A special, first-of-its-kind project featuring Olds College brewing students has sunk its talons into the Alberta craft beer scene.
Night Owl, a bold new coffee stout, swooped in for the Calgary International Beer Festival on May 2 and will also make an appearance at the Edmonton equivalent on June 6 and 7. After that, you won’t see a new batch until the fall.
It’s the result of the first collaboration between two Alberta breweries, Big Rock and Tool Shed, as well as Calgary-based Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters.
Four students from the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management diploma program, in its first year at Olds College, also volunteered for the chance to extract coffee into the beer in a cutting-edge way.
“It was an amazing opportunity to be able to work with an established brewery and a more up-and-coming brewer,” said Garret Haynes, 33, one of the students who participated in the project.
“Instead of just throwing some coffee into a beer and calling it a done deal, the concept was to make a full-strength cup of coffee using beer instead of water.”
The stout used 180 pounds of freshly ground Kenyan coffee beans, with currant and caramel undertones, in a french-pressed process.
“We rigged up a device actually … where you could french press the hot beer through the coffee for the same duration and temperature that you would when making coffee,” said Haynes, who lives in Lacombe and has been home brewing for six years.
Haynes said the end result was unique, “a flavour of not just coffee and not just beer either,” but a “synergy, almost like a chocolate taste to it.”
The teams behind the recipe decided the students should be responsible for coming up with a name for the brew, as well as ideas for product packaging. Haynes’ proposal for the name Night Owl and related imagery, as well as the playful “Who. Who?” tagline, were the winners.
Graham Sherman, the brewer and co-founder of Tool Shed, said the Olds students (who in addition to Haynes included Michael Lamarche, Lisa Drapaka and Jeffrey Grandy) are “probably the most passionate people” in the craft brewing industry at the moment.
“They were so excited to be a part of something of this magnitude. … No Albertan breweries have ever done a collaboration like this. And it was the first collaboration for Big Rock in the history of their company so it was pretty neat,” Sherman said. “Having them down at the brewery for the day, it was like Christmas. You could see their eyes glowing.”
He hopes to sign on more brewmaster students for upcoming projects.
For Haynes, who was present for Night Owl’s official launch on April 22 in Calgary as well as the city’s Beer Fest, seeing beer and coffee enthusiasts enjoy the product was one of the best rewards.
Customers would have a sniff of it and exclaim, “Wow!” Haynes said. “That made you feel good, excited to see it received like that.”
All proceeds from Night Owl will go back into the brewing program at Olds, Sherman said. He expects the amount to be $5,000 plus.
Meanwhile, for Haynes, the experience led to a job opportunity. He started a summer position with Big Rock earlier this month working in the quality control lab, testing packaged beer and samples taken from the fermentor during the beer-making process.
“The one thing I love to do is brew beer,” he said. “After I graduate, I hope to do something where I have some creative control and can come up with some seasonal recipes or something like that.”
Another beer created by students at the Olds College Teaching Brewery was voted as the 2014 Rookie of the Year at the Calgary Beer Festival, the top award for a beer created by a first-year brewery. This brew was named #10 Browning Street, a northern English style brown ale featuring a note of oven-roasted pecans.