As the BC craft beer industry becomes increasingly bigger and better, more and more people are getting involved in it. Each time we enter a tasting room, or go to an event or festival, we get to meet fascinating people that are making their mark within the industry. On that note, we are very excited to announce our new series Hanging Out With! Hanging Out With (HOW) is a dialogue between The Wet Hop and another person, or team, sharing a brew and discussing all things beer. HOW hopes to focus on hearing the voices of brewers, managers, volunteers, tasting room staff, sales reps…basically anyone involved in the industry to some extent. We hope this will shed a light on the very diverse ways people can be involved with beer.
For our first Hanging Out With, The Wet Hop met up with Kent, Phil, and Erin of Boombox Brewing. All of us had a glass of Josie’s Vacation or Rad Seeker in our hand.
The Wet Hop: In your own words, can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
Phil: I’ve been in Vancouver for about four years now. I’m a world traveler/citizen and have lived in quite a few places. I’m a bit of a beer refugee from Australia. The quality of craft beer in Australia wasn’t as the highest when I left there. It didn’t really have a beer culture like what Vancouver or Portland, or London. I’m a homebrewer as well and that’s how I met Kent. I started homebrewing because I always wanted to have access to the kind of beers I like[d] to drink. I figured if one day if I move back to Australia, I could at least make the beers I wanted.
Kent: Similar to Phil, I started homebrewing 8 years ago and I was hearing about all these great beers that you couldn’t buy, so I figured I would try making them. Through the course of that, I joined VanBrewers and that’s where I met Phil and introduced him to Ryan*. The whole concept was to try to brew beer that I couldn’t get and also better beer that I could buy at the store and being in VanBrewers was a great opportunity because there are so many professionals that started off brewing there. So you get people with more educated palates and so it was a good opportunity to keep expanding. Being able to get feedback from professionals was a real confidence booster; when you bring in a beer that you put so much energy into and think it’s good but is it good? And people you look up to are kind of wowed by it…it’s kind of a big deal.
TWH: You both very craftily answered my first three questions. The first time I technically met you, Kent, was at my first Black Christmas two years ago and I got to try Tiny Pirate* sours and was blown away. I was going to ask how Boombox was born/how did you two meet, but you already answered that. So, how did you decide on the name Boombox?
K: It’s really, really hard to find a name. And then I found when I’m brewing, I find inspiration from music for certain beers, and that led to the name Boombox. It’s not locked down to any certain style or anything, some of the beers are obvious where they come from and some not at all.
P: Music lovers.
Erin: We looked it up and no one had it yet and that was awesome, so we registered it.
K: We were lucky enough to know Matt and he designed the logo for us. He did two or three sketches while he was on an airplane and we all were blown away by this one design, it was phenomenal.
TWH: He’s super talented. He obviously did our design too. I know that beer is one of your biggest interests, but what are some of your non-beer related passions?
P: A lot of my interests kind of interweave with beer. I love travel and I end up, invariably, going to a lot of breweries when I travel. I like music a lot, I go to quite a few concerts. I’m a bit of a geek. I like the gaming side of things. We’re definitely not on the Fuggles & Warlock level of geekiness just yet, but we have a little bit of geek.
E: But we’ll get there.
K: Our feet are wet. We have three daughters.
E: So that takes up a lot of time. And we like to travel around breweries.
K: Ryan’s the same, he has two young kids and considered himself a gamer until he had his kids.
E: He has a really good video of his kids, who are I think two and four, and they play video games, like Mario Kart, better than I do.
TWH: Kids these days, millennials, are so good. They know how to operate an iPad before they can walk. So basically, your interests are all integrated to somehow include beer?
K: It’s hard to even book a vacation without seeing what breweries are there.
E: We went to Disney World and we had to rent a car so we could find Cigar City.
TWH: We’re the same.
E: Everything gets planned with beer in mind. Like for my Christmas present, Kent booked a trip to San Francisco, but was like these are the places I want to go to.
