Two KPU brewing students win top prize for their beer at Langley event

Benee Stevens and Dawson Boyd were awarded $500 for their unique beer

KPU brewing students Benee Stevens (left) and Dawson Boyd (right) won beer competition Battle of the Casks for their “Zesty Honey Bun Saison-opolitan.” (Submitted/Steph Beerwald/Claudia Culley)

KPU brewing students Benee Stevens (left) and Dawson Boyd (right) won beer competition Battle of the Casks for their “Zesty Honey Bun Saison-opolitan.” (Submitted/Steph Beerwald/Claudia Culley)

A team of two Kwantlen Polytechnic University brewing students won $500 for having the most-liked beer at a competition on Nov. 30 at the Smugglers Trail Caskworks brewery in Langley.

Benee Stevens and Dawson Boyd’s winning beer for “Battle of the Casks” was “Zesty Honey Bun Saison-opolitan.” The competition featured unique beers from six teams of students who are in their second year of brewing diploma.

“This is essentially a way where we get to play around with our beer and test out things that we might not have been able to test out for our final project,” Boyd says.

“Since our final project is for marks, we want to make sure to stay a bit more on the traditional side, but then I think this ‘Battle of the Casks’ really gives us an opportunity to try out things that we haven’t been able to do before and play with flavours that we might not have otherwise.”

Stevens and Boyd’s winning beer was a different take on the one they designed for their final project, which is due in the spring semester. The original beer is similar to a dry ale that carries lemon and ginger flavours, hence “Zesty” in the name. The “Honey Bun” part comes from the team using honey malt in the beer, Boyd says.

However, the pair switched the springtime flavours to cranberry and orange for the competition to better compliment the winter season, he adds.

Other beers student teams brewed for the competition include “I’m Late NZ Pilsner,” a spicy Szechuan edition, and “Cocotero Stout,” which was an extra hoppy version, a KPU brewing Facebook post shows. 

A cask is a large container, similar to a barrel, that is used for producing, storing, and serving beer. The competition was a chance for students to share their own beer recipes and creativity with industry experts and the public.

“We wanted to combine our packaging lab activities, which includes learning how to condition a cask, with an opportunity to enjoy the students’ final product,” wrote KPU brewing instructor Martina Solano Bielen in an email to The Runner.

“Conditioning beer, whether it’s in a bottle or a cask, is a basic technique used to create carbonation using the existing yeast in the beer and a small amount of added sugars. Calculating the right amount of sugar is key to ensuring the beer doesn’t go flat or explode the container.”

The Campaign for Real Ale Society of British Columbia (CAMRA BC), an independent consumer organization for craft beer, donated the cash prize to the winning team, while Smugglers Trail donated an additional $500 towards the John Mitchell Legacy Endowed Scholarship for KPU brewing students.

Judges for the competition included brewers from Smugglers Trail and Moody Ales & Co in Port Moody. The mayor of Langley Township also judged along with members of the public who received a ticket through Eventbrite and were provided a token to vote for their favourite beer, says Steph Beerwald, the events coordinator for CAMRA Vancouver, a local branch of the B.C. wide organization.

Beyond a beer they enjoyed drinking, the judges looked for ones that were well balanced and complex with little-to-no off flavours, Boyd wrote in a follow-up statement to The Runner.

Beerwald got the idea for the competition after her husband, a KPU brewing alumni, won an award at Smugglers earlier this year and mentioned to her in the past that the university does not have an extensive cask program due to limited supplies.

“It made me think about if Smugglers [have] casks available, and if they’re willing to and wanting to coordinate with KPU, then that encompasses the scope of CAMRA,” she says. “It’s an outreach thing that CAMRA can do.”

The purpose of the cash prize was to get students excited about the competition, but also because they often need money, Beerwald says. CAMRA BC has also promised to contribute prize money towards future yearly cask events for KPU students until at least 2025, she adds.

The original lemon-and-ginger version of Stevens and Boyd’s beer will be available on tap on Dec. 12 starting at 5:00 pm at Langley’s Camp Beer Co. brewery. This will be the last day of the “Pioneer Tap Series,” which features KPU student-brewed beer every Tuesday.

“So far, we got to try it within our school brewery, but it’s not quite the same as when you get to sit down with a full glass of your beer and just see everyone’s reaction and how they enjoy it and be able to take notes on what we would want to change for our final rendition of it,” Boyd says.

But in the meantime, Boyd feels great that he and Stevens won the cask competition despite the tough competition.

“I was really happy with the reception of our beer. The judges gave us some great feedback for next time we brew it, and everyone I talked to seemed to really enjoy the beer,” he wrote.