The excavators are digging through the dirt of a former Quesnel gas station, taking out the giant fuel tanks that were discovered there during an environmental assessment. Soon, tanks will be installed there again but this time above the ground and filled with beer.
Those forgotten tanks almost cost the region its next craft brewery. The upstart Barkerville Brewing Company (BVBC) was interested in that location and offered to buy it to set up their beer making operation. This required approvals from the City of Quesnel to rezone the property and develop the structure from a storage facility and vacant pool hall into a brewery. The environmental assessment was part of the subjects that needed to be addressed for the set of transactions to take place.
The current owners of the building, a Prince George forestry company, didn't know the buried tanks were there, nor did the owners before that. An initial environmental consultation indicated they did not exist, but subsequent testing underground proved they did. Had the fuel caused soil contamination, the brewery deal would have been scuttled.
The soil was clean, however, and the tanks were easy to excavate, it turned out. Once they are gone, the contractual dominoes fall for the BVBC. That was assured at the last meeting of Quesnel's city council where all permissions were granted, pending the final removal of the tanks. The brewary takes ownership of the building on Aug. 31, when the City of Quesnel hands over the necessary licenses.
"Nobody spoke against the proposal, the only obstacle was the environmental question," said Ovans. "The amount of community love we were getting was fantastic, and really reinforced the notion that our plans were well suited to Quesnel. Now the fun starts."
A provincial license must now be obtained in order to lawfully brew beer, and a federal process followes for taxation protocols. If all goes well, he hopes to have the paperwork complete and the kettles heating by the end of 2013 or beginning of 2014.
"My brewmaster, Troy Rudolph, moves to Quesnel on Aug. 31 and we already have companies lined up to do renovations. We bought the brewing equipment already and it is in Quesnel ready to be installed when the renovations are done," said Ovans. "Our flagship beer is 18 Karat Ale and I'm going to Troy's place right now to do some taste testing to make sure we're on track with the recipe. The big guys [Canada's major brewers] own the rights to the word 'Gold' but we wanted to reflect the history of gold mining."
Also on the BVBC recipe card are Prospector's Peril (Vitamin D enriched) Ale, Wandering Camel (an India Pale Ale) and an as-yet undisclosed seasonal beer. "We will always have four beers on the go," Ovans said.
The Barkerville Brewing Company machinery will be capable of producing about 1,800 litres of beer per batch. Ovans anticipates cooking up two batches per week. They will produce kegs and growlers (larger bottles) as well as conventional bottles of their beverages.