LYONS BROOK, N.S. – A few local musicians and Uncle Leo’s beer maker Karl Whiffen have something brewing.
Whiffen and Pictou County musicians Dave Gunning and J.P. Cormier, along with Halifax-based producer and songwriter Jamie Robinson, are teaming up for a new product at the Lyons Brook microbrewery.
“He likes my beer; I like his music. It works,” said Whiffen.
Gunning and Cormier have been recording together and usually grab an Uncle Leo’s growler for the session, once bringing Whiffen along.
The musicians approached the brewer with the idea of creating an ale and he was on board. “It intrigued me. I thought it would be a lot of fun just to work with these guys,” said Whiffen.
“I guess we’ve been wanting to co-write with Karl. He knows beer, so let’s co-write a beer then,” said Gunning.
Gunning noted they’re all good friends, and said Whiffen is a good person to have around for drinks.
“Karl has the knowledge to explain to us what it is that we like when we’re tasting something so he’s fun to drink beer with,” Gunning said, adding that Whiffen can explain the type of hop that’s used in a particular beer, along with what’s creating the other flavours.
The group started the process on Thursday with the pouring of the grain, with approximately two weeks to wait before they can taste the final product.
Gunning said they wanted to create a refreshing fall beer with a citrus burst, resulting in a pale ale with a bit of an amber colour to it.
“We came up with something kind of musical in the name, which is Sunburst,” said Gunning, referring to the style of finish on a guitar.
Robinson compared the colour spectrum of a sunburst finish to the beer – the outer colour as “the malty, fuller flavour” blending into the lighter citrus notes in the brew.
Gunning said their processes are similar, in that musicians and brewers like Whiffen are both trying to create something that doesn’t yet exist. It’s art, Gunning says, and has been a learning experience, with Robinson and Gunning both asking the brewer about what he’s doing as they watch the ingredients recirculate in a filtering process.
It’s been a fun challenge for Whiffen too, he says, trying to create what the group was picturing – and tasting – in their minds.
“I guess that remains to be seen,” Whiffen said about whether the beer will turn out the way they’re hoping.
Robinson said it shows the flexibility of a small business, to be able to experiment with them.
“For them to take on a … new product and just be speculative like that, … a small brewer, a craft brewer can do things like that.”