to pass his taste test. "Joe developed Whiskey Jack Ale, he developed Powder Mountain Lager, and Paradise Valley Grapefruit Ale — which is going crazy for us, it's nuts — and then he has done, with a head of steam, the Valley Trail Chestnut Ale, the Winter Dunkel, the Chai Maple Ale, and coming up in five weeks or so, the Pineapple Express, our new pineapple wheat ale."

Yes — a new pineapple weissbier is a comin'. But at this point the conversation drifted... I began talking to Bruce about Pique staff hording bottles of Grapefruit Ale under their desks, and about fights in the newsroom over the merits of the Chai Maple — indeed, the faithful will be pleased to know that the Grapefruit is going into full production this summer. Later, brooding over a bottle of Powder Mountain Lager at the brewery's pleasant bar, I meditated upon its artful design. The original 2010 bottle featured commissioned cover art of Fissile mountain's ragged peak by local artist Chili Thom. While the 2011 redesign of the entire Whistler Brewing line did away with the local art, it injected a handcrafted, pioneer feel to the brew. I ordered another. Apparently even reporters are not beyond the influence of modern-day Don Drapers; Vancouver's Tool Box Design, responsible for the novel yet retro aesthetic, says on its website that the rustic nostalgia taps into a "simpler, emotionally rich past."

Bruce attributes a big part of the brewery's success — the "third renaissance of Whistler beer" — to support from local establishments. "Having the brewery back here, making and delivering beer . . . conducting tours, participating in making beers . . . we are getting a lot of community support," he says, "I feel good about selling the beer here."

But we are getting far, far ahead of ourselves.

We need to rewind to the land Down Under and to the tale of a world-travelling family which has decided to make its final stop right here in Whistler.

After leaving Mark Anthony around 2003, Bruce planned to take the family back to Australia. "But," says Bruce, with a contented grin, "the family basically mutinied, and said 'Look, you've been dragging us around the planet and it's time to settle down and we like it here. We like our Christmases in Whistler. . . .'"

In learning why others come here, we learn a little (if not a lot) about ourselves. Whistler is the Great Magnet for strange visitors who overstay their welcome and become part of the local lore, and sometimes it takes a compatriot born elsewhere to revitalize something that has been, in the past, an economic but also symbolic aspect of Whistler's identity.

From Beneath it Devours – and Drinks

An attendant stood by with a decorated pitcher, pouring bright helpings of mead. And the minstrel sang . . .

– Beowulf

"I was born in Melbourne in '84," says Matt Dean, Brewery Supervisor for the Whistler location and one of Bruce's two sons. But Down Under the Deans did not stay — from then on the family picked up and moved every few years, as Bruce's 18-year career with Gillette trundled him to Sydney, Thailand, Hong Kong, Boston, and back to Australia, all before settling in Vancouver, finally, in 2001. As well as a seasoned kid traveller, Matt is a fast and expedient talker. On my first brewery tour, he surpassed my abilities to match pace at linguistic lightspeed. To compensate, I gulped down sleeves with the two other young couples on the walkabout (apparently the brewery sees a fine share of curious, youthful pairings). Matt's energetic presentation is balanced by the timely interventions of freshly tapped brews from Ben Adley, taphouse supervisor. Ben, usually The Man behind the long oak bar, explains with concision and evident appreciation the pint in hand, pointing out its peculiar tastes and characteristics. Matt, meanwhile, is wildly gesturing at the gleaming silver tubes and copper cisterns, arms twirling, eyes flickering, as he launches into the lingo of malts, mashes, and hops.

Once Matt starts talking chemical composition, it's obvious that he not only knows his game, but loves the sport. So far, he has learned his trade from the ground-up, working everything from brewing to sales over the course of five years. But to become a full-fledged brewmaster — like Joe — requires schooling in the fine art of ales. To this end, Matt is undertaking his master brewer's certification from the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago. Established in 1872, it is the only such school outside of Germany; Matt tells me he'll undertake the challenging program through online classes while he works days on the brewery floor.

Bruce didn't exactly encourage Matt to take up the quasi-family business. In fact he's adamant in explaining that Matt has served his time. Like all the best rugrat rebels, Matt ignored the sage advice of his father, shunning university and choosing to work in the hospitality industry after finishing highschool. But after a few years of drudgery — as well as acquiring a taste for ales while working at the Yaletown Brew Pub and attending Langara College — Matt turned to Thomson Rivers University for business school in 2006. Since he'd be in Kamloops, he asked Bruce if he could work at the Interior brewery.

