Gretzky Estates Craft Brewing enlists NC Teaching Brewery for trials of new No. 99 Rye Lager

Master distiller and brewer for Gretzky’s Joshua Beach visited Niagara College’s Teaching Brewery to share a sample of the No. 99 Rye Lager with fourth semester Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management students who assisted with the trials. Niagara College photo

Niagara College press release – Great Canadian hockey icon Wayne Gretzky looks to score in the craft beer arena, and Niagara College’s Teaching Brewery was proud to be home to Joshua Beach’s trial brews.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Craft Brewing in Niagara-on-the-Lake, known for craft wine and whiskey, hit a hat trick with the launch of its first beer, No. 99 Rye Lager. After Beach, master distiller and brewer for Gretzky’s crafted the recipe for the crisp and zesty lager, he needed a place to trial the brew to perfection. He turned to NC’s Teaching Brewery at the NOTL Campus.

“Trialing a new beer requires a lot of consecutive brews and each batch must be brewed to precision in order to achieve repeatable results. Luckily, we only had to look as far as our backyard to find a facility that could do just that,” said Beach. “NC’s Teaching Brewery not only has professional trialing equipment, but also the expert brewers required to achieve that repeatable result. Jon, his team and his brewers in training jumped at the challenge and were the absolute epitome of helpful, professional brewers.”

Led by the general manager the College’s learning enterprises Steve Gill, and brewmaster professor Jon Downing, students from the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program monitored 12 of Beach’s secret trial batches through two-and-a-half rounds of testing using the equipment on-site at the Teaching Brewery. Discretion was key and, at the time, students didn’t know they were testing the very recipe that would take Wayne Gretzky Estates Craft Brewing’s inaugural brew to market.

“We understood that they wanted to keep Joshua’s project under wraps,” said Downing. “Our students were following Joshua’s recipe as part of their course work but didn’t know it was for the first Gretzky lager. We thought it was a fantastic learning opportunity and a cool project to be a part of.”

Through the trials, Beach made tweaks to everything – from the ratio of ingredients to strains of yeast to brewing temperature – to craft the perfectly balanced brew he envisioned: an easy-drinking lager with a refreshing twist. Beach brewed No. 99 Rye Lager with four all-natural ingredients including Canadian Winter Rye Grain, delivering a crisp, clean taste of a classic lager with an extra layer of depth, zest, and freshness.

“Joshua was constantly on-site and we brewed as a team – it was a fun process. At the time I didn’t know we were brewing for Wayne Gretzky Craft Brewing,” said Brewmaster student Tim Miller. “We all take pride in what we’re brewing. When working with clients, we want to hit exactly what they want out of their brew, and we have the flexibility of a small batch system at the Teaching Brewery to make it happen.”

Little did the students know, the canned outcomes from each batch were going straight to Gretzky himself for input and approval. The Teaching Brewery was also one of the places Wayne Gretzky Estates Craft Brewing conducted taste-testing, in which NC students participated.

“Adding a bit of rye grain is an interesting choice that you don’t find in a lot of commercial beers. Rye grain adds a bit of spice to the beer that will make it stand out,” said Brewmaster student Isaac West.

“The Niagara College Teaching Brewery was proud to assist Wayne Gretzky Estates with the launch of its inaugural craft beer and we look forward to watching the growth of this brand,” said Gill.

No. 99 Rye Lager will be available across Ontario at LCBO stores, Wayne Gretzky Estates, as well as select Ontario restaurants, and available more broadly across Ontario this fall.