Craft Beer Spotlight Series: Kyle Smythe

I’m still making up for lost ground here so I wanted to get another article out there. I have to warn you right off the bat that this one is a little more personal than usual. Someone who I know, work alongside and hang out with is leaving the Alberta craft beer industry to head west to Kelowna. I figured that a little tribute piece was in order to send him off. So here it is, here’s the beer drenched story of Kyle Smythe.

A Crazy Banff Kid

Just grinning like a big kid.

Just grinning like a big kid.

Kyle came up on the rough streets of Banff, Alberta, where gangs of elk roam the streets and cougars (both the scary cat ones and the older ladies) stalk their prey. Seriously though, I am sure that most of you know Banff so basically he was born and raised in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

In 2012 Kyle was out of work and looking for a new job. Luckily he was buddies with Steve Allen who happened to be the head brewer at Banff Ave. Brewing, a brewpub located on the main stretch running through town. Connections can pay off sometimes so Kyle got hired on as a brewer. Here’s a cool fact, he came in to start his brewing career with batch #100 (the centennial at Banff).

He studied under Steve for about 6 months before the head brewer decided to go put his engineering degree to good use. This meant that Banff Ave. needed a new lead brewer, so Kyle got a promotion. This gave him the opportunity to start writing his own recipes and experiment with different beers including one of his favourite Banff Ave. beers, his Falconer’s Flight & Mosaic (this hop is basically crack) pale ale.

A Trial By Fire

Tapping a cask in WBBC.

Tapping a cask in WBBC.

The period during the end of 2012 to early 2013 was a hectic one in the Bearhill Brewing Co. family. Jasper Brewing needed a new head brewer, Banff Brewing still needed someone there to oversee the brewing operation and Wood Buffalo Brewing was in the process of being opened in Fort McMurray. Kyle traveled from one brewpub to another working at each location as help was needed.

During this time he was also being trained up by the Brewery Operations Manager, Dave Mozel, who is now the brewing instructor at Olds College Brewmaster Program. Well I guess that it’s a great way to see the province and you sure as hell learn fast when you’re put in a situation where you just need to get stuff done.

Settling In

Eventually he settled in Wood Buffalo where he took over as head brewer in August, 2013. The craft beer culture up in Fort Mac was not the best when the brewpub opened up. But opening a brewery there was done so as to spread/grow this culture in that region. So along with Phil Brian, the new Brewery Operations Manager (whom Kyle claims he has learned the most from throughout his time brewing), they set out to shake things up.

Spreading craft beer culture by setting a good example.

Spreading craft beer culture by setting a good example.

During his time brewing at Wood Buffalo he saw a difference in beer drinking tendencies. It was not a huge change and it didn’t happen over night, but hey, any growth in the craft beer community is a victory to me.

One of the measures that was taken was to brew a light pilsner called Northern Light. This beer was specifically designed to get people out of the habit of pounding Coors Light. And you know what? It worked. People started to go for light lager that was brewed right at the brewpub rather than the macro marketing giant.

WBBC Distilling

Distilling in the Mac.


This is also where Smythe learned how to make spirits. With the changes to the legislation surrounding craft distilling, Wood Buffalo was able to become the first of the brewpubs to include a still. So now he could brew beer and distill spirits; these are pretty cool skills to have, at the least it makes you a popular guy at parties.

Once the most recent Bearhill Brewing project, Last Best Brewing, opened the doors to their restaurant Kyle headed down south to take the position of Production Manager where he was able to use his brewing skills and new found knowledge of distilling (ya, they got a still too).

Straight arm chugging. When you work hard you like to play hard.

To sum it up, this means that Smythe has worked at every brewpub location in the Bearhill Brewing family. Brewing beer across the province is a pretty cool accomplishment to have on your list of achievements in my opinion.

Onward to wine Country

Kyle and Shauna

Kyle and Shauna looking forward to what the future has in store for them.

April 22nd will be Kyle’s last day brewing in Alberta because he has decided to move to Kelowna with his long time girlfriend. He’ll be continuing his career of brewing in brewpubs at downtown Kelowna’s recently opened BNA Brewing where he’ll be brewing three core beers (a Kolsch, Pale Ale & IPA) along with various beers as a part of their active seasonal program. Having worked with Kyle I can say this, he’ll be a great addition to their team.

I know that I plan on taking a trip through the Rockies to visit Kelowna this summer. I can’t wait to see what he’s up to in the brewery out there. But mostly I am looking forward to catching up with one of the best friends that I’ve made out here in Alberta. So please join me by raising a cheers to local craft beer and the people who brew it!

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