TWH: Yeah, Matt and I went to Austin a couple of years ago specifically just to drink and eat. We went to Jester King and it was funny because we got a Lift out there, which is outside of their range, but we had to cab back. I don’t know if you’ve been to Jester King, but it’s this long winding gravel road which feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere and the cab driver was like what is this place?
E: Jester King is one of the places I want to go to, I really want to go to Austin because it’s suppose to be a really neat place just to visit, but then they have all this beer.
TWH: The nice thing about Jester King is it’s on this big farm. There are picnic tables outside and you’re surrounded by land and trees and there is a pizza restaurant on site that has wood oven pizzas. And since it’s in Texas, it’s pretty warm most of the time and it’s just perfect.
E: It’s on my bucket list for sure, after Europe. Belgium.
TWH: Yeah, us too it’s high on mine and Duncan’s list. So, you mentioned beer culture, what do you love about beer culture and community.
P: I think for me, I’ve moved around a lot and Vancouver is the first place I’ve spent a lot of time and settled down, so I’ve had a lot of really great experiences within the beer community here. It’s made it home for me. That’s on the homebrewing side, the beer nerd side, so that’s a big part of my experience here in Vancouver. That community. It’s [at] the point as well where non-beer related activities that happen within some groups and I only ever really met because of the beer culture. It’s been interesting divergence of a hobby.
TWH: I seem to see my beer friends more than my other core group of friends, which is interesting.
P: Yeah, I definitely find it that way.
K: It’s this whole collaborative thing. Even though technically we’re all competition, but not really. We get our yeast from three different breweries, we’ve bought and sold different grains and hops from different breweries. There’s a lot of openness with sharing techniques and recipes with each other. A lot of the brewers are super open with that, you don’t get that with anyone else, I don’t think a cook would tell you his sauce recipe. It’s a pretty unique environment. It’s a very open community in terms of sharing and collaborating, and I don’t think you see that in any other community.
TWH: It’s really good.
K: Yeah it’s really good. They just sent some people from Bellingham here to try some of our beers [because] they liked the same style.
E: We actually ended up driving them up to Strange Fellows and we all shared beer.
K: And then they were on their way to Storm. So everyone supports each other.
TWH: Yeah and like when Dageraad had that big mishap, you could see the beer community come together. Same with when Eric, Steel & Oak’s head brewer, was hit by a semi, same thing. People in the community wanted to help.
E: It’s more like family than competition. People are like oh have you heard about these guys? The beer community isn’t people scratching each other’s eyes out. People are so nice and so willing to share. It’s a pretty amazing thing actually.
TWH: I’ve noticed that there has been a huge increase in collaborations that are happening. I know that you did the Twin Sails Collab, Tone Def, which is still my favourite TS release, I dunno if I can fully call it a TS release because you were involved in it too, so do you have any other collaborations in mind?
K: We’re doing another one with Twin Sails in May. And we’re suppose to be doing one with P49, but timing wise it’s tough. We’ve had a couple other breweries approach us, but just timing is hard.
E: You keep meaning to fly out to Winnipeg.
K: We’re suppose to do one with Half Pints too, but it’s time based and it’s one thing scheduling your own beer, but scheduling your beer in someone else’s facility. You see breweries like Twin Sails, with their turnover time, it’s amazing we’re going to be able to get in there again, but they’re making the effort to get us there.
P: With the size of the brewery here, we can’t really do it here.
TWH: Can you share a favourite beer related memory?
K: Coconut Showers.
P: That would be one of the more interesting brewing mishaps, but I dunno if it’s one of my favourites. I guess for me personally, as a beer geek, cycling around Belgium and going to some of the places there. As far as Boombox goes, the first time your beer is on at the Alibi Room. It’s like wow, here I was four years ago, and one of the first beer places I went to was Alibi, and I was just blown away. Having a beer at that bar that I helped create is pretty awesome. Or the first time the beers went on tap here at Callister.
TWH: Did you keep Alibi’s tap list?
P: I took a photo of it. I didn’t really think, I should have just snagged it.
TWH: And framed it.
E: We should definitely do that for the 800.
