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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Monday, November 19, 2018

10 Craft Beer Questions with Storm Stayed’s Justin Bélanger

This post comes from Matt Brown, the Beer Baron. Follow him at @geekcanuck

Opened in late 2017, Storm Stayed Brewing Company has quickly become one of my favourite craft beer spots in the city thanks to its modern but welcoming beer hall vibe, friendly and knowledgeable staff, unique location (169 Wharncliffe Road South in London’s Old South, whereas all the other breweries in the city are currently in the east end) and, of course, great craft beer. Aside from their own broad selection of craft beer, they also have a couple of rotating guest taps and a selection of wine and cider, which makes it an ideal stop for the Clockwatching Tart too.

I’m proud to kick off my new 10 Craft Beer Questions feature with Justin Bélanger, brewer and co-owner of Storm Stayed Brewing Company.

1. What was the first beer you tried that really opened up your mind to the idea that beer could be special? When did you first have it and how did you discover it?

The first beer that really got me to enjoy beer as a drink was probably Tankhouse by Mill Street. It was the first flavourful beer that seemed like it was brewed to be enjoyed and not just consumed quickly while cold. I first had this beer while looking for something to drink while grading lab reports, a job that needed liquid support.

2. What was your go-to style of beer five years ago? And what is it now?

Five years ago, my go-to style would have been an IPA everyday. Hops and more of it! That was probably one the reasons that made me brew more often, so that I could get those great fresh hop aromatics. Today, my beer of choice would be an Irish Red or a Pilsner, great beers with subtle flavour that compliment food instead of overpowering it.

3. How did you get into brewing?

I got into brewing because I thought the science behind it was interesting, and I think that the science has been what has kept me interested in it as a hobby and now as a career. What I love about it is how small tweaks in the water chemistry or fermentation temperature can drastically change a recipe.

4. What was your most epic fail as you were learning to brew and what did you learn from it?

During my early homebrewing experiments, I thought it would be a great idea to use brown sugar (in large quantities) to help boost the alcohol content. Well, the brown sugar didn’t fully ferment out and had a sickly sweetness that stopped you from drinking more than a sip or two. I learned that if you want to brew good beer, you need healthy yeast.

5. When did you decide to open Storm Stayed and what made you decide to choose Old South as a location?

Back in 2010, I did a bike trip across Canada and I would visit pubs and breweries as I biked along. I just loved the atmosphere and camaraderie, and that has followed through to today. The beer scene is such a supportive environment, brewers helping others whether for ingredients or questions. Storm Stayed was my effort to join a great group of people (I was tired of the grind of working for a large organization). While planning our brewery, we wanted to have a community-oriented business and to do that, we needed to be in one of the neighbourhoods. We considered Old East, which already houses most of London’s beer scene, Old North, and Byron; but the location that really drew us was Wortley Village. Unfortunately, there weren’t any buildings available in the village that would have been suitable for a brewery but in the process, we found our great location (still in Old South, but now located in The Coves).

6. What Storm Stayed beer are you most proud of and why?

I’m really proud of Sunburst and Patina. Sunburst is our New England-style Pale Ale and it has a low bitterness which makes it smooth and easy to drink but also has nice grapefruit aromatics. Our Patina is my version of an Irish Red and it has a nice caramel and slight roast character -- it makes for a great campfire drink.

7. If you could have created any specific beer from the past 20 years, what would you choose and why?

Right now, I’m really digging pilsners and have been looking for them everytime I’m out. Both Vim and Vigor by Tooth and Nail and Bellweiser by Bellwoods are ones that if I see it on tap, it’ll be the first and last beers of the evening. Who knows, maybe we’ll see a pils on tap at Storm Stayed in the future.

8. Is there anything specific about Storm Stayed that you think makes it appealing to different demographics?

The great thing about Old South, Wortley, and The Coves area is the great diversity in our population. We want our space to feel safe and welcoming and we’ve tried to make an accommodating environment that everyone could enjoy.

9. What is your favourite thing about the London craft beer scene?

What I love most about the London craft beer scene is how close knit it is and how much everyone supports everyone. We’ve worked together on bulk-buys to help with costs, we’ve taken part in festivals together (Forked Fest, Anderson Anniversary, etc.), and we’ve even competed against each other (congratulations Equals on your bowling win, we’ll bring our A-game next time).

10. Do you have any special beers planned for the winter? Anything exciting craft beer lovers in London should be looking forward to from Storm Stayed?

If you look into the brewery the next time you’re visiting the taproom, you’ll notice a couple of stacked barrels off to the side. I am super excited about them! Experimentation was a key factor in wanting to open my own brewery and being able to use wood of different origins (red or white wine, bourbon, brandy, etc.) is a further extension of our experimental goals. Look forward to those releases around our anniversary (early January).

I’m also looking forward to doing small batch tinctures. This is something that you’ve already seen in the past (e.g. Coffeebreak), but we’ve now acquired some new equipment that’ll allow us to work on a larger scale than our pilot system.

Thanks, Justin!  

If you have any suggestions for who you’d like to see from the London craft beer scene in the next 10 Craft Beer Questions column, let us know @geekcanuck

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