Meet Aurelien Vervaeke: The Man Behind the Raccoons

As we approach our one-year anniversary, many of you have asked us about our raccoon iconography, the inspiration behind our labels, and the mere raison d’être for our branding. Well, then what better than to introduce you to the man behind the curtain: Bandit Brewery’s very own artist-in-residence Aurelien Vervaeke.

Aurelien’s story is quite interesting; he quit his job as an art director for a well-known advertising agency in France and moved to Toronto without any contacts, job, or apartment in order to improve his English and to experience life in Canada. “I needed a fresh start, and Toronto is not a bad place to do that,” he tells us.

He ended up staying in Toronto for two full years. Since leaving, he still returns to our city every year; he calls Toronto his “second home”. His love of our city as an outsider, combined with his incredible talents, made Aurelien the ideal artist to work with when creating the Bandit brand. “As time goes by, I  miss the lake, the islands… it makes a difference to have a waterfront, especially in a big city,” he adds.

 The inspiration for his work and his style comes from many distinct and varied sources: “I was influenced from a young age by North-American design, comic strips and cartoons such as The Simpsons and Futurama. As I grew older French and Belgian artists began to create an impression on me as well.” Another important influence on his style was Toronto itself. “I found people in Toronto open to many forms of arts. The city is enthusiastic about creativity, new concepts, and raccoons” he tells us.

So what comes first, the design or the beer name? When asked about his process creating the beer labels for Bandit, he tells us: “The first step is to sketch a lot of different ideas inspired by the name or a general concept, like the Dundas West Coast IPA. After that, I try to figure out how to bring the raccoon into the label as to continue the Bandit story.”

Another big inspiration for his work with us is his true love of beer. Having studied in Belgium for a few years made an impact on him. He’s a big fan of traditional breweries with a long history. He enjoys highly-fermented and strong beers and counts Duvel as his favourite brand of European beers. As for his favourite Bandit beers: “I had a chance to try them all last summer and I loved Smoke On The Porter and Wizard of Gose for their distinct flavours.”

Lastly, we had to ask him what his favourite work for Bandit has been:” I can’t choose one in particular, but I was thrilled to hear so much good feedback on the logo, it looks fantastic on the beer glasses!”

Expect more exceptional work from Aurelien in the next little while. We can’t wait to see what he makes our raccoon pals do next time!

18 x 24 prints of Aurelien’s Bandit art are now on sale at our bottle shop.

Bandit’s Beach Boy: Dundas West Coast IPA

Picture it. Early 2008. Seattle, Washington. A group of French travellers fight their jet-lag in order to make it in time to The Whiskey Bar. Their mission: to finally try a West Coast IPAs, a style of beer that hadn’t yet reached France, a country not known for its beer culture.

They dropped their luggage off and mission accomplished. After several pints of extremely bitter and citrusy IPAs, Stephane Dubois, owner and brewer of Bandit Brewery, began his love affair with West Coast style IPAs. “Those beers were so bitter that I could still taste the bitterness the next morning! I probably loved these beers as much as my friends hated them, and I have been the biggest fan of West Coast IPA’s since then,” he tells us.

It seems appropriate then that Stephane would be the mastermind behind our Dundas West Coast IPA. This west coast style IPA has a strong citrus aroma and flavours of lemon, grapefruit and peach. It is dry, crisp, and has a refreshing bitterness. As a side-kick to our English-style Cone Ranger IPA, a maltier beer brewed with Simcoe hops, Dundas West Coast IPA is an excellent showcase of the characteristics of Citra and Amarillo hops, especially since we use LOTS of hops in the process. As for the name, we couldn’t resist but pay tribute to our “neck of the woods”.

We asked Stephane how he plans to enjoy this beer in the coming months: “Probably lying on Ward Island beach, eating a hot dog with a stereo playing Surfin’ USA,” he tells us.

Dundas West Coast IPA is now available on tap and at the Bandit bottleshop. 

 

Here Comes the Sun: Introducing Aequinox IIPA

The arrival of spring brings with it tulips, easter eggs, and crisp beers that feel like a much-needed refreshment after endless months of snow and below-zero temperatures. The Vernal Equinox, or Spring Equinox, is a time when day and night find balance and become of equal lengths. Ancient cultures associated it with being a time of rebirth, so it’s quite fitting that we’re introducing a brand-new IIPA, a style we’ve perfected with our Tsarina Bomb, brewed exclusively with Equinox (Ekuanot) hops.

Helmed by our brewer, Ben, this new beer is a smooth Imperial IPA bursting with aromas of berries, citrus and melon. It’s our first time using these hops, which was one of our main reasons for creating the Aequinox. “The choice of equinox was to showcase a hop variety we haven’t used before and brew a big beer to see out the winter and welcome in the spring,” says Ben. “We hope that the fruit aromas will invoke the not too far off summer with the high alcohol keeping off the seemingly perpetual cold.”

