March 25, 2019
Some folks make Sunday dinner. For Adam Nachbaur, his weekend tradition has been making Sunday beer.
“I was very into home brewing and my wife and I actually brewed beer at our house every Sunday. We’d put a movie on for the kids and eat pizza and make beer and that was kind of our thing every week. And we did it all—including milling the grain right at my house. We do everything in basically the same way as we’d do at the brewery, just a very small scale,” explains Nachbaur, one of the founders of Snake Lake Brewing.
Snake Lake makes Sidewinder IPA and Varsity Hall Red Ale, both of which can be found at Calgary-area Co-op Wine Spirits Beer. Nachbaur describes his brews as ‘lake beer’.
“We're not trying to make anything that's going to blow your taste buds out of the back of your head. We’re based in Sylvan Lake and this is a tourist town; it’s chill, it's relaxed. If you're on holidays you want to sit down and drink some beers and our beers are very well made for that. They're not a life-changing experience to sit down and have, they're just very well balanced and enjoyable beers. The kind of thing you want to sip while sitting beside the water.”
Snake Lake Brewing is the passion project of a rig hand, an instrumentation technician, and a mechanic. Nachbaur was the mechanic, working on heavy duty aircraft and even getting his pilot’s license to fly charters. But the constantly mobile lifestyle didn’t suit his young family, so Nachbaur started thinking about a career that would keep him at home more. That’s when he decided to grow his Sunday passion for home brewed beer into something bigger. Snake Lake Brewing was born, named as an homage to Sylvan Lake’s past.
“Sylvan Lake was originally named Snake Lake,” recalls Nachbaur, “Then the 61 original residents changed it in 1903— they thought that was probably a pretty bad name for a growing tourist town.”
The story of re-christening the town’s water makes a good yarn over beers. The other thing you’ll quickly find out about water here is that Nachbaur is mildly obsessed with it. So important is the water to the brewing process, Nachbaur and his team change their water’s chemistry to compliment the beer they’re brewing.
“I love the fact that we do it and it's really fun to play with,” says Nachbaur, “If we want to make an Irish Stout, for example, we want to create their water profile so it’s a more authentic beer. What we do is we put the water through reverse osmosis treatment through all the filtering, and then basically strip it of everything that's in it, and then we rebuild it back up. So we'll put the calcium sulphide, the calcium chloride, adjust the pH level, bring all that back into it according to their exact water profile, then we'll use that water to make the beer. So it tastes like you brewed it in Dublin.”
Snake Lake’s Sidewinder IPA is the brewery’s flagship.
“It's our best seller by far. It's a New England style IPA; a northeastern style, which is a hazy IPA. It's very juicy, very citrusy. It's balanced and that's what sets it apart from a West Coast IPA.”
Snake Lake Varsity Hall is a Red Ale.
“Reds are traditionally malty, but we did a little different spin on it. We did a West Coast style red. So it's, it's 35 IBUs, which is not very high but you taste them. This one finishes very light and you have the taste of hops but it's not that bitterness.”
After flying high for many years, Nachbaur is happy to be firmly planted on level ground, brewing beer with his partners and family close by.
“Before, I’d be laying under an airplane engine in -30 degree weather. Now, I'm happy, I see my kids; we go paddle boarding all the time, and I get to spend time with them. I’ve got time in the morning to walk them to the school bus so it's pretty cool.”
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