Recent Developments 4

You may well have noticed that it has been a while since my last update here. That’s mostly due to the fact that last week I was writing sample pieces for Sun Media. You can imagine my surprise when I actually got the gig yesterday. That’s right: I’m now officially a quasi-legitimate beer writing guy.

I suspect that I should probably take this opportunity to explain why I ended up writing about beer, since there’ll probably be some increased traffic to the blog in the wake of the publication of the first couple of articles, and whenever possible I like to create context.

For a while there, I was a database administrator. I was not particularly good at it, but I had sort of ended up with the job after my supervisor became very ill. I didn’t have a lot of training, and I was basically holding things together with bailing wire, duct tape and the sweat of my brow. It made me incredibly miserable. When you wake up in the morning and your first thought as you’re making coffee is something like “Hey. I wonder if there are cheap flights to South America? Maybe I could disappear into the Andes and herd llamas.” you know that you’ve chosen the wrong career.

The office was down the street from Bar Volo, which is currently ridiculously highly rated in terms of excellent places to drink a beer. It’s certainly a really good place to go after working a job that you don’t particularly like.

I had heard that there was going to be a Brewmaster program available at Niagara College, so I looked very hard at the requirements for that and decided that it was probably a good idea to apply and see what happened. It looked like a career choice that I could really get in to. The only problem was that the program required more high school science courses than I had actually taken. For some reason, at 17, I had decided that physics was the way to go. While I was briefly able to mentally calculate the likely trajectory of Wile E. Coyote being fired out of an Acme catapult, it turned out that this was not a good long term choice.

There I was, last year about this time, sitting in an examination room holding forth on adaptive genetics in the populations of moths. Not having actually written anything with a pen in several years, I can only sympathize with whichever poor person ended up marking my paper. I did pretty well, but the marks didn’t come back in time to get me into the Niagara College program. It was a lack of planning on my part. I was waitlisted for the program.

So were a lot of other people. Last year, in its inaugural year, nearly 200 people applied for the Niagara College Brewmaster program.

I thought to myself the program would probably become competitive since that’s an awfully large number of applicants. “What can I do,” I thought, “to set myself apart from these other applicants?” I decided to start a blog. I was going to the Mondial festival in Montreal anyway, and I had a camera. Why not give it a shot?

That was about eight months ago.

Things sort of, uh… snowballed.

I’ve met a lot of really exceptional people both in the media and in the brewing industry. I have written a couple of articles for TAPS magazine, which is always a pleasure. I was the returning officer for the Canadian Brewing Awards, which was sort of neat (For about an hour, I was the only person in the country who knew the results). I have written satirical songs about brewery explosions. I have helped to organize Toronto Beer Week. I have brewed a bunch of beer both at home and at Great Lakes Brewery as part of their Project X series (Seriously: Try the Lazarus Breakfast Stout next time it’s available.) I was recently nominated for four Canadian Food Blog Awards and I hosted a tasting of the Ola Dubh range of products as part of the Robbie Burns celebration at The Monk’s Table. Now I’m the beer columnist for Sun Media.

You may be thinking that this is a hell of a roundabout way of getting into what is essentially an undergrad program; and you’d be totally justified in holding that viewpoint, especially since the program may not actually end up being competitive after all.  But if the experience thus far has taught me anything, it’s that there’s nothing like overkill. Also, that overkill will frequently result in a hangover.

At this point, I don’t really know whether I’ll get into Niagara College’s program this year. I applied. I somehow managed to pass high school biology (learning more about Eukaryotes than ever I wanted to know in the process). All I know is that if I don’t get in, it won’t be for lack of trying. And I’ll have somehow managed to get an actual job in print media as a result of the attempt.

The best part is that I don’t have to do database administration anymore unless I feel like it. Which is nice.

(I guess I should take the opportunity to plug some of the blogs over on the right side of the page. Without those guys, I would have a lot less context. Troy Burtch, for instance, runs what is maybe the best source for Canadian beer news. Andrew Bartle has been doing some really well thought out reviews of beers lately; I can’t quite explain why but they make more sense to me than most of the ones I’ve seen. Alan McLeod won Best Beer Blog in Canada last week, which is well deserved. The others are worth your attention as well.)

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4 thoughts on “Recent Developments

  • Troy Burtch


    Congratulations man! That is great news!

    I can remember the conversation in Montreal we had about you starting a blog and it’s great to see the results of your hard work!

    And thanks for the kind words at the end of this post. Looking forward to seeing your first column.


  • Nemsis

    Congratulations, you have worked very hard at this and you deserve some success, I enjoy reading your blog, it’s always well thought out and well written, now I can look forward to reading your columns as well.

    Bruce Ticknor