Stack Brewing hosted its sixth anniversary and parking lot party at the brewery's brand new Stack Brewpub on Falconbridge Road this past weekend, which despite the weather, attracted crowds determined to celebrate their Sudbury Saturday Night.
The full-day event featured live music from Barry Miles & the Congregation, Hugh Jazz and Run the Program, food from the Laughing Buddha and Stack Brewpub's new kitchen, free brewery tours, as well as a variety of outdoor games. In addition to cider and white wine, the event offered eight brews on-tap that included Stack's anniversary ale titled Seasons of Change.
Seasons of Change is a sour saison, with an alcohol content of 6.5 per cent, described by Stack's brewmaster Michael Guillemette as "surprisingly easy drinking." The tarte, Belgium-style beer is a deep golden blonde, which has been soured with the same bacteria used to turn sour milk into yogurt, known as Lactobacillus.
This one-time release is available for a limited time at Stack's original retail location on Kelly Lake Road. The brewing equipment has all been relocated to the new Falconbridge Road location.
While Ashley McCarvell, sales, marketing and events manager with Stack Brewing, said they have found great success branding the parking lot party as Pizzageddon, Burgergeddon and Tacogeddon these past three summers, they felt it was time to get back to basics.
"This year, since it's a new facility, we really wanted to focus on the new location," she said.
Stack's new brewpub is a cozy, high-quality, social space, with a main-floor bar area and second-floor dining room, situated between the kitchen and brewery. Despite the increase in square-footage from their previous location, their brewery has all the same equipment as the last, which has allowed Stack in increase storage and elbow room rather than the volume produced.
This was not the plan said McCarvell, who explained the team worked from the idea of a stationary food truck to a shipping container kitchen, before agreeing to sacrifice a quarter of their brewery to accommodate the cooking area.
"Our team met up with Jessica and Nicolas Gignac, starting 'brewing' ideas and came up with this," said McCarvell.
The Gignacs have been working with Stack for around five years, catering various events along the way, and were intended to be the hosts of the brewpub's accompanying food truck. But, with this new restaurant arrangement, Jessica will become the brewpub's front house manager, while Nicolas takes the position of head chef.
A graduate from Canadore College's culinary program and chef for the past 15 years, Nicolas said he has had many opportunities to utilize wine and craft beer in his recipes over the years and was not going to pass up the opportunity to flex his creativity.
"There was an opportunity here to work with an award-winning brewery, so it was kind of a no-brainer," he said. "Shawn (Mailloux, owner of Stack Brewing) didn't have to flutter his eyelashes."
Each item of the brewpub's menu will incorporate a product of the brewing process, such as beer, grain, yeast, barley, or 'wort', which is the sugary water present prior to fermentation. Nicolas said the menu will change according to the seasons, incorporate local ingredients and have an emphasis on smoke, as the location houses a smoker able to accommodate foot-long logs.
While oak has been the wood of choice thus far, Nicolas said they hope to introduce maple and more local woods to produce a distinct "Sudbury barbecue flavour" rather than imitate what would be associated as Texas barbecue, for example.
"We're trying to build something that's Northern Ontario-focused," he said.
Beyond creating bold, savoury flavour combinations, Nicolas said the main goal of his kitchen is to be waste-free. To make this a reality, Nicolas is working to establish a partnership with a food donation service or care centre that would be interested in receiving any product left-over on a day-to-day basis.
While McCarvell said introducing the kitchen and seating to accommodate 105 guests did delay plans to expand production, this will be a great opportunity to grow Stack's increasingly diverse clientele.
"As the years go on, more and more people are enjoying craft beer, which is awesome," she said. "I'm sure we'll see it grow even more when we open up the restaurant and we have more restaurant attendees and non-beer drinkers come on by."
To accommodate this change in clientele, brewmaster Guillemette said Stack's beers have become easier to drink, more modern and more sessionable. According to BeerAdvocate.com, sessionable beer is "any beer that contains no higher than 5 percent ABV, featuring a balance between malt and hop characters (ingredients) and, typically, a clean finish".
"The craft beer endeavour these days doesn't seem to be so much about big, powerful, bitter flavour punches as it was back in the day when we first started," he said. "Now it's about more subtle, balanced flavour, and I think we have evolved in that sense to meet that demand."
These creations, he said, are most often inspired by conversations with his team who share stories of meals they have tried or beers they have fallen in love with while travelling. With this being a critical point in the brainstorming process, Guillemette is confident that having the opportunity to speak with guests will influence the Stack brand moving forward.
We're looking forward to walking through the restaurant and getting that direct customer feedback, he said.
With the expansion of the Stack brand into LCBOs and Beer Stores across the province and more bars and restaurants than he could count, Guillemette said he has missed the opportunity to build relationships with his customers.
"We're excited to get a stronger connection with the consumer," said Guillemette. "One of the reasons I became a brewer is almost the same reason some loving family cooks love to cook — you want to see people actually eating the food that you tried so hard to make."