In this latest instalment in the Hops Among Friends series showcasing the people who make up the craft beer scene on the BC Ale Trail, Kim Lawton interviews Justin Larter from Barnside Brewing.

My most recent Hops Among Friends interview was with Miguel Molina from Boardwalk Brewing in Port Coquitlam. At the end of our discussion, Miguel selected who I would interview next. He chose Justin Larter, the Head Brewer at Barnside Brewing. Established in 2020, Barnside Brewing is in Delta on the South of the Fraser Ale Trail.

As one of only a few BC farm-based breweries, it was fascinating to hear from Justin about Barnside’s philosophy and commitment to using ingredients from their property in their beer. This was a very interesting conversation because Justin talked about brewing techniques and processes that were new to me.

Like Miguel, Justin is also a recent KPU grad. It’s amazing to hear how these new brewers are helping to shape the future of BC’s craft beer industry.

Justin Larter from Barnside Brewing on his adventures in the wilderness
Justin Larter from Barnside Brewing on one of his adventures in the wilderness

KL: How did you get started in craft beer?

JL: I kind of found my way to craft beer in an unconventional way. I went from high school straight into university where I studied biology. I got my Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from UBCO in Kelowna. After graduating, I worked in the Okanagan wine industry for a bit. I worked for a season doing viticulture at the winery and in the vineyard at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. This experience really opened my eyes to how much fun you can have in the microbiology field producing alcoholic beverages.

From the wine industry, I looked to the craft beer industry. From the outside, craft beer seemed to be creative and open and fun. So, I enrolled in the KPU Brewing and Brewery Operations program in 2018 and graduated in 2020. Starting in the first year of the program, I worked at a couple of different breweries before joining Barnside in August 2020, just about right when the brewery opened. I joined the brewing team, and I was responsible for quality control, yeast management and yeast propagation. I was promoted to lead brewer, and then I was recently promoted to head brewer earlier in 2023.

Justin Larter doing some sensory testing on a beer in the barrel room at Barnside Brewing, South of the Fraser Ale Trail
Justin Larter doing some sensory testing on a beer in the barrel room at Barnside Brewing

KL: What do you love most about the craft beer industry?

JL: I really enjoy variety. I enjoy the different experiences of flavour and aroma, the different situations that beer can lend itself to. For example, you can enjoy lagers with a group of friends. You might open a barrel-fermented sour to enjoy with a candlelight dinner. I just find the variety, creativity, and history behind beer all so fascinating.

It’s a great industry to be a part of. There are always new, different, and interesting beers and techniques to discover.

Barnside Brewing Taproom, Delta, South of the Fraser Ale Trail
The Taproom at Barnside Brewing in Delta on the South of the Fraser Ale Trail

KL: Tell me about one of your proudest accomplishments in craft beer.

JL: Barnside Brewing ended up being the perfect place for me because of my microbiology background. The owners really encouraged me to embrace terroir around here, as we grow our own hops, oats, and barley.

The owners were also really excited when I first talked about collecting our own yeast and bacterial cultures. Within my first year, I was successful at isolating and propagating a wild Saccharomyces strain suitable for brewing from a Chinook hop cone. We lovingly named it Hoppy Cone Surfer. After the isolation, and once we knew we had a viable brewing strain, we banked it with White Labs. It’s a proprietary strain, so we are the only ones who can use it. It is stored and preserved for us there throughout the year. We use it in our Hop Yard Sour and our Fresh Hop IPA.

Justin Larter emptying barrels at Barnside Brewing, South of the Fraser Ale Trail
Justin Larter emptying barrels at Barnside Brewing

KL: Barnside Brewing is one of only a few BC farm-based breweries. What does a farm-based brewery really mean?

JL: What it means to me is really embracing terroir. We are one of the few breweries that have a one-mile series: the grains, hops, and yeast that we use in our beers are all sourced from the farm. The owners really embrace this philosophy.

