STARBURST: How did the company come about, and what inspired you to create Star Trek-themed ales?
Vern Raincock: I previously met Paul Carreau - a Federation founder - at an RFID technology presentation, and Paul Suggested I approach Vulcan Tourism to supply beer and wine for Spock Days .
It was 2008, and Spock Days invited Eugene ‘Rod’ Roddenberry Jr., the son of Star Trek Creator Gene Roddenberry to unveil a plaque dedicated to his father. There, I used a Captain Kirk bobblehead as tap handle for Captains Lager and Dr McCoy bobblehead as tap handle for the ‘Real McCoy Wit’. We worked with CBS and the town of Vulcan to get approval for a limited production run for the event.
As I was setting up a prototype ‘Keg Eliminator’ draft system, Mr. Roddenberry dropped in prior to the festival in the Vulcan Tourism office. Rod mentioned that he was a home brewer. Rod clearly enjoyed the Bavarian imported beer from Anker Brau that we supplied at the event. Rod’s enthusiasm in our project was contagious and was the seed that encouraged us to seek approval to brew future Vulcan Ale recipes for Spock Days. Our wine that year was supplied by Hafner Wines of Austria and the Organic ‘White Rabbit Chardonnay’ was a hit with the guests of the meet and greet in 2008.
What’s the process for selecting and making a great brew?
To make a great brew we work with the best creative minds in the craft brewing community. We choose the best of ingredients and the results are evident in each pint that we pour. In the early ‘90s, I was working in Seattle for a grocery chain - and was converted to craft beer by Red Hook and Pike Brewing, two of the earliest craft brewers to set up shop in Seattle.
In 2002, Darren, a teammate in hockey and golf pro convinced me to import a Hefeweizen beer for his golf club. Since that time, I have had the good fortune to represent and befriend some of the world’s finest brewers including Charles and Rose Ann Finkel of Pike Brewing in Seattle, Catherine Maxwell-Stuart of Traquair House in Scotland, Brian Titus of Garrison Brewing in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Jeremy Cowan of Shmaltz Brewing in Clifton Park, NY.
Brian Titus of Garrison Brewing says, “Star Trek is just one of those rare things that EVERYONE relates to at some point in their lives. Whether it’s a particular series, movie or character, there’s always something that resonates with each of us. I’m an Original Series guy, but my younger girls are working through Next Generation and my son’s all about the J. J. Abrams movies! We wanted to create beers that appealed to Trekkies and Beer Geeks alike. So far so good!”
Equally important, since that time, I’ve attended hundreds of beer festivals and spoken to fans of craft beer who are enthusiastic and always willing to provide suggestions along the way.
When given the opportunity to brew Vulcan Ale under license in 2013, our founders agreed that whatever we brewed must be of best quality and we issued our Prime Directive:
To produce high quality Craft Beer, to honour Gene Roddenberry’s legacy, and to unite both Star Trek and Craft Beer fans.
Given that most of our friends in the industry love Star Trek, we decided to brew a new episode for each season and to encourage many of our brewery friends to ‘colla-brew-ate’ with us on our Five-Year Mission to explore strange new worlds and boldly brew where no beer has gone before.
What have been the most popular of your beers?
We have found success with each brew that we have released. Paul Carreau - known to members of KAG as Qel’iv prefers Klingon Warnog from Halifax’s Garrison Brewing. Dr. Richard Weger - our resident Tribble veterinarian - says that it’s only logical that Vulcan Ale - The Genesis Effect gets the nod. I’ve begun work on a very strong brew to be released in late 2016/early 2017 that will really get your blood pumping (or, as they say in the neutral zone... ‘plasma’). The first pilot batch turned out very well and we are set to launch this Bird (of Prey) soon! In a different reality, you could call it ale...
We see you’re mostly distributed in the US and Canada, are there plans to bring the ales further afield?
Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations is our Mission Statement. Interested brewers from Planet Earth should open a hailing frequency immediately and contact us. Our Mission is to seek out new brewers and new recipes.
Being small batch brewers - we reached out to Martin Kec of Zatecky Pivovar in Zatec, Czech Republic to brew our Sindicate Lager, The Orion Seductress. It was released at Destination Star Trek in the UK and sold out immediately. This year, we intercepted communications that something is brewing with possible release date in October.
Have you had any feedback from any of the Trek cast on the drinks?
In Seattle, I was approached by the head of security at Star Trek Seattle. Denise Crosby has a close friend who owns a brewery in Iceland and she loves craft beer. Denise had heard about Vulcan Ale but had not tried it. I called our distributor in Seattle and he beamed in a bottle from the closest retailer, just up the street! It was logical to crack open a cold one and chill out with Denise and discuss favourite craft beer styles and some of the great brewers we both look up to.
On May 22nd, 2016, I took my daughter to the taping of a CBC comedy production - Still Standing being filmed in Vulcan, Alberta. Garrett Wang beamed in and sat directly in front of us.
At the end of the taping, I offered a can of our Colla-beer-ation with Clock Tower Brewing ‘The Final Frontier’, which was featured at Ottawa Comic Con. I expect to get a beer review from Ensign Harry Kim at our next meeting.
What have the Federation of Beer got lined up for the future?
We plan to use technology to allow our fans to help influence our next project and provide feedback in real time. In 2014, we invited those attending the Nightclub and Bar show in Vegas to ‘Choose your Anomaly’ and this influenced the creation of Sindicate Lager, ‘The Orion Seductress’ which was released at Destination Star Trek 2014. Romulan Ale is a brew that we have attempted but there is no natural way to colour beer turquoise blue. The previous creator of Romulan Ale included so much blue colouring that there were reports of ‘green pee’ the morning after!
We plan to release a Winter Warmer-styled brew in time for Halloween and Christmas, 2016. We release three or four brews a year. Each brew is a unique episode. We do this to keep things interesting for the fans and ensure that each episode retains its value as a collectible.
I am amused to note that on eBay and Amazon - our empty cans and bottles sell for as much as $19 each. We are stoked to see our fans enjoy this project both philosophically as well as financially! Which beer KHAN you drink, then sell the empty for 5 X the initial investment?