This article first appeared in Salty: The Island’s Food Digest on April 1st, 2017.
Homebrewing team, Green Willy & Co., creates award-winning Winter Warmer, Solstice
A passion for beer is shared amongst many Islanders, but for Green Willy the love of beer is an all-consuming one that goes well beyond simply drinking the good stuff. This self-named homebrewing team comprised of Jonathan Green, William Panting, Clayton Harding, and Jaime Venturini has been fermenting and finessing their beer-making skills over the past six years. They recently won The Gahan House’s annual Home Brewmaster competition with their winter warmer, Solstice, confirming their penchant for beer goes beyond that of the casual connoisseur.
Green and Panting, both computer programmers by day, began working together in 2011 and became fast friends once realizing they shared a love for beer brewing and the same birthday.
The duo would meet weekly at Panting’s apartment, experimenting with different brews and enjoying the fruits of their labour.
Early on they dubbed themselves Green Willy, a fusion of their names that might draw some giggles after a few beers. They joined the PEI Aleanders, a subgroup of the Brewnosers, a Maritime- wide home-brewing community. The Aleanders host beer tasting nights, group brewing get togethers, and an online Facebook group for craft beer lovers. Within the group they took part in a few educational brewing events where they made beer in old whisky barrels led by Michael Hogan, who has since become co-founder and head brewmaster of Upstreet Craft Brewing.
In 2012, Harding, a chemistry student at UPEI, became Panting’s roommate. He took an immediate interest in Green Willy’s brew sessions, seeing an opportunity to lend his perspective from a technical standpoint. Most recently Venturini, a co-worker of Harding’s, has joined the clan, infusing it with his enthusiasm and ingredients from his homeland of Brazil, such as coffees and passion fruit concentrate.
When the group began, they were using a partial mash system, but upgraded to all-grain in 2016. Partial mash is a process where part of the wort is derived from grain and part from extract. It’s a great introduction to mashing. For the non-beer nerds out there, wort is basically beer before it has been fermented. When using an all-grain mash, your timing and temperature control are crucial.
As the name implies, no malt extracts are used. The beer is made completely from grain in a process that’s a scaled-down version of what a large brewery would use. Switching to this method really took Green Willy’s beer to the next level in terms of taste and quality.
As a result of this upgrade, Green Willy was able to enter the Homebrewer’s Challenge this year. Entrants were asked to submit their best Winter Warmer, a happy coincidence since the team had been brewing a Winter Warmer every year since they formed. Rich with molasses and spice, their concoction was warming from in the inside out.
After some intense brainstorming over a few brews, the name Solstice was decided on and an award-winning beer was created. As the champions of the challenge, they had the pleasure of brewing a 600 litre batch of Solstice at The Gahan Brewery with Brewmaster, Trent Hayes. This experience was invaluable and a highlight of their brewing journey thus far.
On January 21st, 2017, The Gahan House was packed to the gills with friends, family, beer lovers, and fans as the first Solstice pour was drawn. Odds are that by the time this story reaches you, the kegs will be dry. Winning this local competition has lit a fire within Green Willy, and they’re hoping to get more brews into the hands and bellies of Islanders soon.