Brewmaster, Folding Mountain Brewing
At Folding Mountain: I came here when the building was just a shell, and did all the design. I knew the owners from their visits to the Jasper brew pub. Where did you work before? I taught brewing at Olds College for 2.5 years, and ran their production brewery. Do you have formal training? No. I’ve been doing this for about 12 years now. Learned the ropes along the way. How did you get into craft beer? I started at Jasper Brewing Company around 2006, in the kitchen doing dishes, and worked my way up from that. Then I did some consulting, helping set up breweries. I was at Boxing Rock in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, for two or three months as they started up. That was pretty nice. In Alberta, I helped with Hell’s Basement and a few others. What’s your hallmark style of beer? I do easy-drinking strong beers. I guess it’s the science that appeals to me. They’re harder to do well. It’s hard to hide the taste of alcohol. So if you can make really good imperials, people will enjoy them. I’ve always liked stronger beers. You can do a lot more with them, for sure. Right now, we do a full-time imperial red, Elevation. And we just did a double IPA which is 9.5%. And they’ve been getting good feedback. What is it you love about this craft, this business? Here in Alberta, it’s still a pretty tight-knit group. The comradery here is unlike any other business. You’re always welcome in someone else’s brewery. I think all western Canada is like that. Then there’s the evolution of where we’re headed. We’re playing around with crazy flavours and doing a lot more with beer than we ever have. We’ve got pastry beers, and we do a kettle sour here now. It’s just a constantly changing industry. What is your ambition? To get our beer across Canada. We just got some into Saskatchewan last week, so we’re starting to break down these inter-provincial trade boundaries. They’re kind of archaic with the way the world is now. There shouldn’t be all these hoops to go through. We’re one country after all. We have an association in Alberta now, and we’re pushing hard to get these laws changed. It’s been a tough battle so far. So in the long-term, it’d be great to be a part of that change. Craft vs. big beer? We’re taking away from their bottom line for sure. But I don’t see it as a competition because we’re totally unique from them. I guess we do compete for fridge space and taps, and I think we’re winning. But I don’t really think about it. There are people who just won’t go to craft beer, usually the generation before mine. When I started brewing in Alberta there were 6 or 7 breweries. Now there are 60 something. And that’s just in 10 years. Big beer have their own set of morals and standards, and we have ours. I’d never go to work for one of them, because your hands are tied. You’re just stuck there pushing buttons really. If you want to make a change, it takes years. I know people in big breweries where beer’s been dumped because it has too much flavour. Where I am now, we brew whatever we want. We can brew one keg, put it on tap and see how it goes. Any trends you’re excited about? The big trend is IPA, and I don’t think that’ll every die. It’s a solid flavour, you get a bit of everything — the malt in the background, you get hops, you can go from fruity to piney. The choices are unlimited. So they’ll never die because we can do so much with them. Pastry beers are another trend. It’s fun trying to make beer for people who don’t like beer. We did a chocolate milk stout last fall, and it did really well. Challenging to brew, but once you get it going, people hop on and try it. There are trends that I don’t understand, like milkshake IPA. They actually taste like milkshakes. It’s just not my thing. But there’s one brewery here in Alberta that does quite a few, and they can’t keep them on the shelf, so there’s got to be something to it. Outside of beer, things you love? Honestly, I love spending time with my family. My boys are getting older now, so it’s more fun spending time outdoors. We’re right alongside the Rocky Mountains, so do a lot of fishing and biking and camping. We’re pretty involved in the community, the boys are raising money for the local food bank and things like that. Whose work do you admire? There’s no brewery that I wouldn’t try. As far as Canada goes, everything from BC is really interesting, and Alberta’s not far behind. I respect everyone who’s trying to get into this business. It’s not easy, that’s for sure. Anything else? If you’re in the area, drop by. It’s nice to meet different people.