The Canadian craft beer scene will get a little wilder on May 25, with the launch of a new Ontario-based craft brewery called Halcyon Barrel House. The venture will specialize in producing small batches of wild and sour ales, using European-style brewing traditions of mixed fermentation and aging in wood barrels, as well as bottle and keg conditioning.
“Halcyon refers to a past that we remember fondly – and that’s how I am approaching brewing our beer,” explained Halcyon Barrel House Brewmaster Bryce McBain. “We are looking back to older, more traditional brewing methods to inspire how and what we brew today.”
Halcyon Barrel House release number one is Infinity Mirror, a 6.5% Brett IPA. It is made with barley malts, oats and wheat, and features Amarillo, Nelson Sauvin and Citra hops. It was fermented with brewer’s yeast as well as multiple strains of brettanomyces (a.k.a. brett, a wild yeast), and is a blend of batches aged 1-3 months in red wine barrels.
Infinity Mirror pours a hazy orange-gold with a lively head of foam. Tropical fruit aromas with hints of citrus and brett-influenced funk are at play, along with a touch of wine. Flavours are of ripe fruit, funk and red wine, with playful carbonation, restrained IPA bitterness, and a dry finish.
Sour ales are currently in production at Halcyon Barrel House, with the first slated for release late summer or fall.
“The creative element is so much greater with sour or wild ales than standard, modern brewing,” said McBain. “Instead of a single strain of yeast, we’ve got many different strains and cultures contributing flavour and aroma. The barrels add subtle vanilla, oak, and tannins, as well as a touch of whatever was aged in that barrel before. And with the nuances of slightly different fermentation taking place in each barrel, there’s a mysterious, unpredictable element to this kind of brewing. It definitely feels like a more romantic way of making beer.”
Halcyon Barrel House came about as a result of Bryce’s longstanding and stubborn love for sour and wild beer, and Beau’s Brewery CEO Steve Beauchesne’s willingness to try something new. Halcyon is part of the Beau’s family but will be taking a decidedly different path in its beer-making.
A brewer and quality manager with Beau’s since 2011 (fan-favourite beers Wag the Wolf and One Ping Only are two of his creations), Bryce came to Steve in fall 2015 with the news that he had decided to start his own brewery, in order to brew the sour and wild ales he was passionate about. Steve wished him well, and Bryce began development work on Halcyon. Nearly a year later, Steve asked Bryce if he would like to bring Halcyon Barrel House into the Beau’s family.
The rest of the story will play out when the first Halcyon Barrel House beers are poured in the coming weeks. Infinity Mirror will be available for purchase by the bottle (750 ml) in Ontario LCBOs beginning May 25, and will also be tapped soon at select beer bars in Ontario and Québec. Bottles can also be purchased at the Beau’s Brewery tap room starting that day. A list of places to be among the first to try it is available at www.halcyon.beer. Plans are also in the works to release limited quantities of Infinity Mirror across Canada this summer in both bottle and on draft.
Halcyon Barrel House is modern brewing, patiently rooted in traditional methods. Our beer is made with mixed fermentation in wood, barrel aged, and bottle conditioned. Halcyon Barrel House launches May 25, 2017 with Infinity Mirror, a brett IPA.