K: Drinking your own beer at the Alibi Room must be like what it feels like to be a musician and hearing your song on the radio. Having Nigel want us involved in 800 blew my mind.
TWH: You mentioned the Coconut Showers mishap, so you have to share about that.
E: There might even be a video of that.
K: Oh god. The name of the beer originates from the incident. We had an incredible amount of toasted coconuts that were in bags in the fermentor. One of the bags broke open and they’re coconut ribbons, so when they got wet, they swelled up and turned into coconut cement and blocked the ports. We couldn’t get the beer out to save our lives. The only port left to access the beer was the tasting port, which is around the 100L mark, and luckily Adam from Real Cask helped us out. But there’s no valve on it, it’s a port. So the beer is almost minus 1 degree celsius, so we had to open the port and it empties itself and try to force a valve on while you’re being showered by beer. Hence Coconut Showers. We had to do it twice just because of how it turned out, but long story short, we managed to get the beer out and keg it. We lost a lot, we wore a lot of really cold coconut milkshake IPA.
P: We smelled really good.
K: Yeah, we smelled really nice.
TWH: That beer was great and I think I appreciate it even more now that I know where the name came from.
P: Even on the collaborative part of that. We have a really good relationship with Matt from East Van Food and he had the convection ovens to toast the coconuts.
TWH: I imagine based on what you make at Boombox, I can guess what your favourite style of beer are, but if you were to pick one style that you had to commit to for the rest of your life to drink and/or make, what would it be?
P: For me it would be IPA. I’m a hop head. There’s just so much spectrum in what you can do with an IPA. We definitely brew the beers we love here.
TWH: Would that be the same for drinking too?
P: Oh yeah, definitely.
K: Same thing. IPAs. At home, I always have to have one IPA on tap. If I don’t follow that rule, I get mad at myself. I always want to have an IPA as an option. That’s not to say we don’t love and enjoy other beer styles but a really well made IPA can’t be beat.
TWH: What is your favourite hop? To taste or to work with?
K: Right now Citra.
TWH: What’s a style of beer that you’ve always wanted to make, but haven’t yet and why?
P: So, I’d love to make an eisbock. But that would be a big learning curve, even on a homebrew scale it would be a lot of messing around but it would be a lot of fun to make.
K: A lager actually. A good pilsner. I’ve never made one and I enjoy a really well made one. It’s something that takes a lot of skill to make.
TWH: Where do you see Boombox going in the future?
K: Hopefully continuing. We’re done at the end of June here and that clock is ticking. In the short term, to do some sort of contracting. That’s really hard right now but if we could pull that off, it would be beneficial. If we were to open up a brewery, that’s two years from finding a spot plus dollars and it’s not realistic. It’s more realistic to do contract brewing for a while. Superflux is kind of blazing the way with this.
TWH: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or Boombox?
K: Definitely come out to Farmhouse Fest. We saved a keg of Love & Trust for Farmhouse Fest and it’s only gotten better. It’s a good opportunity to try it the way we intended it to taste, so I’m super excited about that.
E: I also think it’s important to mention that all of these guys, including me, we all have full-time jobs. So the amount of time we put into it, it’s a labour of love for everybody. The amount of work that gets put in and the amount of love that gets put into each beer and how proud everyone is of each beer. It’s what they love to do.
P: This Callister thing wasn’t financial for us. It was about producing the best beer that we could and so there’s no real kind of discussion about how much things cost. We use as much hops or as much fruit as we feel the beer we want to produce needs. So, some of the beers, with that pricing, it’s not a profitable venture but it’s a labour of love. It’s a great opportunity to be here at Callister and learn on a bigger system and work out if this is something we really want to do moving forward. It’s been a really positive experience.
TWH: I haven’t had a bad Boombox beer so you can definitely taste the love.
*Tiny Pirate is the name of Kent’s homebrew
*Ryan is also part of the Boombox family
If you or anyone you know is interested in meeting with us for HOW kindly email firstname.lastname@example.org to make arrangements to hang out with us!