Dennis Morgan’s plans to open Ucluelet’s first microbrewery are chugging along.
The town’s palpable anticipation of his Ucluelet Brewing Company’s arrival was fermented last week by the sight of large tanks being forklifted into the centrally located building formerly known as St. Aidan’s on the Hill Church, which overlooks Ucluelet’s downtown core.
“Getting the equipment here, this is a huge hurdle. This is a big one because now everything is here, everything is in house,” Morgan told the Westerly News as the tanks were being hauled inside. “It’s the end of a long, long, journey and there’s definitely been times where I’ve been like, ‘Oh God, what am I doing?’ But, at this point, it’s going to happen and I’m pretty excited that it’s going to happen. It’s real. It’s here. There is light right there at the end of the tunnel and the tunnel is short at this point.”
He added the feat could not have been accomplished without the “absolutely amazing” support of Jonny Ferguson’s local company Tidewater Timber Frames.
He said the 12, 1,500 litre tanks—a mash-tun, a kettle, five fermenters and five brite tanks—arrived from the same supplier used by Port Alberni’s Twin City Brewing and, once they’re installed, the next steps will include getting the chilling, electrical and plumbing systems in place and “jockey everything into position,” before his Ucluelet Brewing Company can begin serving beer.
“The hope is it’s a couple months to get all that stuff done. It could be less, it could be more. It’s never been a very definitive opening date for this. It’s always been; ‘OK, well, we’ll see.’ So, we’re still at that stage,” he said. “October, I think, is very realistic.”
He added he’s also excited to meet the community’s expectations, which have been mounting since he introduced his plan to operate a brewery to Ucluelet’s municipal council and residents at a May 10, 2016, public hearing where his idea was loudly supported by locals eager to see life breathed into the then-defunct and increasingly derelict former church, which was deconsecrated by the Anglican diocese in 2010 and sold to developer Leif Hagar in 2011.
READ MORE: Ucluelet cheers microbrewery
The building has been rejuvenated and effectively rebuilt since that meeting and Morgan is excited about the possibilities for the two-storey space which has a seating capacity of 73 on the top floor, including a large deck overlooking Ucluelet’s harbour and room for another 22 seats downstairs, though he said the ground floor will house the equipment and be used for tours and tastings.
“It’s a pretty sweet place to have a beer and a lot of people that have toured around are pretty excited about that too,” he said, adding the local reception has been positive. “Even people that may be more on the Lucky-drinking side of things, still are excited to have the place to come and drink and we’ll try and have some beers that won’t be Lucky, but they’ll be something that might tempt their palate as well.”
Morgan said he plans to open with six different beers with the goal of eventually expanding that to 10.
To put those recipes together, Morgan has hired head brewer Allan Cukier.
“I’ve learned a ton about brewing and equipment and everything over the last two-and-a-half years, but I needed to have somebody who really has done it. There’s no substitute for that. I needed someone who has really done it and could jump in,” Morgan said of Cukier, adding the Ucluelet Brewing Company’s first test batch of IPA should be ready to go this week.
“We’re figuring out the recipes…We’ll see how they taste, run them through a few people and pick what is our recipe for an IPA and then that will be the recipe that we take to production at the 1,500 litre level.”
Cukier told the Westerly he’s eager to get pouring.
“I’m excited to be the community space in Ucluelet and provide people a place to come and hang out, drink some beer and have a nice view,” he said. “We’re going to be the most unique thing in town…We’re going to come up with some pretty creative things to drink using mostly local ingredients, when we can, and trying to bring out the flavours of the area.”
Cukier is a graduate of Kwantlen Brewing School and said he spent the past four years with R&B Brewing in Vancouver.
“It’s a mix of art and science and it’s important to use both,” he said, adding he’s excited to have moved to Ucluelet. “This is where I come on vacation all the time so it’s nice to live here. I like to surf and it’s nice to be out in nature on the West Coast.”