British Columbia

The best beer you can't buy: Vancouver Island homebrewing collective racks up honours

The Comox, B.C.-based Lazo Barrel Collective is a group of homebrewers whose beer has been tickling tastebuds and winning medals across the country.

Lazo Barrel Collective is a group of beer lovers based in Comox, B.C.

The Lazo Barrel Collective is a homebrewing collective that's been winning awards across the country. (Lazo Barrel Collective/Untappd)

The Comox, B.C.-based Lazo Barrel Collective might be brewing the best beer you can't buy. 

The group of beer enthusiasts has been tickling tastebuds and winning medals across Canada for their brew.

They picked up second and third place finishes at the Pro/Am Brew Challenge in Winnipeg in October. In November, the group beat out more than 300 entries from across the country to win Best of Show at the Saskatoon Headhunters Brewing Competition. 

The group, founded by Alex Blais, Adam Crysler, Chris Frederiksen and Ryan Steffler, came together after one of the members came to possess a few wine barrels, said Frederiksen.

"We acquired two of them and we got a group together to to fill them because they're quite large volumes — they're 55 gallons, which is like 11 times larger than your normal homebrew-sized batch," Frederiksen said.

Homebrewers cannot sell or serve their product to anyone for a fee, but they can share it for free. ((Lazo Barrel Collective/Untappd))

Their experiments with different batches and "funky yeasts" has given their beers robust character, he added. 

But it's rarely been a straightforward process, Crysler said. 

"It's a lot of sampling, a lot of tasting, a lot of brainstorming between the group of us to come up with recipes and fermentation temperatures and styles and exactly the style of beer we're looking for as well," he said.

And there have been lots of interesting learning moments along the way. 

For instance, Crysler says one barrel of beer didn't taste like "anything worthwhile," but after leaving it over the winter, it developed a nice flavour.

"It's amazing what the yeast in the microbes in each of these barrels can do with some time," he said.

It's not legal for homebrewers to sell their product, but Crysler and Frederiksen say they are always sharing bottles with friends, co-workers and family. 

And while they're glad of their success, they won't be quitting their day jobs. 

"We all have professional day jobs and this is really a passion project and right now it's really fun, and I don't want that fun to end," said Frederiksen. 

Listen to the segment on All Points West:

The Comox, B.C.-based Lazo Barrel Collective is a group of beer-lovers whose beer has been turning on taste buds and winning medals across the country. 6:09

With files from All Points West

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