"I thought 'I'll fix this kid,'" says Bruce, with a gleam in his eye. "I gave him a job at ten bucks an hour, working in a cold, damp part of the brewery, cleaning tanks... it was the absolute crapkicker job. And he stuck that out for a year."

Matt survived the suds-soaked initiation, and, at the insistence of the operations manager, moved on up to filtration — a messy process whereby the beer is strained to remove yeast and other sediments. As luck would have it, the Kamloops brewer suddenly left, and so Matt was trained for the job.

"Matthew's done everything I've ever asked him to do," laughs Bruce, "except resign."

I ask him what it's like to end up with a father-son relationship in the workplace. "It's a bit odd to have a son working in the business," says Bruce. "I don't object to it; it happened by circumstance." In fact, Matt was not the first choice for Whistler's brewery; two other brewers were lined up but each fell through. And so Matt moved from his position in sales — which he worked from 2008 through 2010 — to brewing the beers right here in Whistler. And I believe it's safe to say there's no other place he'd like to be.

Lees and Lows of The Pardoner's Tale

Saide I nat wel? I can nat speke in terme.

But wel I woot, thou doost myn herte to erme

That I almost have caught a cardinacle.

By corpus bones, but if I have triacle,

Or elles a draughte of moiste and corny ale,

Or but I here anoon a merye tale,

Myn herte is lost for pitee of this maide.

– from the Pardoner's Tale, Canterbury Tales (Chaucer, ca. 1386)

Pass the Pepto? I can't speak on no technical tack.

But yo I know, though it rips my heart apart,

That I almost went into cardiac attack.

Esti! Tabernac!, unless I pop some pills,

Or else down a draught of moist and creamy ale,

Or but I hear damn straight a merry tale,

My heart will be lost for pity of this babe.

– (Translation: the author)

Both Olde English and chemistry are near indecipherable — yet both have much to say about beer. Learning to spot the brew references in Chaucer is like reading James Joyce, Yeats, Dylan Thomas, or the master of indecipherability incarnate, Robbie Burns — it is best done inebriated (and we have not yet even broached six-bottle Bukowski). If Olde English is a dirty language, beer is not. For mixing fermented chemicals, it would appear that cleanliness is next to godliness, insofar as beer is divine. All of this means that clean chemicals make drunk deities.

"There's a lot of chemistry involved," says Matt. "If they taught brewing and distilling as part of a chemistry application, there's a good chance I would've paid more attention in high school — for that."

Indeed, I would've paid more attention in chemistry too. I can think of a few interesting Sandoz compositions. But alas.

"Really, people think making beer is easy, which it's not," emphasizes Matt. "The two fundamentals you have to get through your head when you the start is clean and clean, and if you're not sure if it's clean, clean it again. Beer picks up bacteria, oxygen, and wild yeast so easily, so if your processes aren't dialed and efficient, you will have quality control issues."

Translation: dirty gear makes dirty-tasting beer. Sterilize with hot water at 85 degrees.

Having dabbled in homebrew myself, I have often heard the fresh wisdom; most basement beer tastes bad because hoses and glass growlers aren't sterilized. This also goes for bars. How many of Whistler pub's flush their lines weekly, or even nightly, as they do in most reputable establishments overseas? Bacteria and mold muck are the leading causes of ugly hangovers — and illness. To this end, Whistler Brewery takes personal care of their own tanks and lines on tap in the Village. "There's still sugar in beer," explains Matt. "It can eat itself and cannibalize itself, and that can create its own weird flavours as well . . . I don't drink beer from certain bars because of their lines."

Then there's the premises.

"We clean our brewhouse once a week," says Matt, reminiscing over his early days spent scrubbing tanks. "There's 16 hours a week spent in brewing, but the rest of the week is preparing for it."

Beyond shaving one's head and scrubbing every nook and cranny spic and span, beer is precision chemistry applied to alcohol. The true test is drafting one's own recipe — and Matt has some ideas in mind for something he calls Spanky's Black IPA.

"I've based it off the Black Tusk recipe," says Matt. If made, Spanky's will be the third iteration of the original Brewery's award-winning pint. "I will be adding a lot more hops — Cascade hops — which are your quintessential IPA hop, which claims to have grapefruit in its aromatics," says Matt. For those uninformed, hops are added to beer as a flavour and stabilizer. The bitter and tangy tastes of an India Pale Ale come from its selection of hops, which means you need to know a little bit about acid — beta and alpha acids, that is.

