Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Meet Sam Corbeil: Mill Street Brewer

* Formerly of Mill Street. Corbeil is now working on a new brewery - Sawdust City Brewing Co.*

Meet Sam Corbeil, brewer with Mill Street, a regular TAPS magazine contributor, and a beer and cheese educator.

Corbeil, sporting a mustache that Lanny MacDonald would most definitely be proud of, has been with Mill Street for two years now with previous stints at True North Brewing (Magnotta) and Flying Monkey's (previously known as Robert Simpson) and he has an interesting story on how he got into the industry. You can usually find Corbeil behind the booth at festivals, pouring samples of the beer he helps produce, but for now, here he is, with his daughter Olive.

How long have you been in the brewing industry?
I’ve been employed as a brewer since July of 2006, so just over 4 years now. But I left my job in advertising in January of that year to attend the six month long, Certified Brewmasters Course at the VLB in Berlin (I had no previous brewing experience what-so-ever). So, I suppose the long answer is, I’ve been in the brewing industry for about 4 and one half years.

What was your light bulb moment? When did you realize you wanted to brew for a living?
Towards the end of the summer of ’05, probably about this time of year actually, I was taking a trip through France and Belgium with my wife and two friends. We stopped in Brussels to attend (and by attend, I mean drink our faces off) the Belgian Beer Weekend Beer Festival. After seeing and tasting all those different beers and seeing the joy it brought to everyone there, I was pretty much hooked.

But the light bulb moment was probably when I got back to Canada and started work again. Sitting down at my computer, inside my claustrophobic, dull grey cubicle, it felt like that scene from the “Temple of Doom”, when Indy is in that cave and the spiked walls are closing in on him.

I figured, “Balls to this!, I’m not getting crushed by no dirty spikes. Time to leave the rat race.”

So I jumped onto the ol’ interwebs and began searching for beer schools or other ways to get into the beer industry....and a few months later, I’m in Berlin and the rest as they say is history.

How long have you been with Mill Street?
I’ve been at Mill Street since August of ’07, so just over two years now.

Where besides Mill Street have you brewed?
My first brewing job was with Mike Ligas and Simon Cowe at True North Brewing in Vaughan (Magnotta). They were great to work with and I truly learned a lot there. They’re still a fabulous brewery and make great beers. I was there for about 6 months when I left to join Jim Price at The Robert Simpson (now Flying Monkey’s) Brewing Company in Barrie. I was there for just under a year when the hour long commute from Toronto to Barrie started to wear heavily on my soul. I was living on King St., just about as far downtown as you can get, so when a job at Mill St, opened up, I jumped at the chance to take a job closer to home.

What is the best part about brewing?
I’d have to say, learning something new every day. Beer has been around, in one form or the other, since about the dawn of civilization. And humans have been spending the better part of those millennia trying to perfect the art of brewing. (It’s absolutely amazing how much time and energy humans have spent trying to discover and perfect ways of not having to deal with reality)

So there is certainly a lot to learn. And believe it or not, something comes up almost every day that gives you the opportunity to learn. It never gets dull.

Your column in TAPS (Confessions of a New Brewer) is a big hit with readers. Give us a taste of what’s coming up in the Fall issue.
(*insert southern accent) “Why Mr. Burtch (blushing and fanning myself with a kerchief), I do believe you are givin’ me the vapours!” (why did I spell “vapours” like a Canadian, when I was speaking like an American...weird) Anyhoo, my next Taps contribution is a tawdry tale of sweet summer love gone awry. A heart wrenching saga about two lovers sadly falling out of love during the long hot days of summer. Well, not really. But sorta. But not. I guess you’ll just have to read it to find out!

You do beer and cheese pairing seminars in Leslieville. What has that been like?
It’s been fantastic. I first approached Michael (the owner) at Leslieville about two and a half years ago. I came across their shop online and saw that they were doing Wine & Cheese seminars. I emailed him that day and told him, “I don’t know much about cheese, but I know a little about beer. How about doing Beer & Cheese classes?”. He was totally into it. We got together and along with Christie (the manager) we worked together and cobbled together our first class. We’ve been doing classes steadily since and it’s given me the opportunity to learn a lot about cheese and what really makes a great pairing.

