Brad Harris isn’t afraid of a challenge.
The full-time family physician by day and self-taught brewer by night (and owner of the Royston Nano Brewery) will soon brew the most beer he has ever brewed – 1,800 litres to be exact.
And as much as he likes to share with friends, family and fellow beer-drinkers, this beer is aimed not only at ‘hop heads,’ but to give back to those who helped his family during one of their biggest challenges.
Harris, who practises at the Comox Medial Clinic and St. Joseph’s General Hospital, began brewing his first batch of beer in January 2012.
In November of that same year, his daughter Linden became ill.
“You would think I would know; it happened literally overnight. At 9:30 when I got home she was coughing and had a fever … a day later she was helicoptered off-Island. I drove with my mom to Vancouver and showed up at Children’s Hospital at the ER, and they were moving her up to oncology.”
After a battery of tests, Linden, then three-and-a-half years old, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, one of only 35 children in the province to get diagnosed with leukemia every year.
Following two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy, Linden is now healthy with a 90 per cent chance the cancer will never return, explained Harris.
While in Vancouver, Harris and his family depended on support from the Comox Valley – particularly that of You Are Not Alone (YANA), which provides accommodations and funding for local families who need to travel outside of the area for treatment for a child under 19 years of age.
Now, with the help of his brewing skills and a partnership between the Royston Nano Brewery and Gladstone Brewing Company in Courtenay, Harris is giving back, challenging himself to make his largest quantity of “unapologetically in-your-face, pushed-to-the-limit IPA.”
The limited release began brewing at Gladstone this week, and will go on sale May 6, as part of the It’s Not Just Beer, It’s Love event for pint sales and growler fills, with all profits donated equally between YANA and BC Children’s Hospital Oncology services.
Harris hopes to raise around $10,000.
“The Harris family has a powerful story,” explained Ocean Varney, community relations co-ordinator for YANA. “It’s a moving experience to hear them speak about their journey, as a family, through Linden’s treatment. Their commitment to giving back to their community and passion for YANA is inspiring. It’s definitely an endeavour that’s powered by love, and on our end we are feeling the love, for sure.”
The beer will be using a third generation Gladstone yeast – a technique used regularly – which was used to create the brewery’s porter and IPA.
Harris’s love for all things beer developed a few years ago after a dinner with friends, who asked him outside of medicine, about his passion.
“I sat back and said: ‘let me think about this. What have I been consistently interested in? Beer.’ It’s a silly thing to have a passion in, but I’ve been interested in it since I was legally able to drink.
“I’ve spent time travelling around the world, and we’ve always made sure to take time out wherever we go to make sure and try the beer. I thought – ‘hey I can brew it.’”
Between working with his patients at the hospital and spending time with his wife and two children and brewing beer, Harris admitted with a laugh he doesn’t sleep much.
The It’s Not Just Beer, It’s Love event takes place May 6 at Gladstone Brewery, starting at 5 p.m. For more information visit roystonnanobrewery.com.