Slow Hand Beer finds a home
It took two years, but Slow Hand Beer finally has a place to call home. For many, the room will be familiar as it once housed Doan’s Craft Brewing (1830 Powell St.), but a fresh coat of paint and new decor has given the room a much cozier and intimate second life.
“Opening the tasting room means that people can come over to our house so we can talk to them about why we do what we do,” said co-owner Kurtis Sheldan.
What Slow Hand does, according to Sheldan, is produce ‘infinitely sessionable beers’ – like lagers – but with character.
“We drew a lot of inspiration from progressive brewers in the US who are doing really thoughtfully executed lagers that were so much better than what we could find at home,” said Sheldan. “I personally got to the end of my rope with intensely acidic sour or super juicy IPAs. I really just wanted to drink a Pilsner.”
When Sheldan and co-owner Chris Charron started Slow Hand Beer they looked to other more mature markets to see what was trending. While local breweries continued to dive deeper into acidic sours and juicy IPA’s Sheldan and Charron decided to place their bets on lagers.
For many, lagers are synonymous with mass beer brands like Budweiser, Coors, Molson and other cheap, middle of the road beers that are crushable at best.
“I love pouring our beers for people who don’t like lagers because the lagers they’ve had from here and abroad because they are under-conditioned, or too far on the malt or hop side, or are too sweet,” said Sheldan. “They sell and they are fine, but they aren’t chasing excellence and that’s not what we do.”
Until recently Slow Hand made a pilsner-style lager and that was all they made. Since they did not have a brick and mortar space of their own, Sheldan and Charron decided to take their recipe to a contract brewer, Craft Collective (formerly Factory Brewing), to produce and package the beer, which they still use to make the pilsner to this day.
Contract brewing is a controversial topic in the craft brewing world. Many argue that it gives new beer companies an unfair advantage as they do not have to come up with the capital to open their own brewery. There is also an argument that it is a way for bottom-line driven beer companies who have no interest in furthering beer culture get into the game. (There are many arguments for and against, which we won’t wade into in this article.)
For Sheldan, who has been working in the beer industry for years, it was an opportunity.
“We didn’t have the means to open a brick and mortar brewery right out of the gate, but we had a recipe which we developed ourselves and we had enough savings collectively to be able to finance the first batch, which financed the second batch and so on, until we were able to open our own space,” said Sheldan. “I think saying that contract brewing is the devil is doing your drinkers a disservice. They’ll figure out what they like and they are good at weeding out the posers and subpar beer.”
In the two years since Slow Hand launched the local beer market has already shifted towards more session style beers. Parallel 49 and Four Winds both released top-end lagers, which Sheldan sees as a sign that tastebuds are shifting.
“We’re small so starting a trend is hard, so seeing some of the trendsetters getting more into it is good for us too,” said Sheldan. “We expect it will be a few years before there’s a massive push towards lager as a style, but as we look at these other more developed beer markets whose trends we follow every single time, it’s going to get there.”
What the new space has allowed Slow Hand to do is experiment with new styles. They’ve recently added a Mexican Cerveza, a Kellerbier, a hopped table beer (excellent with beef stew) and a pale ale to their line up, but the pilsner remains their flagship.
“We’re not going to necessarily invent a beer style, but what we want to do is take these flavours that we really enjoy and refine them, give them some elegance and make them just interesting enough to keep you coming back, versus that really big crazy extremity, which is great for the first pint or two,” said Sheldan. “I love it when I’m in a store and someone rocks up to the counter with a few really intense beers and then a six-pack of our pilsners.”
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