Casually grabbing a beer from the basement has a whole new meaning for a Kanata, Ont., couple, as they’ve renovated the lower level of their home to include a state-of-the-art brew room.
The couple began their 1,200-square-foot basement renovation in September of last year and things moved quickly, finishing before winter began.
The renovation turned their unfinished basement into a living area and hobby room with a large games table and television set-up. But the centrepiece is the 135-square-foot brew room. John, who cannot reveal his last name as he is an active member of the military, calls his pet project Covert Hops Brewing.
Each batch of beer takes about a month to make. He has a friend who has canned one of his beers as a gift, but usually he pours his ales or lagers out of the three taps he has for visitors.
While many think brewing at home involves just a plastic kit tucked into a dark corner of a basement, the Covert Hops operation looks more like a miniature version of something you might see at a brewpub such as Toronto’s Mill Street Brewery or Ottawa’s Flora Hall Brewing.
When the project was brought to contractors, many thought it was just going to be “another basement renovation,” says John, but it was far from that.
The brewery room saw electrical, ventilation and HVAC upgraded from what had existed before. But Marie Larochelle of Rockwater Renovation, who built most of the room herself, says it was a dream job because the homeowners had a blank canvas to work with.
“This isn’t another ‘bar in a basement.’ This is an industrial brew room,” she says.
The challenge, John says, was to get an industrial look while still keeping things functional for clean brewing. “It has to be clean, otherwise it ruins your beer,” he says.
The room is exactly what he had hoped it would be, with 15 different items included to help perfect his beer. Ninety per cent of what he uses to brew beer comes from Canada, while the rest of the items were found online from the United States.
Natalia Pierce of Ottawa General Contractors was the project manager for the brew room and says the couple had very specific plans. She was happy to help execute on their vision.
“It was awesome,” she explains. “Great clients, great space and the end result was amazing.”
Ms. Pierce says the key thing they needed to work through was the ventilation system in the basement, because of how much moisture that accumulates in the homebrew kettle.
Part of the brewing process includes boiling beer for upwards of three hours. Upgrading the ventilation in the basement was “critical” to keep moisture under control. Without a constant flow of incoming air there would be a danger that, when the homeowners drew out air during the boiling phase, the furnace pilot lights could be knocked out. The upgraded HVAC system stabilizes the flow of fresh air into the space.
“When you’re dealing with tradespeople, but doing something different, you can tell people are excited,” John says. “They’re just more interested. They say, ’wow, that’s a neat little project.’ ”
The basement was completely bare prior to the renovation and the couple had a normal basement sink in the now brew room. They upgraded it to a stainless steel one, not unlike what you would see at a restaurant, and black plumbing stacks were painted grey to give them a ‘steel’ look. Floor tiles were installed on the walls as an extra design element to keep the industrial look at the forefront.
“We knew we wanted a feature wall and the upgrade to the tile was the right decision. It looks right in the space,” John says.
Any worry about re-sale for people who don’t enjoy beer, or who are wondering why they would need a brewery in their home, was quashed quickly. Indeed, the couple says there’s already something of a waiting list of interested buyers, should they decide to sell. A formal listing might not even be needed.
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to list it, because we’ve got a whole of people wanting to buy it already,” Michelle, John’s wife, says with a laugh.
John says a room dedicated to brewing can be done by pretty much anyone, as there are so many more options available these days than in the past when home brewing was a smelly, laborious task, usually reserved to the side of a room and out of the way.
Now that the room is just the way he wants, he can quite literally enjoy the fruits of his labour.