A Couple that brews together...
When we met, neither of us would have expected the adventures we were in store for. Now, we could probably write a book on the hilarious things we have done together...from wild diets based on BEANS (ya, that was something...) to playing badminton together against people half our age (we were called Ancient Rally) to our favourite adventure yet, brewing!
BEFORE we home brewed beer for the first time, we had already began with umpteen hours of research on the topic (we are information junkies), practice brewed with our brother in law Dan (also our favourite photographer) and built our own "Brew Station" for holding all of our brewing tools, so that when our brew day came, we would be ready. Little did we know that brewing was going to become something we couldn't get enough of. BREWING BECAME OUR DATE NIGHT, our daily discussions and has since been a major focus in our world.
We have always enjoyed our adventures but this one has taken the cake. We thought that creating beer and the custom beer gear to go with was more fun than we could have imagined, but now as we enjoy another year in our biggest adventure ever...running our own brewery...it's fulfilled something in us we didn't even know we needed.
As we grow and learn, we hope we can bring this adventure to YOU in a way that fulfills something that you need, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts, for your incredible support and our amazing team for making it possible for us to get home more often to eat dinner with our family more often now than ever before!
How It All Began...
Not so many years ago, I (Lisa) hated beer...I would pick ANYTHING other than beer to drink…wine, spirits, mead…anything but beer…and today I am co-found/owner and brewmaster of a brewery! Does that make you scratch your head a little? Well it made me too, but let me tell you just how it happened because no matter what stage of the "craft beer journey" you’re in, my story is the same as many just like me and maybe even you!
Back when I hated beer, I knew nothing about it…other than it was yellow, bubbly and usually needed a lot of clamato juice in it to be palatable. What I learned later is how each ingredient added to beer can dramatically or subtly change the resulting end beer, making it no longer resemble what I thought I knew beer was.
It all started on a trip with Mark to Montana…now I suppose the fact that our house full of kids not being with us on this little one-week excursion may have created some of the warm and fuzzy feelings we had when we were enjoying our Montana adventure, but I assure you that was not the reason I became a beer lover.
Our trip essentially went like this…1) drive to Montana - Big Fork/Whitefish area…2) park trailer (yup we were camping)…3) look for things to do with our new found kid-free time!
At the campsite we picked up a “things to do in Montana” pamphlet with the usual ideas…restaurants, shops, outdoor activities…and saw visit BREWERIES. Now for me, that meant little because beer wasn’t “my thing,” but for Mark, it was like watching a kid stare through the candy store window longing to go in…so to be a good wife, we set off to check out these breweries so he could have some fun and I could revel in his fun!
Our first stop…BONSAI Brewing Project…a nano brewery situated in a cozy, re-purposed house with an attached yard that felt much like a campground with it’s huge trees, all day sunshine and inviting, “hanging out at home” atmosphere.
Mark and I chose to sit at the bar where we met some VERY happy people, some chatting with us and others playing a board or card game, while we learned for the first time about Beer Flights…do you know what a Flight is? It’s a wooden paddle filled with four to six mini (4-6 oz.) beer sample glasses full of whatever beer you want to sample…the idea was to try as many as needed to find what you liked best and then get a pint of it. In our first (of three) flights of four samplers we tried a porter, saison, IPA and a brown…each with funny names and completely different flavours than what I was expecting.
Having grown up in Alberta, my exposure to beer was limited to Molson Canadian, Labatt, Kokanee and Bunny Pilsner…all the same flavour (and bee style it would seem - American Lagers)…and they never my cup of tea…but exactly it was what I thought "beer" was.
This beer flight in front of me however was a very different experience…the porter had a sutble, smooth, creamy chocolatey flavour… the saison had this unexpected sweetness, almost tasting like bananas but only a hint and was a little sour even…the IPA although not my favourite at the time, bit my tongue with its bitterness but mellowed out with a grapefruity flavour and aroma that was so fresh it was like drinking SUMMER…and the brown had just a hint of roasty flavour, but without the bitterness I noticed in the IPA. It was like someone had infused some of my favourite flavours into beer and I was shocked, confused and in every way excited about what I was trying.
To say we left there with a heightened sense of excitement for the beverage I had previously hated would be an understatement…we left with questions like, “why haven’t we heard of craft beer before now…were we living under a rock?” and “how and where can we get this again?”
In that short 5 day trip, what we learned was that beer could have subtle flavours of chocolate, banana, tangerine, lemon/lime, coffee, vanilla, toasted coconut, honey, raspberries, blueberries and grapefruit …sometimes on their own and other times in a masterful combination like adding spices and mixing flavourful ingredients in food. And for someone like me, THAT was what I needed to enjoy "beer"…who knew?!
