In the sleepy fishing and logging town of Nanaimo along the eastern coast of Vancouver Island stands the impressive new building housing Longwood Brewpub. Open only five months, business looks healthy for the owners of this $4M CAN investment in craft beer. Standing alone in the midst of nearby shops and businesses, the 25 foot silo painted with the large logo signals to all the purpose of this operation. Natural wood lattice work and decking offers patio diners seclusion from the surrounding parking lot traffic. One end of the enclosed patio even contains a large BBQ grill that awaits accommodating weather. The interior is spacious and well lit. A large stone fireplace acts as the centerpiece of the room. The lounge offers a dozen five-place cherry wood tables and wooden chairs. Grey tiles and red carpet cover the floors as the expansive windows draw light into three sides of the room. The medium-sized bar is equally elegant as the room's surroundings, with its polished green stone top and cherry wood sides and bar back. Two black lacquered towers pour the standard house beers. Four beer engines draw the cask-conditioned beers from their respective cellar tanks. Serving temperature for them is 11°C, 3° warmer than their non-cask brethren. Upstairs, customers find an even more elegant atmosphere for dining, with another larger stone fireplace surrounded by the dark green and natural cherry wood decor. The room offers a stand-up bar under a vaulted light yellow ceiling. The larger glass windows reveal multiple decks available for outdoor seating. Tucked away on the secluded side of the second floor is the Brewer's Dining Room that would make most Fortune 500 boardrooms pale in comparison. A long arrangement of cherry wood tables and chairs occupies the center of the room, with comfortable lounge chairs between the Brazilian Cherry wood floors and American Cherry wood walls. The perfect place to hold your next investor appreciation party? The silent TVs and the requisite pooltable show the fine line that contemporary brewpubs must walk in order to attract a customer base appreciative of not just the beers but the total eating and drinking environment.
Lest anyone forget that this operation is foremost a brewery, the brewhouse stands highly visible from both outside and in at the main entrance. The spotless, white tiled brewhouse houses a shiny 7-barrel Specific Mechanical stainless steel Mash Tun and Boil Kettle. Another room keeps the five seven-barrel uni-tank fermenters safe and secure. Attention to detail dictates separate room temperatures for "cellar" vs cold-room serving tanks. Among the 11 10-hl serving vessels large bags of whole leaf hops await their contribution to a future brew. The upstairs mill room appears roomy and well ventilated, as if the designers knew what they wanted and had the money to create it. Like the visual theme throughout the restaurant, "natural" is the key word. The beer moves from upstairs to down via gravity, no filtering is employed, and only natural carbonation is used. A Hop Back lets the fresh wort flow over the surface of the hop flowers. One lager and one ale yeast strain support all the house brews. Lager beers all get 10 weeks of conditioning time prior to serving. Quite an operation!
The Czech Pilsner (5.5%) offers a smooth, light pale male flavor with a nice crisp hop bitterness and dry finish. The gold Longwood Ale (5%) matches a dry hoppy bitterness with a light caramel maltiness that results in a very clean brew with a nice mouthfeel. The Dunkelweizen (5.5%) is a clear dark brown with a dry malty flavor enhanced by a big wheaty character. The Mild Brown starts with a creamy head, followed by an intense malty aroma, and finishes with a rich, dry, slightly roasted dark malt flavor. The IPA is a clear gold with a pronounced crisp hop flavor supported by a nice big maltiness. The Scottish Ale is a light ruby color with a rich malty flavor and smooth mouthfeel. The Imperial Stout (6.5%) has a smoky character dominate its otherwise malty favor. At the early age of six months, a sample of the Barley Wine shows this dark brown brew to be smooth and slightly sweet, with a big maltiness and accompanying alcohol character. Incredibly smooth for such a young age. The Vienna Lager is a dark gold with malty aromas and a slightly sharp and dry malty flavor. The ESB is a deep copper color with fine white lace and hop-dominated flavor profile.
Beers can be sampled in various serving sizes: 6-ounce tasters ($1.55 CAN), 12-ounce glasses ($3.15), 20-ounce pints ($5.25), and 60-ounce jugs ($15). The Barley Wine is sold in six-ounce glasses only and commands a higher price. Ever since Expo '86 beer sales on Sunday have been permitted. It's amazing what a little world attention, and accompanying tourist spending, will do to modernize primitive liquor laws. The bartenders make a nice presentation with the four-glass sampler tray, each beer labeled with its own plastic placard underneath. While relaxing to the mellow music and taking in the brews near the fireplace, don't hesitate to ask your bartender for more information about the brewery. Although public tours are only scheduled for Saturdays, you may be fortunate enough to catch Justin Skidmore on duty and have him field all questions about the brewing operation. With two renown chefs running the restaurants grill and steamer, the menu entrées should not be missed. Nanaimo is a bit off the beaten path when tourists from the mainland aren't flocking to the island. Fortunately, some of the government inspired hindrances to business in B.C. are stating to disappear. A new law now allows a percentage of brewpub seats for serving beer versus food. Freed from unnatural restrictions, brewpubs such as Longwood are certain to thrive as they fulfil the natural free-market demands of beer-appreciative customers. Officially, British Columbia went "smoke-free" on January 1, 2000 but debate continues. At Longwood brewpub smoking is permitted only outside. Outdoor heat lamps are operated on the patios.
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - December 2000