It was unsurprisingly easy to talk friends into coming on the new P.E.I. Brewing Company tour with me. I explained that it was a 40 minute guided tour through the new beer production facility in Charlottetown with samples along the way.
“Count us in,” they promptly replied. I think I had them at “beer.”
A plan was made to take the tour the following Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Saturday rolled around and I awoke with full intentions of making that 2:30 tour. And then 2:30 came and went and it became clear my perpetual lateness had gotten the best of me again. Nothing to worry about, the Brewing Company website assured me, tours leave every hour on the half-hour. Simply pop in unannounced and join the next departing group.
We arrived at 3:20 p.m. and it took us at least those spare 10 minutes to pick our jaws up off the floor. We had walked through the doors of what appeared to be a fairly unassuming building into what must now be the most spectacular event space in Prince Edward Island.
This place has it all. And I mean has is ALL! There’s a gift shop, a tasting bar, a cold beer store, a gigantic stage – and that’s just the first room. Our tour guide interrupted our gawking to round up all the tour takers and introduced himself as Greg. He promptly poured us each a beer of our choosing. I liked him instantly.
Beer in hand, we were led upstairs to what is essentially a classroom. A classroom that puts all other classrooms to shame – mainly because it has a bar with numerous craft beers on tap.
Greg launched into his speech, explaining the history of the company and its evolution into the P.E.I. Brewing Company. In summary, it began microbrewing long before hipsters made it trendy.
Next up was the hall of ingredients. Greg pointed out each of the essential elements in the beer-making process – barley, hops, water and yeast – and told us where these are produced before making their way into the brewery. He explained the role barley plays in the flavour of the beer and how it is cooked for varying lengths of time to achieve the desired taste. He invited us to smell the different batches of barley displayed in metal tubs and said we could even eat the chocolate barley if we wanted. I scoffed at the idea until someone took him up on this offer and popped a few kernels into their mouth before exclaiming how tasty it actually was. Intrigued, I tried it for myself and was pleasantly surprised. The barley had a distinct chocolate flavour that is achieved solely by its longer cooking time.
From the hallway, we proceeded into the production area. This is where the magic happens. Beer brewing in my world equals magic. Never skipping a beat, Greg described in great detail the step-by-step process each batch of beer goes through before it ends up in a can, bottle or keg. I was so impressed with his vast knowledge of everything beer related that I actually zoned out on a lot of the information he was sharing with us. I kept wondering how long it had taken him to learn all of this, and pondered the possibility that he had been raised by brewmasters.
“Does anyone have any questions?” Greg asked.
This was my chance. I had to know.
“How do you know all of this? This place just opened,” I inquired.
“I had three days to learn everything before being thrown into the fire,” he replied.
This impressed me more than most of the things I had just learned while on the tour.
To everyone’s delight, we were told it was now time for sample number two. We went back to the classroom and saddled up to the bar while Greg poured us each two samples of the Beach Chair Lager, one filtered and the other unfiltered. The filtered version is what is sold and served outside of the brewery. The unfiltered beer had a cloudy appearance, almost like a concentrated juice. Both were delicious, and about half of our group of eight actually preferred the unfiltered.
Our minds filled with knowledge and our taste buds yearning for more beer, we were told the tour would end where it began and we headed downstairs to the tasting bar for a half pint.
I used the opportunity to try the new Blueberry Ale, and I’m glad I did. Crisp and refreshing with a subtle blueberry flavour, it is perfect for a hot summer day.
My friends and I gathered around a high-top table, happily sipping from our glasses of Island Red, Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale and 1772 IPA, and as my eyes glanced around the expansive room I spotted a motto affixed to the wall.
“Dream big. Work hard. Have a beer.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Insider’s tip: Transportation services are available for larger groups. A little red bus can be arranged to shuttle your group from the Kensington Road location to downtown Charlottetown or anywhere else you’d like to go to continue your day.
Did you know? : The P.E.I. Brewing Company will be home to an event space with capacity for 800 to 1,200 people. It is expected to be completed by fall and will be capable of hosting such major events as the East Coast Music Awards.