Which brings us to acid hops (no, not the lost '90s cousin to trip-hop).

Hops are a climbing plant; mostly it's the dried female flower cluster that is used in brewing. European lagers and pilsners are made with the classic noble hops — Hallertau, Saaz, Spalt, or Tettnang — that are renowned for being low in bitterness (meaning less alpha acids) but high in aroma (meaning more beta acids). Cascade hops were developed at Oregon State University by interbreeding British Fuggles (a contentious noble hop) with Russian Serebrianker (don't ask). Designed to be mold resistant in the damp Pacific Northwest, Cascade hops impart a mild citrus flavouring.

"Black Tusk is a nice and balanced, dark mild already," says Matt, "which has nice toasted notes in there, and then I'd be hopping it up more and adding crystal malt."

The malt is the grain itself, usually barley, soaked in water to the point of germination, and then halted with hot air. Crystal malts are one of at least 15 varieties from stout malt to Rauchmalz. The crystal is known for its toffee and caramel overtones (depending on colour), adding to the sweetness of the beer.

All of this goes into the mash — ah yes, zee monster mash.

The mash looks like an oatmeal-like stew, in which the malted grains (known as grist) are steeped at precise temperatures for hours and hours in the giant copper mash tuns that can be seen towering behind the Brewery's garage doors. Hops can be added at various stages. Sometimes boil hops are added for bitterness and flavour; aroma hops are added at the end of the boil to scent the stew. Hops can also be added during secondary fermentation or to the wort.

As for worts, you do not need worts (or witches) to make beer; rather, boiling up the beer makes worts (and not witches).

After boiling down the mash, what is left behind is the liquid wort, which is sparged or lautered — the language of beer-making is incredibly sexy, I tell you — from the remaining muck of spent grain. This liquid, known as the wort (and which you wouldn't want to drink) is then brought to a rolling boil for an hour or two, before being cooled (using a heat exchanger) and then mixed with yeast to begin the fermentation process, which creates carbon dioxide and alcohol. Between each of these lengthy, precisely timed processes there is the always-entertaining task of full-body immersion tank-cleaning. More hops, as well as bags of spices or fruit mashes — such as grapefruit, chai, chestnut — can be added throughout, depending on the desired taste and/or aroma. After fermentation, the beer is cooled in a process known as conditioning, in which the yeast falls out of suspension to the bottom of the tank. Most beers are filtered (though not always, such as wheat ales), and finally put into glass bottles, kegs, and giant floating dirigibles for us to drink and be merry with.*

All-in-all, the process takes some 30 days, start to finish.

This be what Matt is explaining on the tour, as he goes from Mashing to Lautering, Boiling to Cooling, Fermentation to Conditioning to Filtration. Take notes; a taste test will follow.

*The Whistler Brewery denied any such dirigibles but I have seen them.

Long live the craft revolution! and other revolutionary tastes

It was late when we drank. We all thought it was high time to begin. What there had been before, no one could remember . . . When you are thirsty, you watch out for any opportunity to drink and merely pretend to take an interest in things . . .

– René Daumal, A Night of Serious Drinking (1938)

Whether it be sneaking six packs into an all-ages punk gig, or humming through pitchers at the university pub while debating the merits of poststructuralism, most of us are indoctrinated into the mysteries of Dionysus at a relatively youthful age. Unfortunately for many, their taste buds never recover. While downing kegs as a powderhound here in Whistler, and deducing whether it is humanly possible to stand up and ski tomorrow, keep in mind that with common fare you might be doing irreparable damage to your tongue and its aesthetic repetoire. Forget the liver — it's the tongue that is king. If there is a moral impetus to this investigation of craft brews, it be this: a well-tasted tongue is a talented tongue, and a tongue that cannot distinguish between watered-down swill and a stout, or a brown ale and a lager, is fit for no one.

In short, train that tongue to taste the best.

