The following is a post in our ongoing welcoming of guest writers to the Bottomless Pint. Find out more about Dylan in his bio below the article.
Prince Rupert, a small fishing town of about 13 thousand people in Northern BC and home to Wheelhouse Brewing Company. Opened in 2013, The Wheelhouse set to fill a void that the small city was missing and they did just that. Walk into the cozy brewery and you’ll get the instant feeling of community. Fishing décor, dim lighting, open doors and the sound of strangers having conversations provides the perfect environment for a small-town brewery aiming to be everyone’s go-to drinking spot.
The Wheelhouse came together when Craig, the head brewer at Wheelhouse and a few of his friends (now partners in the brewery) decided to try homebrewing for the first time. Like many novice homebrewers do, the boys bought some kits from Dan’s Homebrewing Supply in Vancouver, owned by the late Dan Small. The beginners began their brewing experience with a grain/extract batch of Pale Ale. Eventually the homebrewing lead to conversations about starting their own brewery and planning, without an actual timeline, began. The homebrew meet ups turned into business conversations over a few beers and slowly, a business plan was pieced together.
Fast-forward to 2016 and Wheelhouse Brewing Company is doing just fine. Owned and operated by Kent, James and Craig, three of the guys who began their homebrewing experiences together. The brewery was the winner of Prince Rupert’s 2013 Rookie Business of the Year and Canadian Beer Awards Bronze Medalists in the smoked category.
I met with Craig at Wheelhouse Brewing Company. He was nice enough to share some words with me during the end of his brewing day in order to get a more in depth look at the plans for the brewery and himself as a brewer.
Craig became more invested in the brewing aspect of the brewery than the others and continued on as the head brewer. He currently brews about 5-6 batches a week on the 4-hectolitre system, qualifying them as a nano brewery at the end of each year. Currently the two most popular beers brewed by Craig at the Wheelhouse are the Flagship Pale Ale and Gilnetter Golden Ale. The First Mate White IPA being his personal favourite of them all.
Craig spoke on the expansion plans of the brewery. Currently only open to the public Thursday through Sunday, he prefers not to be in everyone’s way while he brews on the other days. The current expansion being built will hopefully be finished by mid spring, allowing for more brewing and drinking space.
Fairly limited with what yeast they can currently handle at the brewery, Craig expressed that the expansion will allow for him to begin experimenting with new beers, possibly integrating some Belgian styles that he enjoys to the brewery. Amongst the current trend of craft breweries making beers simply to push the envelope and potentially losing sight of quality, it’s important to note a few points that were said to me by Craig during our conversation. “I don’t need to take over the world,” He said when discussing the current state of the craft beer industry, “I would rather brew everyone’s go-to beer”. The boys at Wheelhouse are very well in tune with their current market and aware that people are not requesting the newest and most complex styles in Prince Rupert, however they plan to keep introducing newer styles to their market step by step.
Thankfully for them, not everyone is looking for the newest sour or aggressively hopped IPA. The Wheelhouse Brewing Company is consistently producing quality beers that people can rely on every time they drink them and hopefully with the expansion plans, the brewery will be able to introduce new varieties while still remaining consistent to their locals.
Nearing the end of our conversations, Craig was nice enough to give me an early taste of a Saison he’s been working on before its release. It has since been released and did very well in the uncharacteristic heat Prince Rupert experienced this Summer. We shared a beer and wrapped up our conversation as a truck was arriving to pick up some kegs, which Craig loaded himself.
Wheelhouse Brewing Co. has kept us beer geeks sane with sporadic and very limited cask releases. Most of these casks contain ingredients local to Prince Rupert, keeping the hometown vibe alive and creating a product truly unique to Wheelhouse.
Dylan Palozzi, fresh out of Brampton, ON, quickly fell in love with the world of beer a couple years ago. He spends his time cramming as much beer knowledge as he can, in hopes to one day know a thing or two. Currently living in Prince Rupert, BC, a small fishing town on the north-west coast. He is passionately working as a CYW, rolling around on his skateboard and seizing every opportunity he gets to explore new beers and places. Find him on twitter here.