Since it’s creation in December of 2014, Category 12 brewing has never shied away from a challenge.
The founder of the Keating Cross Road craft brewery, Michael Kuzyk, has consistently combined his love of the craft of brewing with his scientific credentials to test concepts other brewers tend to eschew. Now, with the revival of a long abandoned method of raw ale brewing, Kuzyk has brought what certified cicerone (that’s a sommelier for beer), Jeff Kendrew maintains is a method and flavor that is unique amongst B.C. commercial brewers.
“No one else has attempted raw ale. It’s very technically challenging … an old world, ancient way of making beer that predates the availability of copper or stainless steel vessels for brewing.
“We use wooden vessels and a very complex methodology combined with temperature regulation to create a stable, pasteurized beer with a very distinctive flavour,” said Kendrew.
The method has allowed the brewery to add its own truly West Coast touch to its beer, while simultaneously paying homage to a B.C. First Nations tradition.
Kuzyk wanted to honour his home but knew that, to do so, required more than just giving a beer a name with a West Coast reference or a placing a label with a classic B.C. theme. To truly respect the West Coast, the beer had to carry the message of its birthplace through its flavour.
“Michael had originally intended to use raw cedar boughs in place of the juniper branches traditionally used in raw ale. That’s when one of our brewers, Jacob Paul, came up with a better idea,” said Dominique Jones, speaking on behalf of Category 12.
Jacob’s uncle Chris Paul is a Coast Salish artist who enjoys international acclaim for his limited edition giclee prints, cedar panels and glass sculptures. Born near Victoria as a member of the Tsartlip nation, Paul was immersed in art forms of the Coast Salish people.
“Jacob’s idea was to take raw red cedar from his uncle’s workshop (where Paul carves intricate first nations art) and use that in the brewing process,” said Kendrew.
The results were everything anyone could have imagined, resulting in a beer with a truly unique West Coast flair.
“It wasn’t long after I contributed this amazing old-growth wood that I got a call from the owners who asked me to contribute the art for the label of the beer as well. It was really a privilege to do that; to contribute to something my family, my nephew, was already a part of creating,” said Paul.
The Elemental Series Raw Ale, infused with red cedar, is one of Kuzyk’s favourites, and Kendrew observed that the company’s pride in the connection they were able to create with First Nations art and culture and to the West Coast in general will be difficult to match.