A new craft beer is ringing in a positive note during the COVID pandemic.
The Nanaimo Craft Beer Society, in collaboration with Longwood Brewery and soon-to-open Bayview Brewing Company in Ladysmith, have created 7 Belles Saison, a spicy dry ale released last month. The ale is now being promoted to hail the efforts of health-care workers during the pandemic.
The beer started as a “black box” challenge, sponsored by the craft beer society and organized through the Island Brewers Union.
“It was our idea to do it, but we’re not a brewery. We’re a non-profit,” said Stuart Setch, Nanaimo Craft Beer Society director.
In the contest, home brewers came up with their own beer recipes from beer kits supplied for the challenge. Of the 21 submissions, a recipe by Alfred Elviss, of Bayview Brewing Company, bubbled to the surface when the brews were tasted at the Island Brewers Union home-brewing competition in September. The prize was to have the winner collaborate on a commercial scale with Longwood Brewery.
“Nanaimo Craft Beer Society, about a year ago, partnered with the home-brewing community to give them a bit more organization and a bit more validation,” said Setch. “Home brewing is, kind of, the heart and soul of craft beer. Every commercial craft brewery started out as a craft beer, so that was sort of the idea with the society, is to try to bring that community up within Nanaimo.”
The next step was to come up with a name for the winning brew.
“The name we hadn’t thought of, but the whole project was always geared toward health-care workers and a shout-out to them,” said Harley Smith, Longwood Brewery partner.
The “7” in the beer’s name is a nod to the 7 p.m. tradition of giving a cheer to health-care workers.
“The idea was [to have] a morale boost for health-care workers,” Setch said. “We tried to replicate that with the beer. So, as opposed to clanging pots and pans, it’s cracking a beer and cheers-ing them. It’s a way of saying, you’re seen and you’re loved.”
Belle Saison is the name of the yeast used in the ale’s brewing process.
Setch said the cheers-to-health-workers concept is catching on through the social media channels as people have been giving #7belles hashtag shout-outs to their favourite health-care workers as they raise a glass.
“We have been getting traction online with people uploading photos and videos and tagging health-care friends,” he said. “I’ve taken a few four-packs to my doctor buddy, to my nurse buddy. It’s just a kind of way to get that going. So, that’s the whole idea is to just get some social momentum.”
Setch said the Nanaimo Craft Beer Society formed in 2016 as a “sort of a group of craft beer nerds and enthusiasts” who thought Nanaimo was a bit behind in craft beer culture relative to other cities on the Island.
“So we all got together and said… ‘Let’s just do something,’ so we formed a non-profit society,” he said. “We are primarily an event-driven organization. We were doing Nanaimo Craft Beer Week every year, which was very popular, but obviously COVID shut [it] down.”
The society, Setch said, has been “twiddling its thumbs” since the start of the pandemic and the 7 Belles Saison campaign is a way of making some “positive noise.”