Ashley Perley, a 28-year-old entrepreneur, is the baker and brains behind Brewgels, hand-rolled bagels made with beer. She says the natural sugars and yeast in beer gives the Brewgel a unique chewy texture with a crispy crust and soft centre. In terms of bagel styles, I’d say they fall somewhere between a Montreal and a New York bagel, but the distinct beer-forward flavour truly sets it apart. Could this be the new Ottawa-style bagel?
We caught up with Ashley to find out the story behind the bagel.
How did you get started in the bagel business?
I have always enjoyed baking as a hobby. I purchased a bread-baking book about a year ago, and began my research on what it takes to make the best bread. I knew I needed a mentor to teach me the ropes, so I got a job working with Kevin Mathieson at Art Is In Bakery. In my position there, I refined my bread baking skills and gained the knowledge and confidence necessary to step out on my own and pursue my dream of running my own bakery business.
My goal was to bake my way through my bread book from start to finish, though I kept coming back to the bagels. Perfecting the bagel became my fixation. I constantly altered, tested, and changed my bagel recipe, making many sub-par bagels before I came up with the Brewgel. Bread baking itself is a constant trial and error. I am still making adjustments each week, coming up with new flavours and new techniques to make the Brewgel even better.
How do you come up with the flavour combinations?
Some of my flavours stem from traditional bagel flavours, like cinnamon raisin, sesame, and 12 grain. However, I tried to incorporate additional flavours by selecting interesting beers with complementing flavours. Sometimes I work backwards though, when I am so excited about the flavour of the beer and consequently incorporate ingredients into the bagel that complement the beer. It’s about coming up with an idea, testing it out, and only keeping the ones that really excite me! I generally select beers that I personally enjoy. Something with a strong or prominent flavor, and usually from a local brewery.
How do you suggest eating them? What is the ideal topping for a Brewgel?
I am one of the few people who have the luxury of eating these beauties straight out of the oven, and for that reason I would have to say the second best way to eat a Brewgel is simply toasted with a bit of butter and a freshly brewed coffee. The bagels toast up so nicely, resulting in a crispy, chewy crust with a soft centre.
Where are Brewgels available?
Currently we are only selling at the Brewer Park location of the Ottawa Farmers’ Market. We typically sell upwards of 600 Brewgels each Sunday. We will likely be expanding to sell at the markets in Kanata and Carp on Saturdays, and the Orleans market on Fridays. We’ve recently secured some permanent commercial baking space, and are now looking to expand and hopefully have Brewgels available at some retail locations across the city.
Apple cider cinnamon raisin
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Dark ale everything
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