Like other B.C. wildchilds, I discovered the bouts of Bacchus long after the other Elysian secrets had revealed themselves. Beer always felt second-rate, and the corporate shloop that I saw my drunk-at-all-costs colleagues down was nothing short of swill for my tastes. But the reality of the proposition set in: I was thirsty, and after reading mass amounts of Surrealist literature on the creative benefits of the riotous spirits, I realized that I needed something in hand when trawling the "bzzr gardens" out on campus. Right off the bat, I turned to the brews marketed toward niche consumers, though most were on the verge of being bought out — Sleeman's by Sapporo; all things Molson by Coors; Labatt's by Belgium magnate Anheuser-Busch InBev. Some of the big breweries have all-right subsidiaries, though I could never down the likes of the sasquatch spew. But as the Canadian content fell to the multinationals one by one, the beer became too predictable. Too bland. Too boring. As Matt explains, this mass-market era derives from the buy-out days of the 1970s, when the indie breweries fell to the big boys, resulting in nameless cans and stale tastes — the Dark Ages of Beer.

A short aside with opinions cocked. Colt .45 isn't even a beer — it's a malt drink. All the hipster kids, though rejecting corporate control in style and music by resurrecting the dated and discarded, undermine their critical irony by embracing big brews like PBR and Old Milwaukee, which are as "working class" as a McDonald's employment environment — sure, you pay little (for food and wages alike), but that's because you drink from the big tit of multinationals. It's "beer" that is cheap precisely because it is high-gravity brewed to a higher alcoholic content and then watered down, with expensive malt often substituted with rice or corn to save on cost (unlike Asahi rice beer, which is intentionally brewed to its alcoholic percentage). To this end, as I read on an Internet forum for beer lovers, "Wildcat is the pink slime of beer."

By comparison, B.C.'s craft brews are refreshing, bold, and exciting. While today, according to, there are at least 65 artisinal breweries from Victoria's Philips to Howe Sound, from Tree Brewing to taphouses like the Brewhouse right here in Whistler Village, 20 years ago there were far, far fewer. True, Whistler Brewing existed then, a trademark microbrew in the province, but its distribution never found itself into the lines of UBC's student pubs. Worthy of a historical footnote, Granville Island Brewery often stood alone amongst the crowd of watered-down alcopop. Though decent, its beers sharp and tangy, in the early days its tastes were not always that far from the majors.

It took some decades for B.C. to begin brewing its own class of craft ales. As Granville Island's former brewmaster, Joe Goetz, puts it, "All this was in a time when beer was expected to fit the mold of the few large brewers and consumers were not overly keen in trying new and different beers. Over the years the consumer palate changed and so did the microbrewery industry. More breweries opened the doors, providing more flavours to the consumer and also stretching the limits for what beer can be."

Indeed, it wasn't until I discovered Quebec's then-independent Unibroue and its corked bottles filled with warning and confusion La Fin du Monde, Maudite, Don de Dieu — alongside Guinness, Kilkenny, and the doubles and tripples of Flemish abbey ales, that I began to truly grasp the inner light of the golden liquid. Now here were drinks for drowning sorrow and/or waxing poetic; here were the ales for raging against the machine and/or the dying of the light... With such an alcoholic arsenal, taste becomes a matter of mood exploration. Different brews are for different tasks, from harrowing through publication deadlines to getting luxurious with a fine specimen at the bar. The poison is picked for the elevation of the occasion — or its debasement into debauchery.

I am not alone. It appears an entire market segment had high expectations for the fuel of sophomoric rebellion. No mere beer guzzlers, we are at once picky yet willing to dive into nearly any bottle. What this lee populace demands is vibrant, explosive beers, with sharply defined tastes — not generic, bland, fizzy maltdrinks.

Long live the craft revolution.

Tastedbuds of the World, Unite!

Without further ado, a taster's guide to the Whistler Brewery's selections

The Staples

When Joe Goetz set out to redesign the brewery's staple Export Lager in 2010, four variations to the standard were offered to locals on tap. "Some were a little drier, some were a little sweeter," says Matt Dean. Votes were tallied, leading to today's democratic champion, the Powder Mountain Lager — a finely filtered pint with bread-like notes and multisweetness, clean yet crisp. "Lagers are harder to make," says Matt, "ales are so much easier because you throw hops in there and you can mask any flavours you don't like. Whereas with lagers, what you see is what you get."

The Bear Paw Honey Lager, made from Armstrong organic bee honey, stems from a 2007 creation of Big Rock's current Brewmaster, Jody Hammel (who has his Berlin Versuchs-und Lehranstalt für Brauerei, or VLB certificate). Today Joe has tweaked it for its "caramel malt and reddy-brown complexion," says Matt. None too sweet, the Bear Paw pours amber and copper with a dissipating white head and creamy lacing. "It's a great honey," says Matt, "it's not overly sweet."

