Yellowhead brewmaster has long history with craft beer

The Edmonton craft beer scene is about to get a few more players in the next few months and Bruce Sample, brewmaster of the Yellowed Brewing Company, says he’s not worried about having more breweries in the city. He says he sees it as an addition of brothers (and sisters) in arms in a market that has lots of room to grow.The city is underserved in the craft beer brewing market and Bruce says he sees that the Edmonton is finally catching up to Calgary, which has several breweries and nano breweries within its city limits.

Currently the city of Edmonton is home to Alley Kat Brewing and Brewsters, with Situation Brewing opening in early spring and Polar Park Brewing also opening in 2016. Additionally, several other established breweries lay outside of the city limits and have growing support from bars and venues around the city. 

Nowhere near the Yellowhead Highway, the brewery is located in the heart of downtown on 105 Street. The Yellowhead Brewery takes its name from the famous Iroquois-Métis Pierre Bostonais, nicknamed “Tête Jaune” or “Yellow head” for his unusual light hair. 

Craft beer tanks at Yellowhead Brewery downtown Edmonton
Tanks inside Yellowhead Brewery’s downtown location, in the historic Shaw building. Photo: Amanda Sutherland

Bruce started working at the Yellowhead Brewing Company about a year ago. After fine-tuning the brewing process,  he set out to add a few new beers to complement the brewery’s signature Premium Lager. Another three tanks were also added to help speed up and simplify the brewing process — but getting the tanks into the historic H.V. Shaw building in downtown Edmonton required closing a parking lot and a crane rental. Step one was to remove several of the large glass panes at the rear of the building, where the new tanks would be moved in by crane. Step two was to move out several milk tanks that were sitting on the brewery floor, taking up the space needed for the new tanks. Step three was to put it all back together and reposition the tanks on the brewery floor.

Yellowhead currently does not bottle or can its beer. Kegs and growlers are the only vessels used by the brewery. With more beer brewing in the new tanks, more kegs also had to be purchased.

In February the brewery launched its newest beer, Honey Porter, with more plans to add new beers through the year.

“I am registering an IPA right now,” Bruce says. “I call it the Gateway IPA.” He adds that it will be five per cent, 80 IBU, light blonde and very smooth.The next beer on the docket will arrive just in time for summer, a light Hefeweizen with German yeast, coriander and orange zest. 

The new seasonal brews will be added to the current line up which includes the Yellowhead Premium Lager, golden in colour and naturally carbonated. The Yellowhead Black Lager is a dark beer for those who do not enjoy the taste of a traditional dark beer, with a light coffee and molasses flavour. The Honey Porter, made with local honey from Edmonton-area Gramma Bee’s, is also a darker beer that is mild in flavour. Bruce added that the Black Lager and the Honey Porter will have a stronger flavour profile when served at a bit warmer temperature. Mango Tango is light shandy that combines the Lager with a mango citrus puree.

While these beers are new to the brewery, they have been in Bruce’s personal rotation for a while. Born and raised in Edmonton, Bruce’s interest in homebrewing grew exponentially while living in Texas. In 1987 he and his wife moved to Houston, Texas, and the weak Texas beer was one of the reasons he started going to different beer events as the craft beer scene was starting to build in Houston. 

“I started seeking out different craft beers and started home brewing,” Bruce explains.

After taking a couple beer courses and learning about HVac systems, he helped install draft lines in brewhouses that were starting to pop up in Houston. From volunteering at Alley Kat to working at the now-closed Hogshead Brewery, Bruce says he is looking forward to new creations at the Yellowhead Brewing Company. 

The facility is available to rent for various occasions and has been the host for events like the Local Good’s Green Drinks events and the Culture Collective Arts Market. Growler sales are available at the brewery Thursday through Saturday. If you miss your chance to grab some beer for the weekend, you can always pop by and have brunch on Sunday.