Craft Beer Spotlight Series: The Beer Scribes

When you think about craft beer and the people who have helped spread awareness about it in Alberta certain names will  pop into your head. Some of them are probably ones that you can find attached to paragraphs about craft beer. That is why I would like to devote this edition of my Craft Beer Spotlight Series to some of Alberta’s beer scribes.

Calgary’s Don of Beer

Don, like many of the people in Calgary, was not born here. He is originally from our Prairie neighbours to the east, Saskatchewan (booo Riders). He moved west to Alberta 19 years ago to take a job practicing corporate finance law. But it’s not Don’s expertise in the legal world that we want to focus on here; it’s the beer columnist at Fast Forward Weekly (among other publications) that we’re interested in.

Fastforward Weekly

Don has been into beer for about as long as he has lived in Calgary. This is partly due to the fact that the selection in Alberta was better than what he was used to back home. And his real epiphany beer was brewed by a local microbrewery; it was Brew Brothers Brewing’s Black Pilsner. It’s not the 1st time that I’ve heard this claim, Black Pilsner really turned a lot of Calgarians onto craft beer.

This enjoyment of craft beer grew and turned into a real thirst for knowledge. Don decided that he wanted to understand more about his favourite beverage, so in 1997 he wrote the Beer Judge Certification Program test. The BJCP is designed to promote knowledge about the many different styles of beer that exist. Basically it involves an in-depth study of the science behind how beer is made, the history & characteristics of beer styles and how to properly taste & evaluate beer.

This training and his continuous study of beer has given Don the ability to pick out various ingredients in beer. This is a skill that has come in handy during his 12 plus years as a beer writer for FFWD. I know that I have personally learned quite a bit reading Don’s work.

Jason van Rassel

Jason grew up in the west end of Toronto. As a child he was fascinated by reading and writing. This love for the written word included newspapers, which Jason delivered as a teenager. His decision to study journalism eventually led him to Calgary in 1997 to take a job as a reporter.

Many will know him for his legal reporting gig at the Herald but he is also one of the city’s best beer bloggers. Jason has his big brother to thank for getting him into craft beer. As he tells it, his brother was always quite adventurous when it came to beer. One day, when Jason was still in university, his brother brought home a beer that Jason had never heard about before, Creemore Springs Lager. It was darker and had more flavour than the beers that he was used to drinking. This was the beer that opened his eyes to just how good beer can be.

calgary herald

Jason started blogging about beer in 2006 for the Calgary Herald. His blog was originally called Lager Blogger because he felt that lagers were undervalued by certain sects in the craft beer community (this is a view that I share with Jason). The blog format on the Herald has changed since then. Jason now writes beer focused articles for the broader Food & Drink blog.

Jason wanted to start this blog because he felt that craft beer was not getting its just do in the media. Blogging was a way to get the word out without trying to fight for space in the printed page. Back then all of the fine restaurants in Alberta would have wonderfully constructed wine lists and a wide variety of spirits on hand. The view that wine and spirits were more sophisticated than beer was shared by many in the local media.

Things have changed since then. Now many restaurants keep a selection of craft beer available for customers to choose from, hell we even have Cicerones!  And most papers have columns devoted to the wonder that is beer. I think that we can thank Jason for helping to bring this change around.

Jason Foster

Yes, another Jason who writes about beer. I have not had the pleasure of meeting this Jason, however, I do know his work as I am a regular reader of his On Beer blog. This Jason is also a columnist for Edmonton’s Vu Weekly among other publications.

Vu Weekly

Like many university students, Jason wanted to drink beer in his spare time and spend the least amount of money possible. Enter the science, art & hobby that is homebrewing. Homebrewers know that some of the cheapest beer around is the one that you make yourself. Plus you can always brew whatever you feel like drinking.

Like Don, Jason’s love of beer led him to study and write the BJCP exam. I find this quite evident when I read his articles that discuss various beer styles.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: while researching the Alberta craft beer scene for my own blog I used On Beer as a reference to see what was out there. So you might say that I owe a debt to Mr. Foster for helping me get my bearings in the beer writing world.

I think that all of us Alberta beer geeks have benefited from reading about beer from one, or all, of these beer scribes. I know that I enjoy their work and am certain that my beer IQ has increased because of them. So let’s all raise a pint and offer a cheers to local craft beer to Jason (times 2) and Don!

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