The Black Tusk Ale (b. 1989) is the last remaining recipe from the big-hair days of the brewery. After some finessing by Joe — it was formerly brewed with a lager yeast, now an ale yeast — it won dual awards in 2010, claiming Bronze in the English-Style Mild Ale category at the World Beer Cup (North America's hoedown) and the Americas Best Brown Dark Ale at the World Beer Awards (Europe and Asia's smasher). This obsidian black beer, unlike a black stout, uses no oats; the Black Tusk is an "approachable dark beer," says Matt, "it looks dark, drinks light, with toasted and coffee notes." Hearsay has it that Colin Pyne, operations manager, mean forklifter and former brewer from the early '90s, says the Black Tusk is now "10 times" better.

A 2011 concoction of Joe's, the Whiskey Jack Ale is an "easy-drinking, North American ale," says Matt, none too heavy or obtrusive, replacing the old Classic Pale Ale. As Matt puts it, the Whiskey Jack is a "training beer to teach you to get away from lagers without being so heavy you get turned off craft beers." It's also slightly sharp, and goes well with spicy foods and chutneys.

Fall & Winter BREWS

With the changing seasons come seasonal ales, each designed to match taste to weather; indeed, this shifting nature of taste is the appeal for many connoisseurs of craft brews. Darker, sometimes sweeter and more caramel beers in winter; lighter, more fruity beers in summer.

The Winter Dunkel came out over the 2010/11 snow season, "a dark, filtered ale," says Matt, with "coriander, bitter and sweet orange peel, and dark Whistler chocolate added to the boil . . . in a giant muslin cloth bag." This was the first test brew done in Whistler; it came out tasting like a "Terry's chocolate orange" (a Jaffa for you Ozzies).

The Valley Trail Chestnut Ale, new in the Fall of 2011, it is a brown ale with "chestnut meal in the mash, and concentrated chestnut oil post-filtration to grab the aromatics, with a little bit of vanilla," says Matt. With all the rage over pumpkin ales this past Fall, the Chestnut stood alone for its unique taste — quite simply, it went down smooth and low, like riding soft singletrack on fallen leaves.

Incredible in pancakes and waffles, as well as a dessert topper and stand-alone tastebud popper, the Chai Maple Ale is a throaty brew with a determined taste. Matt explains: "Chai spices were added in a big teacloth bag so it steeped in the boil. . . with concentrated maple syrup during filtration, to add that last bit of maple sweetness and aromatics." You like maple? You like Chai Maple Ale.

Summer Blitzes

But now is the season of sun, of Lost Lake skinny dipping, rain-shower dodging and heated summer flings, which brings us to...

The Weissbier Wheat Ale claimed the 2009 Gold Medal for Wheat Beer (German Style Hefeweizen) at the Canadian Brewing Awards and the 2011 Gold at the North American Brewers Beer Festival for Bavarian Style Hefeweizen. This be a mouthful, as is unfiltered weissbier, which is cloudy and golden, thanks to 50 per cent wheat malt in the brew. "You'll get banana and clove aromatics," says Matt," thanks to "the reaction between the yeast and wheat used." As a dedicated drinker of whitbiers, weissbiers and hefeweizens, I'd crack in a slice of lemon or orange to enhance the citrus flavours — and because eating the steeped fruit is delectable. (Only limited quantities will be available this season.)

The ever popular Paradise Valley Grapefruit Ale, a Goetz masterpiece, is based on a blonde-ale recipe with "grapefruit rind in post-fermentation. . . with a Galena hop, that brings out the natural grapefruit bitterness," says Matt. "Post-filtration we dose in grapefruit juice pulp," he explains, "which makes it opaque and adds that final finishing sweetness." First released as a 1,400 case run in summer 2011, all 16,800 bottles sold out within two weeks. "It was so popular," enthuses Matt, "that we brought it back this year in six-packs and in our travel pack." So have no worry — the Grapefruit Ale should be kicking strong for the summer's heat-wave BBQs and sneaky park popping.

Last but not least, the 2012 Pineapple Express Pineapple Wheat Ale will stand in for this summer's Wheat Ale as the newest Goetz creation. Coming down the pipe for July, this unfiltered weissbier will have "fresh pineapples in the boil and the dry-hopping stage," according to Matt, though he has yet to brew it. "Come back for that one," says Bruce, though he keeps his knuckles gripped — "the problem with these experimental recipes," he says, "is what happens if it doesn't work?"