British Columbia

B.C. storm leads to local brewery's fastest selling beer

Brewers were in the middle of creating a new batch of beer at Riot Brewing Co. in Chemainus, on Vancouver Island, when the worst storm in BC Hydro’s history struck, knocking out power to the brewery and 750 000 other people around the province.

When power was knocked out, brewers had to react quickly to save a 2,000 litre batch of beer

Riot Brewing Co. in Chemainus, was in the middle of a new batch of beer when they lost power due to December's record-setting storm. (Sam Swanson)

Brewers were in the middle of a creating a new batch of beer at Riot Brewing Co. in Chemainus, on Vancouver Island, when the worst storm in BC Hydro's history struck, knocking out power to the brewery and 750,000 other people around the province.

The unfinished beer was at the crucial point in its brewing process where it needed to be boiled, or else the team risked losing 2,000 litres of beer — and all the profits that accompany it.

"We basically had about six hours to jump into action," said Sam Swanson, Riot Brewing Co. sales representative.

Inspiration struck in the form of raw malt, which has a naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria, says Swanson.

Brewers added it to the soon-to-be-spoiled beer, allowed it to sour for three days, then finally boiled it once the power was restored, using a process called kettle souring.

Brewers at the Riot Brewing Co. made the quick decision to add raw malt to the mix to keep the beer from spoiling. (Sam Swanson)

But how does it taste?

Brewing beer is a precise and controlled practice, according to Swanson, and because they had veered from the recipe out of necessity, they had no idea whether it would even taste good.

"Oh, we were so nervous," said Swanson.

"But with the first taste, I think the brewers were like 'wow this is actually really good. Let's continue with this.'" 

The team added a couple more flavours to the concoction like passion fruit and plum and thus was born the Sour Outage Beer.

'The power of sour'

Like many businesses across B.C., Riot Brewing Co. experienced considerable financial losses from the storm due to the closure of their tasting room, limited hours, road closures and delivery difficulties.

Swanson sent out a plea to the community and past buyers to give their new beer a chance and help them recuperate some of their losses. 

This included a reimagining of the poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas describing how their new beer was saved by "the power of the sour." A video of the poem was posted to the company's social media accounts.

And it worked.

Within 24 hours, the brewery had sold out of their entire stock of Sour Outage.

"It's very rare [to sell out that quickly] for a small little brewery like ours," said Swanson.

"It was really cool to see the community come together and help us out."

Although Swanson's not sure the recipe could ever be re-created due to its unique conception, she says they'll definitely try.

As for the poem, it's now featured on the label.

The team's reimagining of the poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas is now featured on the new beer's lable. (Sam Swanson)

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