On the way to work one morning, Bryan Canavan had an accident. His vehicle flipped three times off HWY 1523. The trauma caused his heart to stop beating twice. When he awoke from an induced coma, Bryan’s heart stopped again. Only this time it was from the shock of learning that his four-month-old Wild Saison Brett- spiked batch of beer had been disposed of prematurely.
“I wasn't as concerned about why I had tubes coming out of my lungs or even the talk about a wheelchair. After seeing my family, the first thing on my mind was what happened to my beer batches. My friends, thinking the fermenters were liable to build pressure and explode, dumped the batches while they were cleaning my place. I partially blame myself for not educating them enough about brewing,” says 26-year-old Bryan Canavan.
Bryan moved to Paducah after graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. By day he works as a project engineer. By night he is brewing beer. As Bryan sanitized bottles for his beer he talked about a wild strand of yeast called brettanomyces. “Typically considered to be a brewery contaminant, it can be harnessed to impart some really unique flavors if you are skilled,” says Bryan.
His favorite style of beer is a Saison or Farmhouse Ale. "Typically 6-8% ABV, highly carbed, super dry, and driven by yeast character, I’ve found that Saison yeasts can vary from more peppery and earthy to more fruity depending on strain and fermentation temperature. I love a bit of funk in the nose, but not as much in the actual taste,” says Bryan.
The vegetable drawer of Bryan’s fridge is full of cultivated yeast strains. “Saisons are all about the yeast, so I always keep at least a dozen yeast strains on hand. I even have a few that are actually wild in every sense of the word. I harvested them from rosemary and tomato plants. They have proven to be pretty interesting,” says Bryan.
So what does Bryan do with all this beer he brews? You’ll know if you’ve met him because he often greets people with these five words: “Do you like craft beer?”
Jeremy Morrison has supported Bryan’s brewing since the two met at the Lower Town Arts and Music Festival. Jeremy recalled his first encounter with Bryan. “Is this for real? It says on the bottom that he can’t sell any, so he’s just going to give us some beer? So we are like, alright! And you think, there is no telling what this is going to taste like, and you try it and we were like WHOA,” says Jeremy.
At the top of Bryan’s beer list is “Winnie the Pale Ale,” an American style with an alcohol content of 6.03%. He describes the beer as having “gobs of golden nectar that impart a prevalent honey taste complimented by a touch of pine and fruit from the hops.”
Bryan has been brewing for almost two years. In his first homebrew competition, he took home a Best in Show for his “Deiu de Don" Belgian Strong Ale at the 2015 Southern Illinois Big Muddy Brew Festival. The beer will later be commercially distributed at the St. Nicholas taproom in Duquoin.
Locally Bryan has started a collaborative brew with Paducah Beer Works to develop a Peach Sour. In an attempt to help grow the home brewer community, Bryan says he plans on working with PBW by instructing classes for aspiring brewers in the area.
"Todd Blume and Jay Marchmon and I have definitely noticed a growing interest in home brewing correlating to the craft beer boom.There's a wealth of information accessible on the Internet. The thing is, it’s just a deluge of unfamiliar processes, new terms and acronyms, and big complicated equipment setups. People get intimidated. I plan to try and ease interested brewers into the process by helping them find a starting point suitable for them. Being able to use PBW’s space and equipment for demonstration will help a lot," says Bryan. The class structure is still in the works. In the meantime the guys welcome ideas on how best to brew this growing community of beer crafters.