How One of Canada’s Oldest Breweries Stays Fresh in the Wake of the Craft Beer Boom
[In Partnership with Big Rock Brewery] Decades on from their humble beginnings in Calgary, Big Rock continues their own tradition of utilizing high quality ingredients and marching to the beat of their own drum.
As one of Canada’s founding craft brewers, Big Rock Beer has paved the way for what’s now considered the golden age of brewing in Canada.
When you consider the amount of breweries currently operating in Vancouver, it’s easy to see that craft beer has transcended trend status and rightfully asserted itself as a defining feature of Vancouver’s culinary scene. While the surge of new breweries is great for beer lovers, it also means more competition for those behind the scenes. That however, is not something Big Rock has on their minds.
“I am not surprised at all to see this boom, I am more surprised that it took this long”, says Big Rock’s Vancouver based Brewmaster, Jody Hammell. “People for many years have been turning to locally sourced everything; arts, crafts, food, etc, and now it’s your local brewery’s turn. In my view if you’re concerned about the competition, you should be more concerned about your product.”
Big Rock founder Ed McNally was set on doing things differently from the get-go. An emphasis on “quality, consistency and paying attention to the details”, is a set of principals the brewery still subscribes to, to this day. In fact, the most interesting thing about Big Rock’s position within craft beers recent popularity is just how much Big Rock has stayed the same.
“The brewing process at all of the big Rock breweries has changed surprisingly little since 1985,” says Jody. “We are still batch brewed and the processes are still pretty much all hands on, there is very little and limited automation involved. When we say hand crafted, batch brewed – we mean it.”
If you think Big Rock’s “stick-to-your-guns” mentality suggests complacency, you couldn’t be more wrong. Big Rock regularly releases limited edition brews and experimental offerings, such as their Canada 150 beers, which represented the flavour profile of Canada’s distinct regions, including an East Coast stout brewed with oysters. Thirty-two years in and there’s still no shortage of fresh ideas.
“Inspiration comes from different places”, says Jody. “Sometimes I get inspired by someone else’s beer, sometimes I just want to make a classic style with or without a bit of a twist, and sometimes it’s as simple as an idea that hits me while out on a hike… We still like to “chart our own course.”
When asked about Big Rock’s “competition” the conversation quickly turns to a discussion of community and admiration. “The beer community in Vancouver is amazing. Everybody is really good at something. I am continually inspired by the range of different beer styles that the brewers around this city are putting out. Some of these beers are world class standouts in my opinion.”
So, if you’re looking for fantastic craft beer, you’re certainly in the right city. You can visit Big Rock Brewery online or go for a tour, tasting, and great food at Big Rock Urban Brewery and Eatery in Vancouver at 310 West 4th Avenue.