The sound of progress beams throughout Port Alberni’s soon to open Twin City Brewing as construction continues inside the Margaret Street facility.
As final touches and installations near completion, owner Aaron Colyn is working on an opening date.
“Right now it’s going to be early March,” he said. “We have to make the beer first. We’ve got our liquor license, we’re just waiting for all our electrical to be hooked up so we can start making beer, just a few more little utility things that need to be done.”
Colyn said waiting for equipment to arrive and not knowing how long some renovations would take has set back the opening, but he’s looking forward to being able to soon offer Port Alberni craft beer.
“We’re planning to have four different styles, maybe five, and then we are allowed to have a guest tap,” Colyn said. “We’ve had a lot of help from Cumberland Brewing Company so they will most likely get a spot, but it will switch up.”
Two of Twin City’s beers will rotate monthly and two will remain on tap all year.
Batches of beer, Colyn said, can take up to two or three weeks to make.
Colyn’s passion for brewing beer came after he took a course on the microbiology of fermentation at Vancouver Island University. He was on track to med school when he switched gears and decided to buy his own home-brewing equipment instead. Now, years later his vision of opening a craft brewery in Port Alberni has become reality—a much anticipated one.
Twin City Brewing was named one of the Top 10 Most Anticipated craft breweries opening in 2017 by The Growler—a guidebook to craft beer in B.C.
“It’s been a long time coming, we could have been the most anticipated brewery probably a couple years ago,” Colyn said. “I don’t know how other people start businesses but we had to do it grassroots. I’m honoured to be a part of any list that people are excited about.”
The building on the corner of Margaret Street and Southgate Road, historically a BC Liquor Store, was gutted to accommodate commercial-grade brewing equipment. The brew house near the back of the shop is equipped with stainless steel tanks.
“That’s where you spend the day making a batch of beer,” Colyn said.
Four tanks beyond the brew house are in place for the fermenting process. When the beer nears completion it gets transported into four more tanks that are inside the shop’s walk-in cooler where the beer finishes. The beer served from the taps in the front of house comes right from the tanks in the cooler.
“We have a hard line that runs from those four tanks to the taps so when we pour the beer it’s coming out of a 1200-litre tank, not just from a keg, but right from the fridge,” Colyn explained.
The brewery has an open-concept design with views of the tanks and kitchen from the front seating area, which can seat 44 people.
In addition to seating at the bar and along the shop’s large windows, more communal options are also available.
“[The brewery] is intimate, it’s small, but we intentionally made larger seating and I’m hoping it might force people to sit beside someone they don’t know and strike up a conversation,” Colyn said.
“I think the best experiences I have from breweries is when you just meet random people and it goes from there.”
Having put a lot of thought into the brewery’s atmosphere, Colyn hopes the space will serve as a comfortable, social public house where people can meet, enjoy great beer and food and maybe come up with their next big idea.
“When you look back in history, I think a lot of things happened when two people met over a beer, so I want to give people that platform,” Colyn said. “When you want to get together and talk about a new idea or something good for Port Alberni, I want this to be the place.”
(Story continues below)
For those who want beer to go, Twin City will offer 64oz Growlers, half-sized 32oz Grumblers and kegs.
In addition to the beer, the brewery will serve oven-roasted pizza and appetizers.
“The pizza is going to be great ingredients. We’re going to source some things locally when we can and might even grow our own herbs. We want it to be fresh and taste great and I’d rather put a lot of effort into a small menu than have to spread ourselves too thin with a large menu,” Colyn said.
Head chef, BJ Gillis, said the small menu gives them lots of room to grow.
“We’re taking people on a journey with the beers, some of these beers are from all over the world so we want to hit the same with the food and do food from all over the world too,” Gillis said.
The Brewery’s staff is slowly expanding. Andrea Harvey joined the team as front-of-house manager in November with Gillis and an assistant brewer. More interviews are planned throughout February with a goal of having four or five members in both the kitchen and front.
“We all did our certified beer server program,” Harvey said. “There was a lot of knowledge. Taking that course I understand so much…I learned about different beer styles and where they originated from.”
Colyn said they don’t plan to hold an over-the-top opening but rather get people in the door to enjoy a beer and food.
“We’re not going to play up our opening too much….we just want to get to there calmly,” he said.