Prohibition: The period (1920-33) when the Eighteenth Amendment was in force and alcoholic beverages could not be legally manufactured, or sold in the U.S.
The thought of prohibition has this revered notion with many these days, myself included. I’m not sure if it stems from the notion that drinking taboo elixirs in clandestine settings seems proactively appealing or simply the act of going against the those in authority and standing behind what you believe in conjures up feelings of nostalgia. Either way, the prohibition era conjures up images of all things risqué and taboo – that in itself brings upon it a huge following. And that my friends, will not disappear as we see and hear more and more of speakeasies and after-hours taverns.
It’s funny how all it took was a photograph of a prohibitonesque-like light fixture that got my attention and curiosity regarding this new and upcoming brewery: Waller Street Brewing.
Those of you that know me and who have been following my journey of all things yummy and tasty, know that I am not a beer lover to say the least.
Seduce me with dreamy champagne bubbles. Whisk me away to island-like dreams with tropical rum cocktails and endless mojitos. Or better yet, tempt me with spellbinding dirty martinis…that’s what was in my repertoire of libations, beer was never on that list. And Marc-André Chainey, head brewer and co-founder of Waller Street Brewing knew this from the get go and was up for the challenge!
Chainey and partner Elie Dagher, owner of Hooch Bourbon and the Lunenbourg Pub (which happens to be situated above Waller Street Brewing), are both ironically enough full-time bridge engineers by trade…both of whom have an extraordinary love for all things beer with the hopes and dreams of one day soon to expand, by running their own distillery.
The first step to making scotch is making beer. So I started making beer and never stopped, explains Chainey
Being invited for a beer tour with other journalists (all beer loving journalists) I admit, I was completely out of my element as you can imagine. Walking down the stairs to the basement of 14 Waller Street, where the brewery exists, I was shocked and amazed to see the inner workings of this rather complex brewing process. Amazed due to the fact that every single piece of this brewery had to be brought one piece at a time as the logistics of a narrow staircase could not allow anything but that…a piecemeal endeavor to the max!
Fermenting tanks (500 litres) that were assembled piece by piece in the Waller Street Brewery
As you can imagine the 950 sq-ft basement is rather small in dimension but luckily enough for the brewery, it manages to hold all the intricate equipment, bar and literally the grains that are fed into the brewing process.
Everything in this brewery was literally half an inch from being impossible! It’s very, very tight!
Chainey explained that both him and his father worked very hard to get the brewery up and running – a 2yr long process. Delays ranging from one thing or another – from permits to modifying equipment to accommodate for the new housing locale in the existing 1866 Heritage building (a building literally older than Canada) set back the original opening date.
Chainey recalled how he would go to the brewery at 4am to chip away at the concrete ceiling in order to make room for some vital equipment. The early morning time period was the only time slot permitted to allow for such construction, as he couldn’t exactly start chipping away at concrete as patrons in the restaurant above would hear this and not to mention that he still needed to be at his regular day job in the next few hours. So between early morning construction work, a full-time engineering job and I almost forgot, throw in a new-born baby in the mix – was a lot for Chainey…but he made it happen!
During my time at the brewery, I was informed of all the complex workings that needed to happen in order to make the brewery functional. It was easy to see how Chainey’s engineering background came in handy especially when it came time to retrofit and build many intricate yet vital components to his brewing process.
One of the advantages of being so small is the ability to really tweak and adapt the recipes as ingredients and local tastes evolve…
Why the prohibition theme influence?
Other than his love of wearing suspenders…the prohibition theme came naturally, keeping in mind their long term goal of owning a distillery. The age of the building, the theme of the building and just the feel that they have down there in the brewery, it made complete sense. There is also a cheeky comedic reason behind the theme as well, explained Chainey with a smirk on his face…the post-prohibition regulations that Ontario enforces.
The company’s prohibition-era branding reflects that “free-market alternative” they hope to provide
And now the moment of truth…tasting time!
Waller Street Brewing co-fouder and head brewer Marc-André Chainey
So for those of you out there not too familiar with beer codes or acronyms such as myself, I’ve included a ‘cheat sheet’ to aide in understanding the tasting notes provided by Waller Street Brewing.
(International Bittering Units):The measure of the actual bitterness of a beer as contributed by the alpha acid from hops.
(Standard Reference Method): is one of several systems modern brewers use to specify beer color.
(European Brewery Convention): is an organization representing the technical and scientific interests of the brewing sector in Europe. It also measures beer and wort color like the SRM.
Colour based on Standard Reference Method (SRM)
SRM (Standard Reference Method) Chart
Description: Clean and refreshing with a fine balance between malt and hops. This blonde ale lets the delicate complexities of beer shine through. Fermented with two types of yeast = a ‘multicultural fermentation’.
Bitterness: 21 IBU
Color: 5 SRM
Flavor profile of Waller Street Brewing’s Bootleg Blonde
Description: A hazy golden yellow German style wheat. This hefeweizen is a nice refreshing beer with a smooth finish. Notes of banana and cloves are present.
Bitterness: 18 IBU
Color: 6 SRM
Flavor profile of Waller Street Brewing’s Hideaway Hefe
Description: A true Enigma in a pint, this Rye Session Ale doesn’t fall into any standard category. Instead, it stands in a style of its own. It could be described as a Belgian American Red Rye. Strong aroma of citrus notes are present.
Bitterness: 30 IBU
Alcohol: 4.4 %
Color: 15 SRM
Flavor profile of Waller Street Brewing’s Speakeasy Red
Description: This Porter has an assertive American hop profile to round-out the roasted flavors of the chocolate malt.
Bitterness: 50 IBU
Alcohol: 6.3 %
Color: 32 SRM
Flavor profile of Waller Street Brewing’s Moonlight Porter
As much as I tried to ‘blend in’ with the beer aficionados surrounding me, my confidence was curtailed when my ‘cover’ was blown. When asked of what we thought of the rich and heavy Moonlight Porter, Chainey stopped his discussion and broke out in laughter when he noticed that I was secretly still sipping on the Speakeasy Red and avoiding the porter. “She’s a wine lover everybody” Chainey said as it was obvious that the porter wasn’t my cup of tea or in this case beer.
Without a doubt, my favorite was in the citrus notes found in the Speakeasy Red…did that sound like someone who knows her way around beer yet? Yes, I know I still have a long way to go and so much to learn…but like everything else that touches these lips, the fun part is getting there 😉
I must admit I was surprised that I found a beer that I actually enjoyed to the point where I bought the Grumbler (a 750ml glass bottle).
Waller Street Brewing Grumblers
Congratulations to Waller Street Brewing! Looking forward to their future endeavors regarding their distllery…at least then I won’t be so ‘innocent’!