We’ve even crossed over to include Beer & Wine & Cheese classes, with Julia Rogers, who runs the Wine & Cheese seminars at the shop. If you ever need to know anything, and I mean anything, about wine or cheese, she’s your gal. She really knows her stuff.

The reaction from the public has also been fantastic as well. Most folks come in with an open mind and are there to learn. And it always feels great teaching people about something you have a real passion for.

Also, I get to “test” beer & cheese pairings all the time. Not a bad gig.
(Shameless self promotion....If anyone is interested, there will be a whole slew of upcoming classes this fall at both the Queen St East and Queen St West locations of the
Leslieville Cheese Market.)

What is your favourite beer and cheese pairing – or food and beer pairing?
I don’t like to pick favourites, but since you asked, I have to go with stout and Stilton. Not only do the roasted malt flavours of the stout meld wonderfully together with the buttery, nutty blue. But the creamy texture of the cheese and the silky smoothness of the stout, when they meet on your god!

And to go one step further...Put that cheese on top of nicely charred medium rare burger with sweet sautéed onions smothered on top and keep that glass of stout beside it. And you got yourself a winner there mister!

What's your favorite beer style?
Again, I really hate picking favourites, especially when it comes to picking beer styles… but seeing as you got me all wound up and thinking about stouts, I’d have to say a big, bold, American Imperial Stout. Something along the lines of Great Divides Oak Aged Yeti, or Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout. It’s not just the flavours I love, but the aromas are incredible. Sometimes I don’t know what I like better, just sitting there and smelling the damn thing or drinking it! Well, actually the desire to drink it and quickly become inebriated eventually wins over. And it’s not that I don’t like any other country’s Imperial Stouts, there are many great ones out there. I just really love the brash, in-your-face, American attitude that comes across in their over-the-top offerings.

What has been the highlight of your brewing career?
The very first time I got to brew by myself.

After six months of schooling, a few weeks of apprenticeship in Germany and a few more weeks of training at True North in Vaughan. When I finally got to brew by myself, it was a pretty big deal. Well, at least to me.

According to your (Mill Street) Twitter Account, you guys are coming out with another slew of seasonal beers. Can you tell us a little about the new ones that are being developed (Oktoberfest Märzen, Nightmare on Mill Street Pumpkin Ale, and Roggenbier)?
Well gosh, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. The best part about having all these seasonals, is coming down to the pub to try them. We’re actually pretty lucky at Mill St. Having the brew pub affords us the opportunity to make all these fun seasonals without disrupting our regular production up at the big plant. Also, it’s a pretty wicked place to go out on the pint.

Where do you see the Ontario brewing industry in the next 5 years?
Hopefully it keeps on growing the same way it has been for the past few years. It seems that each year more and more people get the message about what good beer is all about. Over these past few years craft brewers have been chipping away at the market share held by the big three. It may not seem like much, but every little percentile is a big victory for us wee guys. And with more and more great breweries popping up around the province, it really pushes us to make better and better beer. How can that be a bad thing for anyone? Every time I go into the LCBO, I see more and more great beers on the shelves. It’s been a renaissance of such for the beer in the province over the past few years and hopefully it continues.

And you, were do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I’m not much for trying to predict the future. I mean, if you had of told me 5 years ago that I’d be answering questions on a “Meet the brewer” segment. I would’ve been looking for a fire extinguisher to put out your pants because I would’ve thought they’d be on fire from all the lies you were telling.

Really, it’s just too hard to tell what’s going to happen next week, let alone five years from now. The last five years have been a pretty fun ride for me, so I think I’m going to just keep riding that wave and see where it takes me.


wittaker said...

Mill Street Imperial Stout sounds really good.

Troy Burtch said...

I second that Rob......who knows!

DK said...

The milk stout and weizenbock have been my favourites, so far. The quality of each brew is consistently high - top marks for that.

Beetlejuice lacked phenolic complexity, and didn't come close enough to the likes of, say, Duvel. Other than that, haven't been disappointed with any other brew.

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