“Grow a better beer” is the motto behind Siding 14 Brewing Company in Ponoka, Alberta. The company is a unique partnership between a barley grower, a hop grower and a brewer that’s proving to be a recipe for success.
Marc Shields, Siding 14’s head brewer started beermaking at home as a hobby. When his sister and brother-in-law started growing hops he became excited by a source of new ingredients. Once Shields started brewing with their hops, they would have conversations over a few beers (of course) about the possibilities. “We decided maybe we can do this as more than a hobby and open a brewery,” he recalls.
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The rest is history – the brewery is about to celebrate its first anniversary. The Siding 14 product line features seven mainline beers – a golden ale, a kolsch, a brown ale, a stout, an IPA, a pale ale, and a honey cream, which is the most popular. Shields and his team also have fun creating one-offs and other unique varieties to keep customers’ palates excited.
Regardless of the type of beer, each batch starts with quality ingredients. “We're striving for that field-to-glass approach to our beer,” says Shields. “If we can control as much of the ingredients that we put into our beer, then we believe that we can control much of the flavour that our customers are going enjoy.”
Advice for malting barley growers
Shields acknowledges that malt barley growers play a key role in the products he brews, but it’s not something he spent a lot of time thinking about when he was a home brewer. “I bought barley out of a bag that was already grown, already malted and ready to go,” he says.
With his fresh field-to-glass perspective, Shields realizes that crop consistency is key – hitting the right proteins and moisture levels. “I'm not a farmer in any way, so I don't know a lot about what that process takes to hit those marks. But I know that from a brewing side, it can affect the amount of resources I need to brew, how long it takes to brew, and of course some flavour components as well.”
Shields is excited by what lies ahead for craft brewing. “In Alberta we have probably one of the biggest booms in craft brewing happening in Canada. We're going to see even more growth from an industry standpoint. We, as brewers, will have to be sharper, will have to only put out good quality product, and of course that starts with quality ingredients.”