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Foodie Friday: Interview with Ottawa’s Nita Beer brewery

By Jordan Duff on April 3, 2015

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: new craft brewery opening in Ottawa! It’s true, the Ottawa beer scene is blowing up and we couldn’t be happier. We fortunate beer-scholars over at BrewBrahs.com had the opportunity to chat with Andy Nita, company CBO and namesake of Nita Beer. One of the newer breweries in town; they are located over at 190 Colonnade Rd, Unit 17, Ottawa, ON. As with every brewery, we highly recommend visiting. Beer fresh from the source is just better.

Brew Brahs: Andy Nita, you are the company Chief Beer Officer, an executive position that we Brahs can only dream of one day stamping on our business cards. We are envious of both your resume and LinkedIn profile. Give us a little background, what was the wondrous experience that opened the world of craft before you and where did you learn the ropes of brewing?

Nita BeerAndy Nita: I’ve loved beer ever since I can remember. I wanted to go to a brewing school in Scotland out of high school but it wasn’t financially practical. I started intensively reading and learning about all things that contribute to great beer probably for about two years before I even attempted my first home brew … I’m a bit of a perfectionist but the devil is in the details. The two books I found most valuable were Yeast – The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation and Technology Brewing andMalting.

The first brew got me used to the process and all of the variables and then I brought in my industrial electrical experience to manage and perfect the process. This also led me to have great teaching material for the apprentices I taught at Algonquin. I found most apprentices were disinterested in instrumentation and process controls. To get their attention, even if for only 10 minutes, I described the importance of instrumentation to ensure consistent, quality beer. Within a few trial runs (thanks to Lou for helping me with the first few), I was getting pretty good and repeatable results that I thought could scale to large systems. The rest is history …

BB: Tell us what inspired you and your wife to take the plunge and open a brewery?

AN: We got a lot of positive feedback from friends. The more I got involved in brewing, the more possibilities I kept seeing. I started to make better, more interesting beer, and our friends kept giving positive feedback. It gave me a lot of confidence that we could be successful at the next level.

BB: Tell me about the ethos of your brewery, what guides or motivates you and your team?

AN: Seek perfection through knowledge. Share knowledge. Make great beer!

BB: What are the go to tunes pumping through the brewery speakers while making delicious beer? *Bonus marks if it’s anything by Bob Seger.

AN: The speakers in the production area were providing motivation long before we started brewing. Music has been an essential ingredient in my life. My friend Mike builds playlists for me on Grooveshark for brew days. His tastes are similar to my own. Bands that pump during brew days – Mocean Worker, Beastie Boys, Sweet Smoke, and Shaun Ryder. An eclectic mix. When we were brewing the Brown Ale, The South Park Movie soundtrack was streaming.

BB: Cleverly, your beers are rated for difficulty using ski hill symbols. I would consider myself an Advanced Beer Drinker (double black diamond) and an Intermediate Skier (blue square); which of your beers and local ski hill would you recommend for my skill level?

AN: When I had free time I loved skiing at Calabogie. Not to slight the hill as a blue square. Loved Calabogie for a few of the sneaky glade runs that had been carved by the regulars. Ear buds and a barley glow made these my favorite within the valley reach. I would recommend the same for you and as an après-ski, our unfiltered OPA aka UFO.

BB: Scenario: You’re stuck on a chairlift. Night is approaching, the temperature is plummeting. The maintenance crews are saying it will be at least an hour wait because they are on break. What beer do you choose to soothe your nerves and warm you soul? Why?

AN: Kozel! It has always been a trail favourite both on the ski hills and the trailhead at Kanata lakes. It likely would have already been in my pack. Not a choice. Just great planning.

BB: What is your personal favourite style of beer? What beers have you brewed, or want to brew?

AN: Love stouts and IPAs. I guess that explains why those styles were some of our first offerings. I really enjoy pilsners. I’m usually a traditionalist when it comes to beer. However, one of our investors, Poncho, has been encouraging me to experiment: Perhaps a strawberry pilsner for the summer?

Photo courtesy of Andy Nita.

Photo courtesy of Andy Nita.

BB: Can you give us some details on your recycled beer can skate board? Any images of this amazing form of transport we can see?

AN: It’s a skateboard made from recycled beer cans. Can’t think of any other mode of transport a middle age brewer should be using to commute to work spring, summer and fall. Nuff said!

BB: Have you considered any fancy marketing taglines? Just spit balling here, but maybe… “Need a beer? Nita Beer!”. Perhaps get a B-list celebrity involved? Ted Danson is probably available.

AN: I have. Neither Allan Hawco nor Ron MacLean have returned my phone messages. And Nita Beer is not a question … it’s a statement.

BB: Rapid fire Qs! Quick questions with quick answers, just feel the flow:

BB: Favourite local beer? AN: Wuchak Black

BB: Best beer bar in Ontario? AN: Any hockey arena with a bar. You know what I’m talking about hockey parents!

BB: Your white whale? Which beer are you always on the lookout for? AN: Rauchbier

BB: Best beer and grub pairing? AN: Kozel und Bratwurst!

BB: Which local brewery helped guide you early in this endeavor? AN: Kichessipi

BB: A lot of possible changes coming from the Ontario government that could improve the Ontario beer industry. Of all the possible changes, is there anything in particular that would help your budding business?

AN:  For us, it’s all about access to the market. We are very community-minded and serious about responsible consumption, so something like in Quebec where beer is available in grocery stores would be great. We believe we have a great product, so we’d welcome any chance for a level playing field.

BB: Are there any exciting upcoming events or festivals where folks can sample some of your delightful beer? What can our lovely readers expect from Nita Beer in the near future?

AN: We’re pretty excited for the summer festivals. Certainly the Ottawa Craft Beer Festival will be important for us. We’ve already hosted a St. Paddy’s Day Warm Up at our brewery and we’re working on a few other events to bring people to our location. We have a great space for hosting events, so we will be making use of that in the coming months.

BB: Thanks for taking the time Andy and good luck with Nita Beer!!

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