Between art and science: A flight through Field House

Food, Local Flavours, Off The Vine

Field House Brewing, the newest addition to the developing cultural business scene in Downtown Abbotsford, has been on a roll since it opened late last year. The brewery, which you can track with the hashtag #fieldtofist, is one of the hottest places to go for good beer, good music, and a generally good place to spend some time.

Field House is also a place for community, as they work collaboratively with other businesses that cater to a similar demographic. This includes having other breweries’ beers on tap, having Old Hand Coffee in weekly, concerts, and a lot more.

Field House also does brewery tours. If you’ve never been on one before, it’s worth going and seeing how their beer is made while having somebody knowledgeable explain the process. Not to mention you’ll also get to sample.

If you’ve seen the outside of the building from West Railway Avenue, the brewery itself takes up roughly three quarters of the right side of the property, leaving the rest to the tasting room.
Our tour began at 3 p.m. on a Sunday. The sliding garage door was opened and 11 of us gathered around an elongated table, perfectly fitting with the Field House motif. Greeting us was Ashley West, a trained cicerone. It was obvious that West, who has experience leading similar tours all over the Vancouver area, knew her beers and the industry. Also, being of a very friendly nature, she made the tour that much more delightful.

By the table, we were given a briefing on the history of Field House and provided taster glasses. Over the course of the roughly 40-minute tour we were given all their staples to try.
Beside the table were a number of tanks, which were situated in the brew house.

This is essentially where the base of the beer is made before it becomes “beer,” and where the malting process takes place. Different bases can be used, from malt, to barley, rye, and wheat.

We were all lined up along the tanks as West passed down different malts to smell and sample, if we were inclined. They were obviously grainy in texture.

There are a few different types of tanks, each having their own purpose, such as the grist hopper and the mash tun.

It was pointed out that many mash tuns have rotating arms used to stir the developing base. Field House opts to use paddles instead.

After the base, the second ingredient added is tempered water, which is nine tenths of the drink. At this stage a brew can take up to 12 hours, of which much of the process becomes mechanized.
Hops are also added in here. As the hops break down, they add alpha acids which bring out the bitterness.

While discussing the elements of beer making, West gives an example of the difference between craft beer and mass-produced beer. It’s the difference between art and science. It’s based on taste and to find something better that works in the process, where they may try different hops to create their varying styles.

Passed down now was a glass of hops. “Do not eat these. You’ll taste them for a week,” stressed West.

Along with seeing the hops, we then tried a taster of the Eastern IPA — of which has a much stronger hops presence.

Hops bring out a lot of the minute elements, anywhere from a floral presence to possibly a citrus or pine taste. With the Eastern IPA, which is more floral, the hops come from Australia and New Zealand.

Having the water and hops now in boil, it stays here for roughly an hour. There are a number of different places where hops can be added within the brewing process, all of which produce a different hops presence within the beer.

Because so many other breweries are using local hops, Reid is trying varieties from different regions. All regions produce their own taste elements, depending on soil and growing conditions.

After boiling, it’s now at the stage called “wort.” It’s a hoppy, sugary substance. Field House doesn’t filter their beers, which is common in the craft industry.

At this point we moved out to the front of the building to a large, open topped tank.

Instead of using a heat exchanger which replaces cool water for hot water so that the wort cools down, Field House uses a fascinating natural process called a coolship. This is where their Coolship Common name is derived from.

The tank is 100 per cent copper and, over two hours, conducts the heat out.

Moving along, the next beer we would try was the Field Saison which possesses spicy and floral elements. This is an outstanding beer which is highly influenced in taste by the yeast. It’s a Belgian yeast strain.

Back inside again, the beer is currently a “cooled down, hoppy, sugary substance”. Now yeast is added. At Field House all their beers are ales, simply because of the turn-around time of two to four weeks, as opposed to lagers which can take eight or more weeks to condition.

Now that yeast is added, it consumes the sugar and turns into alcohol and CO2.

“This is called beer.”

Tasted here was the Sour Wheat Gose. An old German recipe, this beer has no hops, but is made with sea salt, elderflower, and coriander. The sea salt Field House uses in this beer comes from Vancouver Island.

It’s soured by wort, and at this stage it’s sprayed with acidulated malt to bring the Ph down where it’s then steeped. It undergoes a process with other elements added, ultimately developing that tangy bite.

With any beer, it’s after the yeast stage that it goes into the bright tank for one final process before it’s completed. The bright tank is pressurized to have CO2 added in. It’s the effervescence that you can find between the beers that’s developed here.

Field House actually had to add more tanks to their brewery. They had a great response from the beginning and quickly ran out of a number of their beers.

The final beer we tried was the Salted Black Porter. If you have this beer, you’ll notice a distinct taste. This is in part from adding droppies, a salted Dutch licorice candy.

West mentioned one interesting mix to try, which is the Salted Black Porter and the Sour Goze. It produces a “roastiness”.

And with that, things began to wrap up with West taking a few questions from the group.

The experience of visiting Field House for a tour was very enjoyable. If you have the chance, it’s a great way to become more intimate with the brewery. A definite recommendation.

I look forward to giving that black porter and sour gose a try.

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