Posted October 31, 2012

Brewmaster Q&A Series: Sam Corbeil, Sawdust City Brewing


Brewmaster: Sam Corbeil
Brewery: Sawdust City Brewing
Location: Gravenhurst, ON
Notable Beers: Lone Pine IPA, Golden Beach Pale Wheat, The Princess Wears Girlpants


How long have you been brewing overall, and how did you start out?

I went to the VLB [Versuchs- und Lehranstalt für Brauerei] in Berlin back in ’06 and have been brewing in Ontario ever since…so I suppose that makes it my 7th year working in the Ontario beer scene?

I was pretty fortunate to get into it when I did, as the craft brewing landscape was a lot different back then. I basically walked off the plane and got a job my first day back.  Hazzah!


What prompted the inception of Sawdust City?

Rob Engman (my partner in crime at Sawdust City) and I met at one of my brother’s beer festivals a few years ago, the first Sessions I believe, and we got to talkin’ and we realized that we both shared the same desire to start a brewery.

He had moved up to Gravenhurst a few years earlier and I had grown up in Muskoka so we figured that it would be a great place to start a brewpub. So that’s what we’re doing!


What’s your favourite Sawdust City beer produced so far?

Sheesh, that’s like picking your favourite kid! Well it’s not really that dramatic, but you get idea.

Anyhoo, I don’t really like to pick favourites but if you’re asking I’d have to say “Long, Dark Voyage to Uranus”, our Uranal Imperial Stout.

I’m a big fan of big stouts and this one turned out pretty good. I also enjoyed putting together the story for this one and I really liked the art work Shannon (our design guru) came up with.

It was just fun doing it and seeing it all come together.


If you had to pick a favourite ingredient, what would it be [hop, malt, adjunct, spice, etc..]?

Well as much as I like big ol’malty stouts and over the top hoppy IPA’s, I’ve recently quite taken to playing with different yeasts.

It’s just fun to play with the different flavour profiles you can get just by swapping out different yeasts.  You can have the same malt, the same hops…basically the same exact brew, but you switch out that yeast for something new…you got a whole new beer!

Then there’s the whole wild yeast and different bacteria you can work with…there’s a lot of little bugs out there that are at our disposal.I came from a German brewing background so playing with wild yeast and bacteria goes against basically everything they taught us, but it’s certainly fun learning something new.  And I’m just new to it, so I gots lots to learn!


What’s your favorite style of beer to brew?

I’m gonna have to go back to the Stout well on this one.  The big roasty, coffee-esque aromas that come billowing out of the mash tun while your mashing in are just fantastic.  You just wanna stick your whole face right over it and breath it all in.


What are your top 3 all-time favourite beers [any country]?

I gotta say, this is almost an impossible question to answer.  There are just so many great beers out there and let me tell ya, I’m game to try’em all.  I’ve had beers in the past that have inspired me or changed my way of thinking about how a particular style can be, but like I said, I don’t like to pick favourites.  But again, I’m not going to be a douche about this, so I’ll pick 3 Canadian beers that I’ve had and thought were great.

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked at TAPS and the Canadian Brewing Awards the past two years and as such I’ve got to try some pretty fantastic Canadian beers.  Here are just three that stuck out in my mind

  • Fat Tug IPA from Driftwood Brewing (ridiculous hop aroma and flavour).
  • Dulcious Succubus from Le Trou Du Diable (this beer makes me weep it’s so good) and
  • Thor’s Hammer Barley Wine from Central City (massive malt flavours, insane)


What are your top 3 favourite Ontario-produced beers?

I’m just gonna skip the whole, “it’s impossible” diatribe here, I think y’all get the point now.  So, here are three regularly (not one-offs) produced Ontario beers that I think are pretty awesome and try to buy whenever I see them.

  • Tempest Imperial Stout from Amsterdam brewing.  It’s a big stout and it’s just awesome, Iain nailed it.
  • Spearhead Hawaiian Pale Ale.  I’ve really been diggin’ this in the bottle, it’s been tasting great.  Tom’s done a great job with this beer.
  • F & M’s Coffee Oatmeal Stout. Another great Ontario stout, George really killed it with this one


From whom have you learned the most with respect to brewing?

I don’t think it’s really just one person, it’s been more like learning by committee. In the past year I’ve had the opportunity to work at a number of different places and it’s been a fantastic learning experience.

Firstly at the Niagara College Brewing School, I not only learned a lot from Jon Downing, the Brewmaster, there but also from the students. They were just a really passionate group of kids and their enthusiasm was simply addictive.

Again, I really do feel blessed to be working in craft beer at the time I do.  There are so many really talented brewers in Ontario right now and I’ve been exceptionally lucky to have worked with, collaborated with or just shared pints with many of them.  Each time I do get to work, brew, drink with any of them I always feel that I’ve learned something.

I’ve also been brewing at Black Oak with Simon DaCosta and John Hodd, I can’t even begin to explain how much I’ve learned from them.  They are two really technical brewers that simply know their craft really well.

And even more recently, I’ve collaborated with Iain McCoustra from Amsterdam, Mike Lackey from Great Lakes and Jeff Broeders and Jason Fischer from Indie Alehouse on the Niambic project, just working with them for a few short days, they totally opened my eyes to the possibilities of beer and where it could be going in the future.

I know I’ve left out people here, and I’m sorry, but with so many people to thank it’s impossible to name them all


Can you describe any of your future plans for the brewery?

We’ve just installed two 40hl fermenters at Black Oak that will remain there even after we open up in Gravenhurst.

We’ve also began the process of getting into the LCBO – I just dropped off our first two beers that we hope to get int
o next year’s Fall-Winter release (crossing fingers).  And we are hoping to get a beer into the general list this Spring.  It’s still a long process to go through but we’ve take the first few baby steps.  It’s pretty exciting.


Do you have any events or announcements you’d like to relay?

It’s the one year anniversary of receiving our manufacturer’s license from the AGCO today(October 31st) so we’re brewing our Lone Pine IPA to mark the date.

Then next up we got Skinny Dipping Stout, which we haven’t brewed since last year, followed by our Gateway Kolsch.

After that we, are hoping to get this year’s Long, Dark Voyage to Uranus in the fermenter for an early 2013 release.

But then outside of what I’ve just said in the last question, nothing really.  We’re coming off a very busy summer/fall and I’m sure the Winter will be no less busy, but as of right now, we don’t have any big events on the horizon.


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