Welcome to Barnside Brewing Sign
Welcome to Barnside Brewing in Delta on the South of the Fraser Ale Trail

We have a strict rule that in all of our beers, at least 51% of all ingredients must be ours. This is for every recipe in our entire beer lineup.

But in our one-mile beers, including our Fresh Hop IPA and Hop Yard Sour, our local ingredients are much higher than 51%. Plus, both of these beers include the one-mile yeast strain as well.

Our Farmer’s Tap Lager is made with our 100% pilsner malted barley and our hops. It does of course have a German lager yeast strain.

Our Batch 200 Estate Barleywine is also a one-mile beer. It is made with our 100% pilsner malted barley, boiled for eight hours. It was then aged in blackberry brandy ex-Bourbon barrels for 12 months.

Barnside Brewing - Batch 200 Barley Wine, South of the Fraser Ale Trail
Batch 200 Estate Barleywine, Barnside Brewing

KL: What else makes Barnside Brewing unique?

JL: We welded up a “barn-gineered” open fermenter that allows for spontaneous and open fermentation. This vessel gets most of its use in the cooler seasons when temperatures are better for keeping the yeast happy and unwanted microbes out of the beer. We use this vessel to spontaneously inoculate wort for our sour barrel program. We also use it for our open fermented Shingle Mill, which is our “Pub Standard” ESB.

Barnside Brewing - Shingle Mill ESB, South of the Fraser Ale Trail
Barnside Brewing – Shingle Mill ESB, in Delta on the South of the Fraser Ale Trail

Open-top fermentation takes us back to historical brewing methods. It’s really interesting because this radically alters the tank geometries and flavours of the beer. It creates an environment where the yeast is extremely happy. Because the yeast is moving around more freely, it results in a lively flavour profile in the beer.

ESB High Kräusen on top of the open fermenter at Barnside Brewing South of the Fraser Ale Trail
ESB High Kräusen on top of the open fermenter at Barnside Brewing

We also employ ancient brewing techniques where we brew a turbid mash during the winter and let it cool overnight. Then it’s transferred into barrels (wine puncheons or smaller sized oak barrels) where it ferments for one to three years. This becomes a base vinous sour for some of our different blended sours.

At Barnside, we want to take terroir to the next level. We want to be able to produce beautiful beers, but with historical techniques used in our own way to create modern farmhouse brewing.

KL: Tell me about something new you are brewing right now.

JL: We just released Distant Storm, which is a Double IPA. I had a lot of fun brewing it. While we had this label previously, this is a totally new beer, reimagined from the ground up. It’s a pilsner malt base with lots of wheat. We used mash hopping, and Omega Yeast’s new Thiolized strain, Helio Gazer.

Distant Storm Double IPA is a limited release. It is available on draught and in four-packs of 473ml cans at liquor stores in the lower mainland and on Vancouver Island.

Barnside Brewing - Distant Storm DIPA South of the Fraser Ale Trail
Distant Storm Double IPA from Barnside Brewing

Following the success of this brew, a lot of the techniques we used in this beer will trickle into our core IPA in the near future.

We also just brewed a beer called Spring Blossom Cherry Gose. This uses our house sourdough culture for souring. This was my COVID project. I made sourdough bread using my own wild bacterial culture. After reading about Scratch Brewing using a sourdough culture in their beer, I decided to see how the culture I had created would taste in a beer. It worked great as a souring culture and we now use this in all of our stainless-steel fermented sours. In this beer, we also used local Montmorency cherries. We used all of the cherries, including the pits. The beer has lovely vanilla and cinnamon spice notes from the pits, and a beautiful colour from the juice. It’s not too tart. It’s a sessionable, drinkable sour.

It will be released in early March on draught and in four-packs of 473ml cans at liquor stores in the lower mainland and on Vancouver Island.

Barnside Spring Blossom Cherry Gose - 1, South of the Fraser Ale Trail
Spring Blossom Cherry Gose from Barnside Brewing

We are also making some other recipe tweaks and changes to our core beers. We aren’t changing the bones of the beers, we are just doing a bit of a rework. For example, our Ladner Clay IPA will be a more accurate representation of an IPA with a juicy hop profile featuring our farm-grown hops and thiolized yeast.

