St. Patrick's Day and the art of beer making

Photo courtesy of Central City Brewhouse Facebook page

St. Patrick’s Day is the biggest and best day of the year for a lot of pubs and breweries. One such place is Central City Brewhouse. Located at SFU Surrey, across from Surrey Central SkyTrain, they have taken up some prime real estate, with a large student market.

But how did it all begin?

I spoke with brewmaster Gary Lohin about beer, St. Patrick’s Day, and their upcoming fundraiser. How does one get into the brew making business?

"For me, it started as a passion at very young age. I was an avid home brewer during  the microbrewery explosion that happened in the late 80s in British Columbia," he said. 

From there, Lohin has worked as head beermaker at Central City since its opening in 2003.

In honour of their 10th anniversary, Central City is moving their primary facility to a bigger lot in July where the pub revert back to being a traditional brewpub – making beer just for the restaurant as opposed to distribution as well.

Central City is most famous for their Red Racer IPA beer. According to Lohin, its origin comes from an adaptation of a picture the restaurant was given  featuring a 1950s pin-up model and an old-school motorbike. After a day or two of brainstorming, they chose to name their signature beer after the bike. IPA, which stands for India Pale Ale, which went on to become the highest selling beer in Canada.

But Lohin and Central aren't just about lagers and ales. They are also actively involved in raising money for autism research. Their newest creation, the imperial IPA sells for $9.90, five dollars of which goes toward autism. Although much of their fundraising is allocated through the Canucks autism foundation, they also operate independently. So far they have raised approximately $10 000 of their $75 000 goal. To help them raise the last $65 000, they're holding a fundraiser, auction and dinner on April 13.

While every beer is different, a good guideline to follow is reinheitsgebot, also known as the German purity law. Originally decreed in the 15th century, it stated that the only ingredients brewers could use are water, barley and hops. Today, the rules have become more relaxed, and most brew masters include yeast and malt in addition to the original three ingredients. The key for brewers is hops, as that will determine the flavour of the beer.

Our discussion also ventured into the politics of beer, and the laws surrounding the legal drinking age. Gary thinks it's ridiculous that the United States has a legal drinking age of 21. He believes beer--and to a certain extent, all alcohol-- needs to be de-mystified. As well, the fact that BC has the highest liquor tax in the country does not bode well for brew masters like himself, especially given the amount of beer us west-coasters consume.

I was also fortunate enough to get a tour of the facilities, and was blown away by how the system works. Central City has 16 fermenters, all crammed into a relatively small space. Their bottling room is mostly automated, other then the capping, sorting, and some button-pushing. It is no wonder they are moving to a bigger facility; they are succeeding in the business they’re in and are growing and expanding as a result.

As Gary has travelled to many parts of the world, including Germany and Ireland, I could not resist asking him who makes the best beer.

"I always say my favourite beer is the one that I have in my hand," he said. 

This St. Patrick’s Day I’m sure most beer drinkers agreed with that statement.

Central City Pub is located at #190-13450 192nd Ave in Surrey, next to SFU Surrey and across the lot from Surrey Central SkyTrain. You can visit their website at www.centralcitybrewing.com

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