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Deconstructing Dinner: Reconstructing Our Food System
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Weekly Column

January 15, 2009


Deconstructing Dinner


"Pigs and Chickens Make Beer Too!"

A visit to Canada's only certified organic farmhouse microbrewery.


Jon Steinman


On a 10-acre farm sits 7 pigs. But these are not your average pigs. These pigs are employees of Crannóg Ales - a farmgate microbrewery in Sorrento, British Columbia.


Their job?... to eat all of the solid waste created from the production of some incredibly tasty beers. Their diet?... spent yeast cells and spent barley.


Also on the payroll of brewmasters Brian MacIssac and Rebecca Kneen's business are 40 chickens.


Their job?... to hop around Crannóg's many varieties of organically-grown hops and fertilize them with their poop. The pigs poop too - and this poop also goes to fertilize the farm where MacIssac and Kneen grow their own food.


Some of that food actually makes its way back into the beer such as the cherries used in one of their seasonal ales.


Down the road from Crannóg are some other small-scale farms who also supply raw ingredients for their beers; potatoes being one of the more unique additions to their 'Hell's Kitchen Ale'.


Underneath Crannóg's farm sits a well of water.


Up from the ground, the water makes its way into their six styles of beer. Along with the mountain streams flowing through the property, the water is used as a coolant/cleaner as part of the production process. Back into the farm the used water goes.


As you can see, nothing is wasted at Crannóg, but do pay attention to your consumption, or you may be. These beers are decadent!


Crannóg is a shining example of the potential for food and beverage production to be far more environmentally responsible than most businesses are today. Factor in the unhealthy and teetering economy along with the unstable price and supply of natural resources, it appears that closed-loop and localized systems are proving to be the most resilient business models to adopt.


The brewery itself is a rather calm and visually stimulating place to be. Farm animals aside, the farm is adorned with Celtic artwork designed by Brian MacIssac himself. The names and labels of the beers also reflect MacIssac's Gaelic background. "Personally, I live by what I refer to as a cultural agenda," says MacIssac. "This means I make choices according to my identity. My people are primarily Gaels: Irish, some Scot and other cultures to make the gene pool strong and diverse.


The Gaelic culture is paramount to my identity."


            The beers also reflect the style of ales that Gaels enjoy.


If Crannóg sounds familiar, don't be surprised. Deconstructing Dinner met with Rebecca Kneen here in this very column back in April 2008. Kneen shared the history of their small-scale hop-growing manual published to assist other farmers.


Kneen and MacIssac have provided a lot to small-scale agriculture in the Pacific Northwest through their gudie, which has since helped lead the way towards reclaiming what was once a huge hop-growing industry in British Columbia.


Kneen is also very involved in food security issues and organic certification.


When Crannóg was first conceived, it was essential to source certified organic malted barley, which, was a tough product to find when most of the industry in North America is not organic. Not far from Sorrento is the community of Armstrong, home to Gambrinus Malting. Since opening in 1992, Gambrinus had never malted certified organic barley. Unfortunately, at the time Crannóg approached Gambrinus, their interest did not convince the malter that they should diversify their production.


According to Gambrinus, malting of barley must be done in large batches, and Crannóg was too small to justify entering into the organic sector.


Determined to launch their brewery, Kneen and MacIssac approached brewers throughout the Pacific Northwest, both in the United States and Canada. An ample number of microbreweries were interested in joining Crannóg on their organic mission, and today, Gambrinus is now malting certified organic barley for a number of American and Canadian microbreweries.


Crannóg is clearly a leader.  


With a zero-waste system in place, Crannóg does not bottle their beer and instead distributes their beers in 58.7L and 18.5L kegs, and provides those willing to make the trip with 8.5L "party pigs" for $45 ($30 deposit).


Crannóg's Beers


Beyond the Pale Ale - better known as a bitter


Red Branch Irish Ale - Irish-style rich and red ale


Backhand of God Stout - 1st place award at the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale


Bogtrotter Brown Ale - soft with full flavour


Hell's Kitchen Ale - made with organic russet potatoes!!!


Pooka Cherry Ale - 200lbs of certified organic cherries right from the farm. AMAZING!


Deconstructing Dinner is heard on radio stations across Canada and is available as a Podcast. More information on Crannóg can be found at (




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