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Headline: The Art of Suds: Ready to open the tap on premium microbrew
Date: January 30, 2000
Reporter: Mark Falkenberg
In a corner of Vedder Crossing near the old CFB Chilliwack, Larry Caza is getting ready to open the tap on a dream.
It won’t be long now before he starts filling kegs of Chilliwack’s first microbrewed beer at the Old Yale Brewing Company, the flower of Mr. Caza’s longtime obsession with zymurgy – the last word in the Oxford Concise Dictionary and “the branch of applied chemistry dealing with the use of fermentation in brewing etc.”
In other words, the art of suds.
But not just any suds. Far from it. What Mr. Caza is aiming for is a malt and hops elixir, the quality of which has seldom if ever been poured into the mugs of Canadian drinkers.
The idea got its start in his passion for home brewing. Like many enthusiasts, he started with store-bought kits and knocked off decent brews with the malt syrup extract and a few buckets and carboys.
Then he really got into it, learning how to brew from scratch: buying malted barley, grinding it, steeping (mashing), rinsing (sparging), boiling and fermenting the whole brew himself, and experimenting with his own recipes.
“You can gain a lot of experience working in small batches,” he says. “It’s very rewarding. It’s almost like art.”
He started meeting people who owned microbreweries, got familiar with the business end of brewing. Then he made up his mind to do it himself.
One of the big hurdles, finding suitable brewing equipment, cleared only in the past two months. After looking for years, he pegged a great stainless-steel setup that the Deschutes Brewing Company in Bend, Oregon, had put on the market when the U.S. brewer decided to upgrade its facilities. Having secured the crucial equipment, Mr. Caza is now focusing on his main goal, bringing locally made Northwest-style beers to the Fraser Valley.
“The Americans make excellent beers – they don’t hold back on anything,” he says.
Especially the microbrewers, who make a product that hearkens back to a time when beer had character and individuality, as opposed to what happened once mega-production and mega-marketing got through with it. Microbrews are as different from your standard six-pack as fresh-baked sourdough down the street at the B.C. Connections Cafe is from Wonder Bread.
Mr. Caza figures there’s a big untapped market for the kind of brews he wants to make. Canadian beer lovers are mostly used to decent microbrews of the kind made by Granville Island Brewing, Shaftebury and Okanagan Springs. Those Canadian beers are good, he says – but there’s a lot of room for a new kind of beer.
“I feel there’s an opportunity to make beers that are more like the ones from the Pacific Northwest – full flavoured, lots of hops, even a nice after-taste.”
Canadian drinkers are mostly strangers to the explosively hoppy, full-bodied estery brews that typify the Northwest style that has come to dominate the U.S. microbrew market – south-of-the-border beers typified by the Red Hook, Full Sail and Alaskan breweries.
But the king of them, and one of the few getting a ‘classic’ rating from British beer guru Michael Jackson, is the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, a super-premium bitter, fragrant and strong-bodied brew. And it’s that kind of style that Canadian beer lovers aren’t getting the chance to enjoy, says Mr. Caza – something he hopes to remedy with his Chilliwack venture.
In keeping with the local character reflected in the name of the business, Mr. Caza has some tentative titles for beers he hopes to make: brews like ‘Cultus Pilsner,’ or ‘Tamihi IPA.’ He hopes to sell them locally too, to restaurants, pubs, golf courses, hotels and the like.