“This is how you want to talk about your beers — with pride and a bit of humour too — and to do that, you have to produce beers that you’re proud of.”
–Excerpt from Brewing Revolution by Frank Appleton
It’s not too soon to say: Canadian craft beer has wrenched the baton of good public opinion from their big commercial counterparts. Happy drinkers with pints or growlers of hoppy ales branded by locally-owned and operated breweries are so commonplace in Western Canada it’s hard to remember the journey from rejected underdog to success is only a few decades old.
For Frank Appleton, named one of the fathers of Canada’s craft-brewing movement, this dramatic change has taken place in one lifetime — his. In his new book, Brewing Revolution: Pioneering the Craft Beer Movement Appleton gives an insider’s account of the pioneering efforts that revived our palates and the nation’s craft beer industry along with it.
From a home brewer thinking of opening up shop to a savvy beer drinker, Brewing Revolution is your guidebook to the world of local Canadian beer, and then some. Appleton plays both historian and knowledgeable teacher in this first-hand account of a dynamic career.
From his early days in the corn-processing industry and eight years with former commercial beer giant, O’Keefe, in the ’60s and ’70s, Appleton became well-acquainted with all the social pressures and the adjunct products — corn syrup, cornstarch —he’d spend the rest of his life expelling from the brew. Those fillers plagued the Canadian beer market for decades under the Big Three: Labatt, Molson and Carling, who banded together and monopolized shelf space with their “flavourless fizz” and “corporate beer”.
Disgusted with the profit-before-quality mindset, Appleton left O’Keefe and Big Beer’s misplaced values. But it wasn’t until a fortuitous phone call in the summer of 1981 that new ideas really started fermenting. The call would lead to a brewpub, the Troller Pub in West Vancouver and a lifelong friendship with its owner, John Mitchell. There, the two reintroduced the public to real, high-protein, unfiltered ales and, with reinvigorated tastebuds, the crusade of craft beer began.
But quality brewing is in no way an easy task, Appleton reminds us. And with perhaps that same learned dedication, he imparts loads of scientific knowledge throughout the pages.
“Hop oils have an antiseptic quality that suppresses beer spoilage bacteria, and thus they act as a preservative. These oils also reduce the surface tension of the wort, giving a more even, controlled boil, and the promote the precipitation of soluble proteins and tannins to insoluble ‘trub,’ which is the name for the solids left in the liquid after the boil.”
Phew! A trained microbiologist, Appleton gets detailed, so be ready to nerd out on some beer terminology and brewery know-how. He covers everything from how to plan your brewery out (always with the brewer in mind) to the array of treatments that will help reduce microbial contaminants.
For anyone who has cultivated a mind for beer this book is an incredibly informative resource. Appleton maintains a conversational tone which keeps the information accessible and interesting to such novelty beer drinkers as myself, but tying up a passionate lifetime of work in one book seems to inevitably lead to some rather verbose passages.
Through Appleton’s learned tales of stringent laws, bad business, faulty infrastructure and batches of spoiled beer, Brewing Revolution showcases the demanding work and artisanal pride it takes to craft a quality product. Reading it will help you develop an appreciation – if not a thirst – for a true brew; and, thanks to Appleton and his colleagues, it’s likely you won’t have to go far to enjoy one!