Now don’t get me wrong, the beer does not taste like a cup full of honey or chocolate…it’s a hint…a slight nuance…an essence that reminds you that those flavours are there while allowing the base beer to still shine through…it is just different enough to change what I thought beer was supposed to be. Craft beer can still be those American lagers that we all grew up with, but it turned out it could also be so much more. And that was where this journey for us began and why we began visiting every brewery we could find!
When we look back and think about what else we were getting (besides a flavour adventure) each time we sat in a new brewery like Bonsai, trying a selection of new beers in those awesome little beer flights, it was clear that in a day and age when cell phones and other electronic devices are so distracting, this new beer adventure had become an organic way for us to reconnect. It didn’t matter if we liked EVERY beer we tried, that wasn’t the point…it was being able to create conversation outside of family finances, raising kids and all the other well-known couples’ stressors, or falling head first into electronic devices to escape…we could talk about flavours, the way the beer felt in our mouths, what we thought the beer was made of and before leaving, plan our next brewery date night! What we had done was start dating again…and it was awesome!
Mark and I aren’t typical however and took this new found passion for craft beer to another level and decided that to know the most that we could about it, we would have to begin brewing it…which led to building small batch, home brewing stations for ourselves and eventually others to easily begin brewing (because when we started, it was super overwhelming trying to figure out what we needed)…which led to creating ready to brew recipes (since they didn’t exist in the small systems we were building)… which led to going to and graduating from the Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering program with the American Brewers Guild...to teaching our own brewing classes and owning our own brewery.
Now I don’t expect others will follow the path Mark and I have, but I sincerely hope that you will feel it necessary to open what may be a closed-to-beer mindset and do what we did and continue to do…get a flight of beer together, wherever you go, trying things you would NEVER normally consider, and enjoy the fun that comes with every new adventure like we are!
Lisa - "I'm an IPA girl"
After being a non-beer drinker for so long it's hard for even me to imagine that I became an IPA girl! There are very few IPAs that I cannot enjoy, and whenever I'm out considering what beer to drink, I know the IPA is most often my go-to...although our Sheep Heid Scotch Ale and Berry Manly Raspberry Belgian Blonde, are getting a lot of my attention too these days too!
After our first experience at Bonsai Brewing in Whitefish, where it was so cozy and welcoming I felt like I could take my shoes off and stay all day, I realized not only are Mark and I from the "Cheers" generation with Sam, Woody, Rebecca, Carla, Cliff and Norm...yup I just dated myself (if you don't know what I'm talking about, sorry...I'm old)...it was clear that I want to feel that kind of comfort wherever I go and drink beer that good all the time, and that is what I hoped Hub Town could be to others.
Now I am a passionate brewmaster, that will talk beer with absolutely anyone that is willing and thanks to my training in the Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering program through the American Brewers Guild in 2016 and having a Chemical Engineering Tech diploma from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary (from back in 2000), I have the skills and experience to back it all up.
I am fortunate to be able to continue to work in my "day" job as a Pipeline Integrity Specialist in Oil and Gas, while working every single day at running and growing Hub Town Brewing into the job of my dreams and a place where people feel like they belong. Am I tired? Sure! But I'm an entrepreneur at heart so the hard work and long hours just motivate me more to make Hub Town into "the Hub" we can all meet at and feel like we are home...so bring a cozy blanket, take off your shoes, and I will not judge!
Mark - "I've Always Liked Beer"
Unlike Lisa, I've always liked beer. I just hadn't really experimented with anything beyond Coors Banquet or Guinness (which I still partake of from time to time) before the day a co-worker introduced me to Tamarack IPA and my taste buds were twisted up like cats cradle. IPA's have become a favourite style of mine much like Lisa, but I'm open to all of the different beer styles with a particular love for the our Fort Knox Belgian Golden Strong Ale that is crystal clear and full of fruity esters making it as tasty as the day is long!
Lisa would say I'm a perfectionist and she's right. While she is more of a ramrod (self professed) that wants to get things done. I could plan all day long with lists, drawings, and spreadsheets...I'm that guy. I'm the one that takes Lisa's MANY...MANY...MANY ideas and puts them on paper and then into production. And I don't mess around with quality - my mantra has always been "do it right once" no short cuts.
Like Lisa, I too received my certification in Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering through the American Brewers Guild, however I also spent 7 years in Chemistry and Geophysics at the University of Calgary and over 20 years as a software specialist fixing problems and finding solutions for programs that find Oil and Gas. The more than 20 years of troubleshooting that my career offered me, may have been the single most important life experience I needed when learning first hand about the many processes involved in brewing and brewery operations. And lucky I was intent on understanding things like welding, electrical, plumbing and cabinet making, because ALL of those skills learned at SAIT in my "free time" have been critical to dealing with the non-stop break downs that come with running brewery equipment and of course all the building we have done since the beginning and throughout the brewery expansion.
Lisa and I have worked in downtown Calgary for most of our careers and although we will always have a toe in the Oil and Gas industry, our passion is here at the brewery and we just hope we can share it with you for years to come!