Year End Roundup: Kevin Freer of Wellington Brewery

IMG-20120705-00245When we last chatted with Kevin Freer last year he was brewing with Magnotta, but is now the Packaging Manager at Wellington. It was an interesting year for Wellington as they started to step away from only making English styles and introduced a number of one-off beers. Here’s what Kevin had to say about 2012!

A Year of Beer!: What were some your beer-related highlights from 2012?

Kevin Freer: Well first off, and not to indulge an organization I am involved with, I really enjoyed the Beer4Boobs event we put on at Volo last Spring. The beers were good, place was packed and it raised a tonne of money. Couldn’t ask for anything more, really.

Wellington’s Movember party at the Woolwich Arrow in Guelph was quite a bit of fun as well. We formed a band (Low Fill and the Old Code) of all people who work for the brewery, and on tap was a black saison with caramelized fruit in it that we pitched with some bugs. First beer to come out of our Pilot System! Again great event, full house, raised some money for charity. All good times.

Judging the Canadian Brewing Awards was also amazing. We make some damn good beer in this country and I got to try some from other provinces that I never might have had a chance to otherwise. 11 barley wines in a flight was a little tough.

AYOB!: What was your favourite Wellington beer from the past year?

KF: This is a tough call. The Terrestrial, an “India Brown Ale” was very good. Got us a CBA medal in fact  Going purely off taste and enjoyment I’d say that beer. The Spalticus though from a purely “academic” view was pretty interesting as well. It was a strong golden ale with a ridiculous amount of Spalt hops in it. There were aromas and flavours  that I would not have expected to come from that hop. One of the fan favourites thus far though was our recent Chocolate Milk Stout. Started as the odd cask here and there then finally got bumped into a full production run. We sold out in two weeks!

AYOB!: What were your favourite beers from other Ontario breweries?

KF: This year we saw some great beers come out. I was lucky enough to try Amsterdam’s Sleeping Giant Barley Wine. I am looking forward to seeing what else Iain cooks up in those barrels. Great Lakes entire line up of 25th Anniversary beers so far has been great! Silversmith’s Black Lager is also a good go-to. Easy drinking but also full flavoured. Since I live outside of Toronto, I still have not gotten to Bellwoods, but every beer I’ve tried from them has been good so far. I had a small taste of their Mash Pipe Smoked Berliner Weisse and I really enjoyed it. Less tart then I expected which was nice, but with this smokey burnt bread kind of flavour. Light enough to drink en masse but interesting enough to have a conversation about.

AYOB!: Did you notice any big changes in the Ontario craft beer world in 2012? Do you have any predictions for what 2013 will bring?

KF: Maybe not in the craft beer world per say, but certainly in the craft beer drinker. There are a tonne of people now heading to beer tastings and events, and just generally talking about beer. I see people coming into my local bar, having never sought out craft beer like us geeks, and just trying a flight  of beers that look interesting.

Obviously we had a few new breweries open which is cool, and 2013 it looks like there is a few more in the works. Brewers are getting a little more involved and creative. Every brewery seems to be showing off their small batches or quirky esoteric styles. I wouldn’t be surprised to see much much more of that in the near future.

AYOB!: Personally, you’ve switched breweries and jobs in the past year. What are some of the technical things you’ve learned since last year?

KF: Well, as anyone who has worked with a canning line can attest to, I have learned a lot about the “subtleties” of a canning line. Packaging is the final line of defense in your beer quality and the first thing a consumer experiences when interacting with your product. Quality is crazy important. I am really enjoying learning as much as I can about beer packaging so I can give consumers the best beer experience I can manage. That’s what I tell myself anyways. A lot of my job is anticipating problems and working around them. A bit of a learning curve but like I said I am enjoying it.

AYOB!: Any hints as to what we can expect from Wellington in 2013?

KF: Big things. With the success of our recent one offs I think we may get a little more creative and out there with the styles, because there certainly is a market for it. Our first sour beer sold out in one weekend. We hope to play around a bit more with ingredients and styles for the Welly One-Off series and maybe try to investigate some historical brewing methods and techniques. As I mentioned, we’re just getting the Pilot Program off the ground so hopefully a bit more unique releases since we aren’t committing to 4000L. Of course, there are things I am not able to talk about, but just keep an eye and an ear to our Facebook and Twitter and the good news will come.

Thanks to Kevin for giving us a behind-the-scenes view of the Wellington brewery. Sounds like 2013 will be an exciting year for the brewery!

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