KL: What’s your favourite beer style?

JL: I’m a lager man. All this terroir talk aside, I love a well-crafted lager. I enjoy almost any style whether it’s a Vienna lager, a pilsner, or a Czech dark lager. For me, I just love the drinkability of a lager.

I went full circle from lagers through the dark beers, IPAs, and now I’m back again loving lagers.

KL: What are some of your favourite craft beers going into spring?

JL: My favourite beers right now at Barnside are the Farmer’s Tap Lager and the new Cherry Gose. Outside of our brewery, I’m a huge fan of Bellingham, Washington. I love visiting the breweries there and looking for inspiration. They have a really cool lager scene down in Bellingham.

More locally, I love the beers from Strange Fellows and Four Winds. My favourite spot in BC is Luppolo Brewing.

KL: What’s your perfect spring beer and food pairing?

JL: Spring is all about getting the BBQ going. There’s a gentleman who runs Rebel Rebel Barbecue. Every two weeks he comes and smokes meat here at Barnside. There’s nothing better than his tri-tip sandwich, with a glass of lager in hand, soaking up the warm weather and beautiful scenery.

Rebel Rebel BBQ at Barnside Brewing in Delta on the South of the Fraser Ale Trail
Rebel Rebel BBQ at Barnside Brewing in Delta on the South of the Fraser Ale Trail

KL: What are some of your favourite craft beer festivals?

JL: My all-time favourite BC beer festival is Farmhouse Fest, followed by Weathered Beer. I love diving into the complexity of wild-fermented beers from across the globe.

KL: Where in BC do you want to travel next to discover their craft beer scene and why?

JL: I really want to head to Tofino and Ucluelet. I’ve been dying to check out both of the breweries there. I’ve been close, but it’s eating me up inside that I haven’t visited yet.

KL: What do you love about the craft beer scene in your area?

JL: I love the area in general. Our neighbours are Four Winds Brewing. They have such beautiful, classic beers. We’ve also got Fuggles Beer close by on the other side of the tunnel. Beyond the beer, it’s also such a gorgeous, natural area. You can look out and see the beautiful coastal mountains. In the summer when there’s a light breeze, you can smell the ocean.

It’s a really unique experience when you come and visit us here. You go from being in the city to open fields, working tractors, and helicopters working in the fields. I love that you can sit down and watch all of the farm work going on while enjoying a crisp, cold lager.

Barnside Brewing Patio
The patio at Barnside Brewing in Delta on the South of the Fraser Ale Trail

KL: What is a hidden gem in your area?

JL: We have a number of beautiful walking trails all along the inlet. We also have some great restaurants. My favourite restaurant in the area is called Il Posto. They have the best pizza and cocktails in Ladner.

KL: Besides brewing, what else do you enjoy doing?

JL: I love being out in nature. I used to be a passionate mountain biker, but after an injury, I’ve moved to hiking. I really enjoy getting out and hiking around the greater Vancouver area. I also enjoy road trips around BC and the Island. I enjoy adventuring. One of my favourites is paddle boarding at Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. I love the beautiful glacial lake water, the gorgeous vegetation, and the big trees.

Justin Larter from Barnside Brewing on an adventure on Vancouver Island
Justin Larter from Barnside Brewing on an adventure on Vancouver Island

KL: Who in the craft beer industry should I interview next?

JL: I want you to interview my good buddy Connor Blanchard, a brewer at Luppolo Brewing. As I mentioned earlier, Luppolo is my favourite local taproom. I love their pizza and their slow-pour lagers. I think you’ll have a good conversation with Connor. Connor is one of the best lager brewers that I know in BC and I’d love for him to spread the word.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of the Hops Among Friends blog series, where I speak with Connor from Luppolo Brewing. Until then, cheers!

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