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.


Friday, May 2, 2008

Session #15: Where did it start

May 2nd, the first Friday of the month, time for Session #15 on "Where did it start" chosen by Boakandbailey.

Continuing the “Beervangelism” theme, we’d like you to write about the moment when you saw the light. At what point did you realise you were a beer lover / geek / enthusiast? What beer(s) triggered the conversion? Did someone help you along your way, or did you come to it yourself?

In short; how did you get into good beer?

It’s hard to pin point the actual time I saw the light. I have always been fascinated with Canadian beer history, different beer bottles and the good times associated with them. When did I see the light? It must have been before I was even old enough to even drink.

I grew up in a small community north of Toronto and north-east of Orillia, where I was accustomed to seeing my parents (well my dad) and their adult friends consuming Molson Canadian or Export, Labatt Blue or Labatt 50 religiously. I wasn’t old enough to question their tastes, but I would soon learn that they weren’t drinking it for the flavour; they were drinking it out of habit. You drank what your father drank and he drank what his father drank, and in small communities like the one I came from, you would be sure to find 95% of the population adhered to this unspoken rule. You still can to this day.

No, it wasn’t my father or his friends that showed me the light. It was that garbage truck I worked on during the summer I was going into grade 7. Part of the job was collecting recyclables and my step-father (always a penny pincher) made us sort the beer bottles and cans from the rest of the refuge. It was here that I witnessed that there were different bottles that bore no resemblance to the one’s I helped clean up for my father when I was younger. I became intrigued by all the different labels, shapes and sizes and the different countries the beer came from.

I soon started collecting these bottles and by the end of the first summer I had quite the collection. Many of the bottles were standard LCBO products that cottagers hiked up from the larger cities. So even finding a Chimay Rouge bottle (which would be easy today) was like winning the lottery. I would get so happy seeing a new bottle.

As I got older I made a note to try all the different beers I had in my collection, only to find that the local LCBO didn’t stock 1/3 of them. I started out trying Stella, Heineken, Becks, the usual big name imports. My palate was open to experimentation and it sometimes received unwanted attention at parties. My dad would buy me a sixer every now and then (only if it would be a supervised party!) and showing up to a house party with Creemore (in the big bottles) people would state that it was an old man’s beer. I didn’t care; at least no one wanted to steal it.

Then I went to college and somewhere along the way I feel into the hole of the small community mindset. I was off the imports and craft only to develop a thirst for Alexander Keiths IPA (use IPA very lightly here). I became fascinated with the history behind the name; I even started collecting anything with the Keith’s insignia on it. Also during college, I came across Steam Whistle and when I didn’t have a Keith’s in my hand it was a heavy green bottle of Steam Whistle.

Off to Halifax. My fiancĂ© (girlfriend at the time) and I decided to move to Halifax to explore Canada’s east coast. I soon got a job with Labatt Atlantic working in the Oland brewery, selling beer, clothing, party supplies and helping out in the beer institute. Labatt taught me a lot about beer; how it’s made, its history, how to sell it and how to appreciate it. They were always open about trying different beers and when I started frequenting all the different pubs, I would venture over to the bar and choose something new each time.

Combined with the Labatt’s educational materials and my new thirst for flavour, I started reading, tasting and talking to other interested in craft beer and here I am today.

So, when did I see the light? On the back of that stinky garbage truck. My years in college and time spent with Labatt just reminded me of what my goal was way back in the summer of grade 7.

Garrison, Propeller, Steam Whistle and the Granite helped tremendously in changing my taste buds forever. Premier Wines and Spirits in Halifax and Bishop’s cellar opened my eyes to the US craft brewing industry and back home here the LCBO has started to impress me.

The Session began as an idea on Appellation beer. For links and a summary of all the previous sessions, follow this link.


4 Dog Brewery said...

Well, it started for me in the early 80's. I was fed up with the lousy hours at the beer store plus their lousy attitude. I started to make my own beer.The beer wasn't very good, but I kept at it and the beer got better. Homebrewing made me appreciate beer more than ever. I seeked out imports to see what the rest of the world is drinking. Sometimes you can find a beer no one has even heard of, but tastes great. Now I find that people are trying many new styles of beer that just a few years ago were unheard of or just plain looked down on. So to sum it up, it started for me when the Beer Store ( Ontario ) made me feel like a nobody. They say, "If you want to buy beer, you have to buy it here". Thankful that is not true anymore.

Troy Burtch said...

Hey Swampale - that was a great story. I'm sure the Beer Store would love to hear it. A can imagine this is the same case for a lot of good beer drinkers.

Thanks for posting!


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