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Published on October 18th, 2017 | by OBN Staff

Feature: Coolship Collaboration

Block 3 Brewing Co. in St. Jacobs is among a very (very!) short list of Ontario brewers to possess a coolship (or koelschip) – a rectangular, open-top stainless steel vessel in which wort is held for inoculation of wild airborn yeast and bacteria from the surrounding environment.

The coolship was delivered to the orchard at West Avenue Cider House on Monday October 16, 2017 and filled later that day with wort brewed only hours earlier in St Jacobs then driven – still near-boiling – to the cidery in Freelton.

(Photo: Chris Haworth)

Block 3’s head brewer Kevin Freer and co-founder Graham Spence were on hand with West Avenue founder Chris Haworth to oversee transferring 10 hectolitres of wort in the early evening.

“We’re loving the mashup of beer, cider, science, and nature and glad to be able to lend our resources to make a truly Ontario collaboration,” says Haworth.

The all-Ontario ingredients include 3/4 Pilsner malt and 1/4 raw red wheat from Barn Own Malt in Belleville and Glacier hops from Hayhoe Hops in Elgin County. The 14 hectolitre coolship was manufactured by Crow Brewing Equipment in Kitchener.

“This beer, and our entire Spontaneous program, are not ours in a sense,” says Freer. “Rather they’re a part of our province and that is what we are striving to capture, and I believe what West Ave is trying to capture. Plus, we needed an excuse to head out there and drink some more of West Ave’s awesome cider.”

Sacchromyces, Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus are the wild yeast and bacteria most likely to have  landed in the wort.

(Photo: Chris Haworth)

Freer and Spence camped in Haworth’s barn over night in order to transfer the wort the next morning into a selection of barrels including American oak that previously aged cider and into neutral red wine barrels from Palatine Hills Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Near-freezing overnight temperatures in Freelton helped cool the wort down to about 20º C over night.

Adding inoculated wort to barrels at Block 3 (Photo: Kevin Freer)

Freer notes that aging sour and spontaneous beer is never an exact science, but he expects the beer to mature from six months to a year.

Bellwoods Brewery and Amsterdam Brewery are among the other Ontario brewers to have a proper coolship.

Bench Brewing in Beamsville now has one at their soon-to-open Beamsville brewery while Sawdust City Brewing in Gravenhurst uses a makeshift vessel for their spontaneous fermentation beer.

In October 2015, Amsterdam Brewery with Sawdust City, Indie Alehouse and Great Lakes Brewery did a similar collaboration at Spirit Tree Estate Cidery in Caledon, which is currently still aging in barrels.

Check back in March 2017 for a release update.

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