If your life flashed before your eyes, what would you see or contemplate? Maybe the last time you'd seen a certain loved one or perhaps undone items on your bucket list? Not so for a young man in Paducah. He has a passion for brewing beer. And that was the only thing on his mind after surviving a terrible car accident that left him unconscious for weeks.
Bryan Canavan, affectionately introduced himself as a boy from Vermont, “I lived there for 14 years, which I think statistically there are still more cows in that state than people.”
Bryan later finished a graduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech and landed a job at a chemical plant in Calvert City. Now, Bryan lives in a 900 square foot apartment in Paducah, Kentucky. A space he has filled at times with more than 700 bottles of beer, and at the moment more than 20 gallons of the brewed beverage waiting to be chilled by a kegerator. So what does he do with all this beer? You will know if you meet him, because he often greets people with these five words.
“Do you like craft beer?”
While Bryan enjoys his day job, his passion or obsession, whatever you want to call it, is brewing beer. As Bryan sanitized bottles for a later batch, he talked about a wild strand of yeast, modeled after one of his favorite Canadian/Belgian breweries called Unibroue. It’s the first beer he has made with their “proprietary” strand of yeast that he aged for four weeks and would bottle later that night.
Some have said that Bryan’s beer is good enough to sell. He claimed that he isn’t ready to get his license just yet. That doesn’t stop him however from providing free tastings to anyone that appreciates good beer.
Jeremy Morrison has supported Bryan’s brewing since he approached him a year ago at the Lowertown festival with his list of 58 different brews. Jeremy recalled his first encounter with Bryan.
“Is this for real? Does this guy really have some beer; this is weird, we’re going to go check this out. And it says on the bottom that he can’t sell any so he’s just going to give us some beer, so we are like alright. You think there is no telling what this is going to taste like and you try it and we were like WOAH,” said Jeremy.
At the top of Bryan’s beer list, is Winnie the Pale Ale, an American Style with an alcohol content of 6.03 percent. His list described the beer as having “gobs of golden nectar that impart a prevalent honey taste, complimented by a touch of pine and fruit from the hops.” Each beer has a similar affectionate description. That’s because Bryan doesn’t just buy the pre-packaged powered concoction some brew kits come with, he hand picks and even grinds his own ingredients to create his original recipes.
“I grind this thing with my own arm, it takes like ten minutes to grind a 5 gallon batch, you know you hear handmade, artisanal stuff, there is nothing more than me cranking this thing with my hand to grind the grains,” said Bryan.
Bryan has been brewing for about a year. According to him, the equipment is the most expensive part of the process. Bottling is the most cost effective, though time consuming.
“If you reuse bottles, that’s free, any brown bottles from commercial breweries that aren’t screw off you can use. I have neighbors that come over and bring them over, it’s like a drunken milk man exchange, where I come home and see like two 6 packs sitting on my doorstep,” said Bryan.
Money has little to do with Bryan’s brewing. He does it because he loves it. Bryan is four months removed from a horrific car accident that left him unconscious for more than a month. Before he could be released from the hospital, he had to undergo a psych evaluation. He said he did a lot of thinking and there was only one thing he had to report.
“I’m not sure like, what exactly happened or why I’m still here, but I just believe I want to make beer and maybe that’s why I’m still here,” said Bryan.
Bryan’s dream is to have his beer on tap somewhere. His friends are here to support him until that day arrives. In the meantime, he still hosts anyone who wants to stop by for a taste.
Below is the full list of Bryan's beers.