At the end of 2021, we looked at the four basic ingredients needed to make beer. The role that water, malted grain, hops and yeast play are key. These four ingredients need to undergo a carefully controlled process in order to create a quality brew.
Hot and cold water need to be blended to achieve an optimal temperature where crushed malted grains can be steeped to create a rich sugary liquid. This sweet liquid then needs to be separated from the grains, collected in a kettle where it is boiled. During this time, boiling hops are added to provide a desired level of bitterness, flavour and aroma. Once the boil is complete this hot wort needs to be chilled to room temperature or colder and have yeast added in order to allow it to ferment. This fermentation creates alcohol and carbon dioxide. Each step, ingredient and weight needs to be monitored, timed and recorded. This task is the work of brewers.
For the next several months we are going to talk with the growing number of brewers who live and work here on PEI. Often working behind the scenes, creating the beers we enjoy with friends, brewers often work long hours on their feet, in cold fridges or by a steamy brew house. The work is hot, cold, wet, heavy, loud and even dangerous, but the passion for beer, process and hospitality often leads people down the path of becoming a brewer.
Brewing is an ancient trade that goes back millenia. Early beers would be incredibly nutrient dense and crucial food items people would have consumed daily. Though this early process would have some of the same principles found in modern brewing, it would have been radically different in practice and vary from village to village, as each brewer would have a different recipe and method.
Over thousands of years, the process of brewing became more refined. With the Industrial Revolution and developments in science, brewers soon had the resources to produce beer at a scale the primitive brewers could never have imagined. This growth carried on to such a degree that eventually brewing was done by only a few massive brewers. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that craft brewing began to emerge, it’s in the spirit of these early craft brewers that the contemporary brewers here on the Island work.
At the turn of the Millennium, craft brewing in Canada was still very much in its early phase. Only a few breweries dotted the vast landscape—nowhere near the thousand plus we have across the country today.
On PEI, we saw the rapid rise and fall of Island Breweries Limited in the mid 1980s, known for their Old Abby beer. This short lived operation unknowingly paved the way for the brewing industry Prince Edward Island has developed in the past few decades.
It was not until 1997 that PEI saw another brewer open its doors, originally known as Murphy’s Brewing Company, which operated out of the Lone Star Cafe in Charlottetown. All of the brewing at this tiny brewery was done by one individual, who continues to work in the industry to this day—Trent Hayes. Over the past 25 years Trent has watched the Island’s brewing community grow to today’s healthy and diverse existence.
Trent’s dedication to making quality beer allowed this original small brewery to grow in popularity, and it soon could not keep up with demaind. A new location was found in the heart of downtown Charlottetown on Sydney Street, just a few blocks from where Trent grew up. Here, Trent took his brewing skills to a new level with a larger brewhouse that was squeezed into the basement of a historic property in 2000. This new venture would become known as Gahan House, a brewpub that was instantly popular with both locals and tourists alike.
By 2008, the demand for Gahan beers brewed by Trent was steadily increasing. The Gahan Brewery began bottling two of its most popular brands, Island Red and Honey Wheat Ale, becoming the only locally brewed and bottled beer available at PEI Liquor Stores. The sales of bottles increased as well, and soon the little brewery in the basement could not keep up. This led to the construction of the Gahan Brewery on Walker Drive in Charlottetown. Growth continued and soon the new brewery on Walker Drive was too small as well. Yet again, a new brewery was needed. This led to the establishment of the PEI Brewing Company on Kensington Road.
In recent years the Gahan brand has continued to grow, with the opening of brewpubs throughout Atlantic Canada. Trent now acts as Brewery Operations Manager, overseeing a team of brewers in various locations from St. John’s, NL to Fredericton, NB. His years of experience are helping a new generation of Gahan brewers hone their craft, and he has ample insight, having built one of Atlantic Canada’s most recognized beer brands.