Propeller Brewing quietly hired a new head brewer a few weeks ago. You may not know Cameron Crerar’s name, but you may have tried his first local brew: Ceberus Organic American IPA, a collaboration with Big Spruce Brewing and Tatamagouche Brewing Company, released during Nova Scotia Craft Beer Week.
“I was shit-scared,”Crerar says. “It was day three and all these established brewers were coming to, and being in, what should have been my brewery. Meanwhile I’m still looking around the room with new-kid eyes trying to figure out where to plug my phone in to charge. But 10 minutes in we were laughing, joking, and drinking beer. I’m feeling welcomed here in Halifax, but also by the extended breweries around the province.”
As Crerar settles in, Propeller founder and president John Allen is confident in his choice. There’s a lot to consider when choosing a new head brewer for a brewery with Propeller’s history and volume.
“One is technical expertise,” says Allen. “And the other one, it’s sounds corny, but it’s passion. You have to really love doing it. Cameron is a really competent, hands-on guy with a real love of beer.”
Allen said the brewery was swamped with interest for the head brewer position, receiving about 70 applications. Among the pool of professional brewers from brew houses large and small, brew school grads and home brewers, Crerar emerged victorious.
Before coming to Halifax to for his job interview and first visit to the city, Crerar worked as a brewer at Beau’s Brewing Co. in Vankleek Hill, Ontario. Before that he was an assistant brewer at Moo Brew in his native Australia.
“The people I worked with then, and since have just been so incredibly knowledgeable and opened my eyes to the world of beer,” he says. “It’s a never-ending learning experience. I haven’t looked back.”
Though he’s only been brewing for a handful of years, Crerar says his time at Beau’s, one of Canada’s fastest-growing craft breweries, set him up for his first head brewer gig.
“It’s about protecting the beers John’s been making for 20 years; just don’t screw it up,” he says. “You’ve got to create that consistency that’s needed for the production facility.” He describes Propeller’s One-Hit-Wonder series of small-batch beers as “the creative outlet.”
Crerar gets excited when he talks about smal- batch brewing . “[At Beau’s] we came up with 50 different beer releases and pilots in the last year,” he says. “That’s huge.” He also plans to add an even smaller pilot system, 500 to 1,000 litres, to Propeller’s set up to try his hand at what he calls “some really freaky stuff.”
In addition to small batches, watch for barrel aging on some of Propeller’s core brands, some twists on old favourites for September’s Cask Beer Throwdown, and experiments aplenty (watch out 2 Crows’ Jeremy Taylor).
“The beer drinkers here in Halifax are completely embracing the craft beer movement,” he says. “I was sure it was going to be a little bit more hesitant, lots of British and American-styles, but everyone here is embracing sour beers and different style variants, or tweaking out traditional styles or adding completely different new world hops.”