Last month during Apartment 613's Beer Chat we learned from Beyond the Pale co-owner, Robert McIsaac, that they would be collaborating on a Grätzer beer with Union Local 613 and Brad Remus. We chatted with Brad shortly after his brew day in Hintonburg about his brewing experience, the Smoked Pole and where you'll be able to try it.
Ottawa Beer Events: How did you get interested in brewing and where did you learn?
Brad Remus: I've been a beer nut for years. Years ago, some friends and I started out trying everything we could get our hands on. First from Belgium, then the rest of Europe, and then the US and Canada, etc. We started learning about the different styles, and that there is much more to the beer world than terribly boring light lagers. After a while I wanted to be able to make this fun and interesting stuff on my own. Sounds overly simple, but I took to Google and a simple search for "how to brew beer" started it all. I started reading everything I could online, ordered books, found some equipment, and got started in my garage. I'd brew a batch of something, we'd sample and critique, and learn from each one. There is a huge homebrew community in Ottawa as well, and that has been a very valuable resource of information and support.
What's your connection with Beyond the Pale Brewing Co.?
I met Shane around the time of the National Capital Craft Beer Week last summer. There was a large homebrew competition, and he turned out to be one of the judges for the smoked beer category. We chatted after the fact, and he told me that he absolutely loved my Gratzer, and even after sampling as many beers as he had in that session, it was very memorable. That beer won the smoked beer category, and finished respectably in the best in show as well. We chatted about doing a collab on it once they were up and running, and established. I ended up moving to Westboro in the fall, and have spent a world of time at the brewery since. We talk about beer, sample beer, tell tall tales, etc! They've given me a great opportunity to work with them on a special brew, and get my name out in the industry in something that I really enjoy doing, and want to do more of.
What's a Grätzer? What made you want to brew that style?
A Gratzer is a Polish style that almost went the way of the dodo. There has been a bit of a resurgence in the Craft community, and even more with the homebrewers, but it's still hard to find commercial examples.
The beer itself is an oak-smoked wheat beer, with a low alcohol by volume. It has a fairly smoky nose to it, and the smoke flavour is quite pleasant. There is a decent amount of bitterness to offset the smoky character, and a slightly sweeter finish. The abv will be below 4%, making it a fantastic session beer for the summer. This is part of the reason we wanted to get this out while it's still hot.
I have the opportunity to work on contracts on the road from time to time, and once while in Toronto I happened upon a Gratzer on the menu at Bar Volo. I was really intrigued by it, and why I didn't know of it. As I started to look into it, it immediately became something I really had to make, and I formulated myself a recipe from everything I had been reading. It turned out to be a great beer, and was well liked from beer nuts to even occasional beer drinkers. Some people might see "smoked beer" and be turned off, but it's really rather pleasing for all sorts of palates.
This beer was brewed in collaboration with Union Local 613 – how were they involved?
possible these days to buy oak-smoked wheat malt from Weyermann, but we
wanted to smoke it all on our own. We wanted to make it more of a local
collab, and more interesting overall by doing it all ourselves. I had
brewed another myself a few weeks before we started this process, and
took a sample of that smoked malt to Union for some taste testing. We
then started smoking with them, on their huge barrel smoker. We got some
of it done there, but had LOTS to smoke, and knew we'd need more help. I
went to West End Chiles for assistance, and across a number of days and
4 different smokers, we were able to get everything we needed ready to
When will the beer be available and how will beer fans be able to get it?
The release party for this beer will be at Union, on Sunday August 11th. It should be starting mid-afternoon, and going into the evening/night. Details for that can be found on their Facebook page. The beer will then be available at Beyond the Pale during their retail hours that week, as well as at their booth at the National Capital Craft Beer Week festival that weekend. We did a double batch, but it is going to go quickly, so make sure you get out and get yourself some as early as possible! I'll be at Union for the release, as well as at the entire NCCBW festival, and I can't wait to see what people think.
Finally, where do you get your inspiration for brewing?
Inspiration often comes from other beers or styles that strike me. I try every beer I can get my hands on, especially when travelling (Untappd tells me that over the last 2.5 years I've tried almost 1300 different beers). This is a great way to find out what you like in a beer, and what you don't like. See what you think might work, and what you never want to experience again! I've made a lot of brews that I think were hits, a few misses, but I'm always trying to learn from each one. Sometimes something working out "just right" inspires you to tweak it and make it even better. Brewing is a journey. I'll never make the perfect beer. What I loved 2 years ago has been replaced by something else. What I think is fantastic right now will certainly be supplanted soon enough. Similarly, I like to think that I'll always be able to brew something better than I did previously. It's hard not to be inspired when you feel your next brew is going to be the best one yet!
Tickets for the Smoked Pol Grätzer launch party on August 11 at Union are on sale now (limited quantities!). $15.00 buys you a Beyond the Pale tasting glass and four 4 oz samples. In addition to the Grätzer, 8 other beers will be available and food stations by Union – additional food and beer tasting tickets will be available for $3.50.
UPDATE (07/31): Twenty tickets will be available at 6:00pm at Union: Local 613 for $20.00 – first come, first serve.
You can follow Brad on Twitter, @brad_on_beer, as he tweets about beer at National Capital Craft Beer Week.