Thursday, August 10, 2017

Traveling Cowboys: Community and Old School Ingenuity at [Theoretically] Brewing in Lethbridge, AB

Brewing & Science


Sometimes, the most rewarding way is the better way. There are people in the world that are so enthralled with the process of creation that they take particular care not to sidestep any part of the journey. Words such as authentic, artisan, original, one-of-a-kind, and unique are associated with these makers.

For them, producing ice cream with a powder mix is not real ice cream. Chocolate without cocoa butter is not chocolate. Boots need to be hand-stitched and hats need to be hand shaped. You've seen and met many of these producers on this site. We want to introduce you to another pair that goes out of their way to keep it local, community focused, traditional and pure. They are Kris and Kelti from [Theoretically] Brewing Co. in Lethbridge.


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Changes in Alberta's liquor laws opened up the opportunity in 2013 for craft brewing. [Theoretically] Brewing, took the plunge with a deluge of other budding brewing entrepreneurs to capitalize on the opportunity of making their community's beer. They joke that the process from fire-pit to tasting-room was the biggest game of chicken the pair have ever played as they kept expecting for reality to put a stop to their dream. Encouraging friends, stalwart enthusiasm, and incredible support from their families helped make [Theoretically] Brewing what it is today - Alberta's second smallest brewery.

Saying that it is the "second smallest craft brewery" doesn't do justice to the journey. Kelti explained that their commitment to their community helped to keep welders employed in Lethbridge during the recession to custom make their brew and fermentation tanks. They wrestled through the permitting system with the AGLC and Lethbridge Council until they pioneered a practical approach to sustainable energy use on their premises. However, all the good intentions will mean nothing if the beer is no good, so let's talk about the beer. It is good!

All of their beers are unpasteurized and unfiltered, meaning that there are live yeast cultures in the beer and that they do not contain preservatives. This sounds like fresh beer to us! They bottle finish their beers, which is gutsy for a commercial brewery. You can never be guaranteed of the end result in a batch. Every bottle can be different. Every batch can be different. At [Theoretically] Brewing it is all done by hand with a lot of love and care, while they tinker with new and creative processes and recipes. This is what craft is all about. Experimentation!

Even their beers are named after scientists and scientific concepts or theories.

Observations


Kelti, didn't spare us on the day we visited the brewery. She took us through their entire repertoire of the brewery's arsenal of beers. Step-by-step we settled into tasting from the lighter to the darker beers until we ended with the stouts. At least, that is as much as I can remember. After the fourth beer, we can't remember what happened. Apparently, she explained how their love of stout is where the inspiration for the Brewery came from.

All we know is that it was a big tasting. We sipped from giant test tubes and savored every moment, aroma and flavor. No beer was wasted. We drank every last drop as Kelti took us through the inspiration for every brew. There is a story behind each one, which we hope to bring you in subsequent installments.

We came away from [Theoretically] brewing with mixed emotions. Somehow, we don't want them to change and grow up. We wish them success and many years of beer market domination and at the same time, we want them to stay as they are.

They must remain one of the smallest breweries in Alberta. We want to keep them our secret. They are quaint, special, practical and passionate about what they do. If you contrast it with some of the other more recent additions to Alberta's Craft Brewing scene, [Theoretically] Brewing inspires what a true Craft Brewery is all about. They don't do hectolitres of yet another Ale, Pilsner or Brown. They don't have the flash taproom or the "beertarts" in sales marketing, crisscrossing the Province and selling yet another label or brand.

Instead, for them, it is about the process of creation. The community that comes from the support of their people. The experiments and the focus on keeping it practical. Theoretically, they are one of the more unique breweries we've had the privilege to visit so far. Believe me, we will be back at the first opportunity we get.

Hendrik van Wyk
Theoretically a Cowboy

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"Tube Porn"

Bottle Finished

Smile!

Test Tube Heaven

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