Ottawa continues to experience a craft beer renaissance, with locally owned breweries setting up shop all over town and purveying some seriously fine suds. Whiprsnapr Brewing Company (that is correct spelling – I triple checked) out in Bells Corners is amongst these fine establishments. After opening their doors last year, Whiprsnapr has developed a loyal following that proudly preaches what their purple shirts scream: #earnyourbeer. Co-founder Ian took the time to answer a few of the Brewbrahs questions, and to delve into their brewing philosophies.
Tell us where the name Whiprsnapr comes from… was it a nickname given from a wise, old brewer?
Ian: My grandpa used to call me a whipper snapper. Not all the time, but always with a smile and only when I was doing something a little stupid or crazy. It was never an angry thing – think it just reminded him of all the crazy shit he used to do – he was always up to something!
Is there someone who is the quintessential Whiprsnapr?
Ian: Brilliant people that have really set themselves apart, taken risks, worked hard, had fun and have my complete respect and admiration – these people are real whiprsnapr’s!
Household whiprsnapr names include Joe Strummer from the Clash. He was an observer of world events, and used music to open everyone’s eyes and ears to what was happening in the world. Anthony Bourdain. Former drug-addict chef turned his life around and became an explorer and TV host. He tours and explores the world the way I do – going out with locals and having them show you what they love about their home. That and he likes to drink and swear a lot!
My grandpa too. He did a little bit of everything. I found out that he had his own line of chips, went coast to coast working at various jobs, was in World War 2, settled into farming, held patents in dairy farming equipment and was an early adopter of solar energy (he built a giant enclosed glass wall on the side of his house with hundreds of feet of black piping to heat all their water!) Always smiling, always up to something.
Where did #earnyourbeer stem from? Have you ever had a beer that you didn’t earn? (Scandal!)
Ian: When we moved back from Germany I started brewing again with an old friend that I had brewed with in college. We were living in the same neighbourhood and we’d go mountain biking all the time. We always ended up staying out too long, and would come back half-dead to drink beer. We started using mountain biking as an excuse to kill off a few calories before having a few beers!
I’m a pretty active guy, and I’ll try anything – I’d rather do something than sit around and do nothing. So the #earnyourbeer tag, turned into a ‘cloud’ to capture all the different aspects of how I earn my beer. Playing outside, getting shit done and having fun. However you earn your beer – it’s a great excuse to have another beer!
We do love drinking excuses. We also love the story behind the Root of Evil Lager. Do you think Whiprsnapr would have been bootleggers back in the day?
Ian: Definitely. We’re not fans of authority, and there’s no way I’d let anyone stop me from drinking beer.
Tell us a little bit about how this brewery came to be – how did you go from “We should open a brewery!” (as most men have said over pints at one point or another) to “We are opening a brewery” (as very few have had the privilege to say)?
Ian: About 2 years ago my biking/brewing buddy and I bought our first all-grain kit from the Perth Brewery. We took it to my place, brewed an IPA – had problems at every step and were pretty sure we did nothing right – but the beer came out great! Right then we said – we should open a brewery! Unfortunately, his work ended up taking him to Vancouver, but I didn’t stop. I started developing recipes, came up with ‘Whiprsnapr’, started working on logos and branding and started to share my beers with others in the quest for new partners.
Co-founder Dave was a Coors Light guy with a serious business background. Our daughters danced together competitively, so we used to drink together as ‘Dance Dads’ at local competitions and on road trips. One road trip to Huntsville I convinced a group of dads to escape the competition for a few hours to go to the Muskoka Brewery for a tour. Dave came along and his eyes popped open at the sight of the huge facility.
Co-founder Mike was yet another Coors Light guy, with a business background. I met Mike getting ready for a Kiss Kruise (yes – Kiss the band). I brought some test batches of our beers to a pre-kruise party, where Mike and others finished it in seconds and wanted me to go home to get more! Mike wanted in – but we had already started down the path with another partner. When that partner backed out, Mike sprung into action.
Whiprsnapr has a good selection of merch – but will we ever see a Whiprsnapr Whippersnipper? And can we have one if yes.
There are more than a few people around that don’t really know what a whiprsnapr is – and immediately think whipper snipper. I could see a line of a whiprsnapr whipper snippers. They would probably not work the way you expected it too – but it’d be fun to try!
We aren’t the only Ottawans that are excited to have your brews. What styles are you working on and what can people expect in the coming months?
Ian: Right now we’ve got our Valentine’s Day beer fermenting. It’s a sweet stout with dark chocolate, black cherries and espresso. We’re going to put together a little Valentine’s Day basket for it – special glasses are being made, and we’ll have chocolates and a few other surprises in it. And last spring, I collected some maple sap from my father-in-law’s maple farm. We’re going to use the sap instead of water to brew a maple cream ale and a blueberry pancakes wheat. Having a nice ‘baby’ system allows us to play with different recipes, doing lots of one offs and seasonal beers.
Over Christmas, we made a Xmas Stollen Saison – a rip off my grandmother’s german Christmas bread recipe. I’m not huge on saisons – but my wife is – so I made it. She suggested the stollen as a base, so we added orange, lemon and Clementine peel, mace, peppercorn and raisins. It came out fantastic so it will stay a Christmas beer.
We also made a double IPA called ‘Get the F* Out’ – it was to be the boxing day beer. You know, after weeks with family and friends visiting drinking all your good beer – it’s time to pull out the big beer! At 8% and 80 IBU’s, if they don’t like it they can Get the F* out! I dry hopped it with 4 giant ziploc bags of my own homegrown hops. It went over so well that we’re going to make it a semi-regular beer on our menu.
Rapid fire! Just breathe deep and let the answers come naturally:
Favourite Ottawa-brewed beer?
Ian: Imperial Super Guy from Beyond the Pale. They do great stuff.
Favourite Canadian-brewed beer?
Ian: Tough to pick just one. Muskoka’s Mad Tom, or Double Mad Tom. Also Red Racer IPA and Great Lakes Pale Ale (Yeah – I’m an IPA guy…)
Favourite American-brewed beer?
Ian: I love Lagunitas IPA (a must have whenever I’m in CA). I like Magic Hat #9, and Burning River from Great Lakes Brewing Co in Cleveland. Yup more IPA’s
Favourite internationally-brewed beer?
Ian: Radeberger Pilsner – from just outside the town I lived in (Dresden) in Germany. That and Pilsner Urquell. Oh man I love pilsners.
Favourite brewing song?
Ian: If it’s Sunday morning – anything by Gordon Lightfoot, or Joe Strummer and the Mescalaros. If it’s Saturday afternoon it might be Alice in Chains, Queens of the Stone Age or Asian Dub Foundation.
Favourite big beer?
Ian: I love drinking LOTS of beer, so I don’t really have a favorite big beer… I tend to sample and share those with friends – but I guess I’d go back to Twice as Mad Tom or Imperial Super Guy.
Cheers and thanks for taking the time to answer our Qs!
Ian: Thanks for asking! Loved that you took time to find out a little bit about us specifically – makes answering the questions more fun and hope it helps people get to know us better.
Cheers, and thank you to Ian at Whiprsnapr Brewing Company for taking the time to chat! Don’t forget to visit Ian and the gang at their retail store in Bells Corners, which you can find here.