What's your first memory of beer?
It was drinking Budweiser from the bottle in a field in suburban Dublin. We were pretty big on the cider at the time but someone brought some beer one day. It was one of the worst things I ever tasted. I was 14 years old.
What introduced you to craft beer?
Just before I left Ireland to come to Canada, I started drinking German wheat beers (Weihenstephaner, Paulaner et al) and this was a spiritual awakening for me. Prior to that I was just shotgunning Carlsberg and Heineken with less than satisfying results (blackouts!). Appreciating the flavours in beer was a novel experience which showed me that drinking beer to get drunk (aka Irish culture) was not the only route to take. I could take it a step further and say that meeting my wife Sophi introduced me to craft beer, as there was no scene in Ireland back in 2006 when I came across the Atlantic to stalk her. When I came to Canada and a whole new world of flavours opened up for me. I never looked back.
Favourite memory at The Collingwood Brewery?
There are actually so many that this was a difficult one for me! There was the sales meeting that took place at the top of Blue Mountain with ice cold Downhill Pale Ales and Fireball, followed by a day of falling over as I can't snowboard. Or the first time I went on the road with my manager Chris, with such a bad hangover that I don't know how I made it through the day. But the winner has to be the 2016 Christmas party up at the brewery. It started out as a costume-themed murder mystery, and everyone was a good sport in taking part. Of course being a brewery, there was no shortage of beer and by the time the culprit was being revealed everyone was pretty...umm...MERRY, and nobody even cared anymore. What happened next changed our lives forever, as the dancefloor opened up and the most kicking-est dance party ever broke out!! I'm talking dance-offs, tunnel of dance, attempted break-dancing, group hug dancing, sales team can-can lines and so much more. Well worth the day that followed it!
What industry were you in before? Why the craft beer world now?
I was in public accounting for almost 9 years before I saved myself. I was quite depressed with my job and craft beer was my outlet and a major reason I didn't top myself! After all the pain I endured to get my CPA designation, once I got it I decided I didn't want to do it for the rest of my working life. I started getting involved in the industry by blogging (reviewing beers and breweries). That was a good foot in the door in getting to know some people. I also enrolled in the Prud'homme beer sommelier program run by Roger Mittag, where I learned most of what I know about beer today. This is what I credit most for giving me the platform I needed to make the decision to change my life for the better. After completing the program, I still had the hunger to learn more so I took the Certified Cicerone® exam which gave me a more in-depth understanding of ingredients and the brewing process. I also have to give my wife Sophi credit for pushing me to apply for the Collingwood job, she pretty much forced me into it!
What's your favourite beer?
A trappist ale from Belgium by the name of Orval. It is a Belgian Pale Ale of sorts, and it has huge complexity due to the use of 2 brewing techniques. One is dry-hopping or putting hops into the beer while it is maturing. The other is the use of Brettanomyces also during maturation. Brett as it's known lends a knife like dryness to a beer and also some interesting funky flavours and aromas.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what would be with you? Why?
If we're talking people, it would have to be my girls Sophi and Nyla, they can bring home the bacon AND fry it up too! If I must be alone, I would request a case of Orval and a harmonica, I might actually then have time to learn how to play it!!
Tell us something about yourself!
I only started watching Seinfeld when I came to Canada, and now I watch at least a couple of episodes a night. I am close to completing my fifth tour of duty aka all 180 episodes back to back. When doing sales calls I will often drop a reference in order to see if I can find some common ground with the person. Of course if they don't pick up on it I walk out of there immediately haha!!