From Soil To Spent Grain

Posted by Aaron Spinney, April 6, 2017

To start with a cliché would be, well… just that. To discuss our struggles, would be drab and overused #buildingabrewery… If you ask any one of us if we’re happy where we are and if we would change anything, there wouldn’t be much. Besides this is not about the past, this is all about looking to the sweet, sweet wort-filled future.

I’m not here to empower you, give you lessons on starting a brewery, or the ins and outs of a business plan. This my friends, this is a celebration piece. A quick minute before the clock strikes moon-noon and you take a deep breath, a relief between the thoughts and wonder if you prepared enough, planned enough in your head at 2am because you can’t sleep. It’s insane to be in this position at this moment in time. It’s kind of hard to wrap my head around. This isn’t real, is it? Sitting on a bucket against a tank, feet on the epoxy floor, staring at the brewhouse that we helped design three years ago; is very hard to believe. I can touch it, I can turn it on, and I can create again. It’s real, believe me it’s all too real.

MERIT is integrity, hard work, honesty, and love. Those things are hard to taste. So, we’ll just make beer with those things in mind. Although it’s nice to be able to reference countless recipes and past experiences, it’s always nerve racking to wonder how your art, your ideas, and creativity will be received. Not only are we releasing 10 new recipes right off the get-go (don’t worry, we’ve tested em. mom liked em…) we are brewing our first batch of beer for the first time (deep breaths, deep breaths).

This brew is as much an important test on the new system as it is important to fill those fermentation vessels. So, we didn’t want to go crazy on our first day. Besides hard work and creativity, we believe in wasting the hours away around a dinner table, yet never growing old around one. So, with those two things in mind, we are rocking a 3% table session beer, for casual moments. The beer is meant to be a nice lunch time or patio sipper and is offered as an amuse-bouche or ice breaker to start. I want to try and approach the average line up of a tap list differently – because we have the freedom! Our philosophy and what I believe to be a big meaning in life is, “the expansion of happiness through the exploration of flavours and aromas.” You can borrow that one if you like it. It makes me smile.

A lower alcohol beer allows our first batch on a new brewhouse to use less grain. This makes things a little easier as we get comfortable in our new playground. Having a lower ABV also has it’s challenges on the recipe development side of things. The beer can’t be too thin or watery, it needs some body and needs a delicate but beautiful flavour and aroma. By combining barley, wheat, and specialty grains, we hope to hit all of those targets for the body and alcohol content. It will however be a continuous evolution. To me, adding the hops to this brew means balance. With a light, fruity, and perhaps grassy nuisance that lends itself nicely to the traditional yeast characteristics of the French Saison style yeast. This beer isn’t meant to be the biggest, toughest, or strongest; it’s meant to be approachable, quaffable, and fun. Sometimes we don’t need to dissect our beer, it’s just nice to be surrounded by laughs, food, and a full pint for 10 minutes or so… then repeat.

So, that happened, we brewed. What a rush. Honestly, a real blur. It wasn’t the finest dance, but it was smooth. It was here and gone, a lot of muscle memory, and motions and emotions I think? I don’t know, like I said… a blur. Yet, it did happen, I assure you it did. Ok so, great, cool, what’s next? Don’t stop, because rest assured tomorrow is still happening. Back to scheduling and organizing, ordering and logistical coordinating, slugging grain bags, hops, and chemicals around (safely might I add) – it’s awesome! It’s a feeling I can’t process while always thinking about the next thing to do. Never mind all of that. “We Brewed!”

So as the first fateful brew day came and went, the perpetual brew day scheduling marches on. All in the name of keeping our lovely yeast and bacteria alive and fed well so we may produce delicious art in a glass. I swear we’re just yeast farming plumbers that pretend to be chefs. I can’t wait to share the process and the evolution of the beers at MERIT. I’m so humbled that I have a stage, a kitchen, a playground, a lab, an educational centre, a canvas to create and learn. All of that and it still looks like a pretty shiny brewery to most. MERIT is a real place to be proud of, a place to share with old friends and new, a place to welcome friends we haven’t met yet (that’s all of you)!

So… I should get back to work, scrubbing and stuff. I can’t sit around and type away all night (as much as I’d love to). Before we end here I just want to remind you I didn’t begin with a cliché and I didn’t bombard you with complaints, I never once said “it’s not the end of the world”, “what a long strange trip it’s been”, or “something is brewing”, nor did I say “break a leg kid.” However, I did on the other hand describe the first brew recipe and idea behind the beer itself, some emotions or the blur of this project, the planning and scheduling, and most likely a philosophy or two. So, I’ll end with a thank you for all your support, and maybe for reading to this point in the ramble and thoughts upon the page. We can’t wait to open the doors and hangout with everyone, work on some secret handshakes, talk about stuff, drink things and eat foods together, while laughing a lot in between. Thanks for all the support this far, thank you, thank you, thank you!

— Aaron Spinney, MERIT Brewing Company