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 mixed badminton against people half our age (we're 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 family 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. Creating beer and the custom beer gear to go with it has been more fun than we could have imagined. Now, thanks to our clients gently pushing us, we expanded into our biggest adventure yet - building our Microbrewery.
As most of our friends and family can attest, we have always been a little on the "busy" side. When there is a moment of time available, we quickly fill it with something...whether it's Mark learning yet another skill to add to his already exhaustive list of capabilities or me (Lisa) reading yet another book that week on whatever it is we need to know, there is little regard for "rest" time. Besides, we have a whole herd of teens in our house so they too keep us hopping...thank goodness for beer :)
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’m building 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 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 emoying 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) flight 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 never my cup of tea…but exactly 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…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 coffee 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 the American lagers and pilsners we all grew up with, but it turned out it could also be so much more.
When we look back and think about what else we were getting 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 brewing school to teaching our own brewing classes and now starting 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 the 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 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...unless of course our Santa's Little Helper is on tap :)
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 hope Hub Town can be to others.
Now I am a passionate brewer 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 an Integrity Specialist for a very supportive Oil and Gas Consulting firm in Calgary know as Lloyd's Register (no relation to Lloyd's of London...really) every day while working nearly every evening and weekend to grow Hub Town Brewing into the job of my dreams. 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 twisted up like cats cradle. IPA's have become a favourite style of mine but I'm open to all of the different beer styles with a particular love for sours and can't wait to experiment a lot more on making our own.
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 products all day long with lists, drawings, 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".
Like Lisa, I too received my Brewer Training through the American Brewers Guild, however also spent 7 years in Chemistry and Geophysics at the University of Calgary which has benefited greatly me when learning about the many processes involved in brewing and brewery operations. But, that isn't where I stopped...I have spent more of my "spare time" than I could count, getting my cabinet makers ticket, learning Tig and Mig welding, and taking electrical courses at SAIT. Whatever we need to know, I'm on it.
Lisa and I have worked in downtown Calgary for most of our careers and are working on transitioning into our brewery as it gets closer to opening, and although our careers have been really good to us, when the day to leave comes, we will still exclaim as only Kramer (from Seinfeld) can do, "I'm out!"