With the introduction of Equinox, we asked Ben if we can look forward to more beers like this in the following months: “This will be our first spring release. We have a few more batches up our sleeves for when the weather breaks and the ground starts to get green once again. “

We look forward to warm days ahead and to the promise of new beers to come.

Our new Aequinox will be available on Monday, March 20th in both our bottleshop (11 am) and brewpub (5 pm).

On beer + food

When first developing the menu for our brewpub, we wanted to make sure that the food was made to compliment our beers, or that the beer itself was an ingredient in these dishes. As both our food offerings and our beer list has grown and evolved, we decided to chat with our chef, Charles, about what his ideal pairings are for a great Bandit experience.

We gave Charles the very difficult task to match a few of our staples with what he considers to be the ideal Bandit beer. Charles’ approach to pairing is much more about contrasting flavours, not so much complimenting ones. He believes in playing with the ying-yang of taste in order to create something new and compelling.

Beer Battered Cheese Curds 

“I recommend our new pilsner, Hoppelgänger, for the clean, crisp quality that will compliment the sweetness of the cheese curds”, he tells us. Then again, there’s no bad pairing for cheese curds. We’ll pair them with water if it comes down to it. 

Charcuterie Board

As our charcuterie selection can change on the daily, it’s hard to pinpoint a specific beer to accompany it. Still, if it was Charles’ choice, he recommends a sour, like our Wizard of Gose. ” It brings out the savoury qualities of all the flavours on the board.” 

Steak & Potatoes

Our steak is marinated in our Smoke On The Porter for two days before the sous-vide. ” Our Brine of the Ancient Mariner Oyster Stout is going to be a delicious pairing in this case, but any of our stouts & porters will match well with the flavours on this plate.” The chimichurri oil on the steak only adds to the intricate flavours that come as a result of the pairing. 

Country Fried Chicken

“Our fried chicken is already a wonderful mixture of tastes and texture. Tsarina Bomb IIPA has all of the same characteristics and should complement the dish in a number of ways”, Charles tells us. The maltiness of our IIPA contrasts quite nicely with this dish, especially when topped with our hot sauce made in house using peppers. 

Zucchini & Eggplant “Ravioli”

Vegetarian and gluten-free, this dish is a myriad of flavours working together. “7 Rings ESGinger has all the right notes to balance the acidity of the tomato sauce, while the “ravioli” (zucchini and eggplant) itself will bring out the earthiness in our English Ale.”

To top it off, we recommend you get our Sticky Toffee Pudding, made with a Porter-infused caramel, so no pairing necessary for this cherry-on-top.

The State Of The Union: The return of our American Pale Ale

Our Bandit’s APA is back at the brewery after a few weeks off and we know how happy this news will make some of our friends. Part of the OG crew of staple Bandit beers, alongside Farmed & Dangerous and Smoke On The Porter, this little brother of the IPA world has quickly become a favourite amongst regulars and staff.

APAs are a bit nebulous when it comes to a definition. By and large, they are moderately bitter pale beers hovering between 5% and 6% ABV, and while they have some pronounced bitterness, they are milder than IPAs and usually less assertive in all rounds of hopping.

We asked Ben, our brewer, what his personal history with this style of beer is and why it was one of the first beers we brewed at Bandit:

“My personal history with them is pretty new. I spent the first good portion of my beer drinking life sticking to stouts and porters before switching to the hop forward styles. At that time BC seemed to have been going through a bitterness arms race with each brewery trying to make the bitterest IPA possible. Some were good, others were somewhat drinkable, but it pushed me towards the lower end of the bitterness spectrum and into APAs which weren’t quite as popular yet.”

Pale ales are fairly straightforward compared to many other styles. They generally have a fairly simple grain bill and use clean fermenting yeasts, although the variation we see in the style now allows for a lot of flexibility in terms of ingredients. Ultimately the style highlights the qualities of the hops used. The grains and yeast should play a supporting role in showing off the flavours and aromas derived from hop varieties and hopping techniques.

Our APA uses a combination of Ontario and US hops as well as a few different malts to give some honey and fruit aromas to add another dimension to the beer.

APAs have a general appeal. They are normally lower alcohol, have a lighter body, with enough bitterness to balance the beer and a lot of flavour and aroma. When they first hit the market they were entirely new and a vast change from the traditional North American Lager which dominated the markets. With the flourishing of beer styles in the last 20-30 years or so, the APA has remained a favourite as breweries have experimented with weirder and more niche styles such as Imperials, super bitter IPAs, sours and fruit beers. To the casual drinker, the APA is not only an easy stepping stone into the wild world of beer styles, but a great balance between flavour, drinkability and enjoyment.

Bandit’s APA is a beer for everyone.