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Caravel to Create European Inspired Beer

Caravel_Craft_Brewery_Logo_MainIt takes serious commitment to be a homebrewer in Moldova, a former Soviet Republic sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. But Vlad Covali was up to the challenge. “There was no brewery supplier,” he reflects. “We had to go to farmers to get barley. We germinated and dried it ourselves. We went to the local big brewery to get yeast.” He brewed European styles. “At the time we wanted something German. IPA, what was this?”

Covali emigrated to Calgary six years ago. Canada was the perfect choice. “I wanted to live in Canada. It has great opportunity.” He worked as an electrician, although he was a psychologist by training back home. He continued to homebrew but started to wonder if something bigger might be possible.

One of the things driving him was that he simply didn’t take to the beer being brewed here. “From when I arriving in Canada I couldn’t find a beer I liked. There was no craft beer on the market that I would grab on to,” he admits. “The European styles were all imported and so not fresh. I started to wonder, why not brew in Calgary, make fresh European beer?”

He started researching the potential of opening a brewery. But three years ago, with the government’s minimum production capacity things didn’t look good. But then the policy changed.”I read on your website about the changes [blush!]. No longer a minimum,” he says. “I had looked at it but said, I can’t afford that. But after the rule changes I started looking seriously.”

Around the time Covali was getting serious he stumbled across Chris Travis, both electricians at their workplace. Travis shared his passion for beer and the two decided to get together. Travis shifted the focus of the brewery, explaining that his North American influences have had an influence “Me and Vlad, we are a synergy of old and new,” he points out. The result of their partnership is Caravel Brewing, which is hoping to begin production in early 2017, joining the quickly crowding Calgary beer scene.

The two are setting out to create a brewery that emphasizes traditional European styles but with a North American influence. They are building a 30hl brewhouse with, to start, six 60hl fermenters in a location in Northeast Calgary near the airport. The initial line-up includes Captain’s Lager, a traditional European pale lager, Dead Ahead Irish Red Ale and Hazy Horizon Hefeweizen. They also plan regular seasonals that will span a wide range of styles.

“Our target is quality,” says Covali. “We want to win some medals. If we have to sacrifice profit for quality we will.”

The name is connected to Canada’s history. The Caravel is the type of ship John Cabot used to explore North America. The name of Cabot’s ship is controversial in historical circles (most think it was the Matthew), but there is no question it was a caravel, which is a small, fast Portuguese ship perfect for exploring new lands.

Which is what Caravel hopes to do. “The theme of our company builds around the exploration of new tastes, but bringing an old craftmanship to the beer, like the ship itself.”

At first they will be offering only kegs and growler fills as well as an on-site tap room, but Covali hopes “within a year we can have cans and some high-end bottles” for one-offs and “selected” offerings. Calgary will be their initial target, but Covali does plan on Alberta-wide distribution down the road. But they don’t want to get too big. “We won’t ever grow outside a craft size with small scale production,” Covali points out. “The further you go out [with distribution], your product quality goes down.”

As a way to build market and raise some capital, Caravel has launched a membership program, based on a point-system. “There will be three tiers,” says Covali. Pay $500 and receive 100 points good for one year. The second tier is $1000 for two years and 200 points. The highest tier is $2000, good for five years and 100 points per year. One point will get you one pint at the taproom and two points a growler fill plus discounts on merchandise. Covali also says they will be organizing special events for the two highest tier members.

Covali and Travis are not worried about the increasingly crowded Calgary beer scene. “We are not creating more beer than what the market already had,” Covali points out. “Craft beer is just replacing the old mono-beer market where you have one style, one company producing lagers. As the big boys lose market there is plenty of room out there for all of us.”

Covali and Travis are excited for the day when they will be making their own beer. But for the moment they have to do the hard and all-too-common work of building the brewery while still maintaining their day jobs. With any luck, they won’t have to do that juggling act much longer.

1 comment to Caravel to Create European Inspired Beer

  • Andrew I

    “As the big boys lose market, there is plenty of room out there for all of us.” Brilliant. This place sounds promising. A what a cool story!

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