The smell of pumpkin zested the air at Pacific Western Brewery on Thursday. It is fermenting in the blend of yeast, hops and grain that will, by Monday, produce PWB's first-ever batch of pumpkin brew.
The batch is small because it is the inaugural recipe to come from the mini-brewery or "pilot brewery" facility the company recently installed inside its larger factory.
Instead of half a million cans of beer - the minimum size their regular brewing system can make - the smaller production line can make 500 cans worth of beer. Grand Canyon Pumpkin Lager is an homage to the Fraser River and the harvest season. Company officials said their feelings of thanksgiving for the new micro-brewing capabilities were in keeping with the flavour and the timing of the new flavour.
"We are also talking about doing a special beer for the centennial of the City of Prince George," said product development manager Paul Mulgrew.
PWB's brewmaster Henryk Orlik called Thursday "like a birthday for me, and this is my present," pointing to the stainless steel kettles and pipes that comprise the new pilot brewery room.
"I see myself as a craft brewer," Orlik said. "When you work for one of the big companies, you are stuck maintaining the quality of a set line of beers. Here in a small facility like this, you can invent and experiment, and that's what makes me happy."
He held up a gleaming plastic hose to be smelled and the bouquet of pumpkin wafted out, hinting at the liquid inside the machinery.
"The nose is much finer than your mouth for sensing the subtleties of your beer recipe," he said. "Your tongue touches coffee, food, all kinds of things. Your nose is a purer sense for detecting negativities in your blend."
The pilot brewery room is also where PWB and UNBC will soon, if pending agreements ferment as well as the beer, be conducting experiments on yeasts so the brewery can better control the beermaking process. The brewery is already situated on a pure water spring from which all their products are made, so the condition of the water is a constant in their operations. That leaves only the hops, barley and yeast as ingredients in the brewing business to control as closely as they can.