Big Rock Brewmaster Paul Gautreau arrives during the Red Carpet entrance to the Big Rock Eddies party in downtown Calgar Epcor Centre September 4, 2013. Jim Wells/Calgary Sun
This is the first of what I hope will be a series of profiles on the blog. With so much talk of the beer we drink, I thought it would be nice to take a peek into the minds of the people who make it.
I couldn’t think of a better way to start than with the man who is currently heading up the brewing operations at Calgary’s craft beer granddaddy: Big Rock’s Paul Gautreau.
He is the third brewmaster Big Rock has had since it started up in 1985.
He is pushing a heavy brewing schedule, with 13 new beers coming out this year and another 15 in 2014.
How long have you been with Big Rock?
28 years almost.
How did you get into beer-making?
I started as a homebrewer. I’m a homebrewer and engineer, I’ve taken brewing courses. I have a diploma from the institute of brewing and distilling. But I’ve always felt the way to learn how to make beer is to make it.
How old were you when you had your first beer?
We used to live in the UK. Like many other kids I started drinking Carling Red Cap … when I was a teenager. Let’s just leave it at that.
What makes a great beer?
Balance, really. I like all styles of beer. I like all genres of movies as long as they’re made well, and beer is the same way.
Big Rock Traditional
I’m going to go with two: Trad(itional) and Scottish Heavy (authors note: it’s a favourite of mine too). I’m most proud of that one. Everything came together with it, and it has great balance.
What’s your favourite beer not made by Big Rock?
Anything Belgian or Pilsner Urquell
What’s your favourite drink that isn’t beer?
Where do you get inspiration for beer ideas?
I talk to a lot of people. I’m immersed in the beer world, do a lot of travelling and I’m trying different beers, often picking up anything that’s unusual or anything new.
Beer-making: Art or science?
Both. People underestimate the science behind it, but to create the beers we’re creating, there’s artistry behind it as well.
What’s your favourite beer/food pairing, and why?
Beer and chicken wings — I’m a pretty simple guy
Beer for breakfast, yes or no?
Yep — I’m trying beer in the morning when I get to work. (writer’s note: Best. Job. Ever.)
What do you think Alberta’s craft beer scene is doing right?
We’re working together. We have everyone working together so we can be strong. It’s very grassroots and it’s just starting but it’s very strong.
What could Alberta be doing better?
I think it needs to be easier for the small guys to make beer. There’s that bottom ceiling you have to produce to sell beer and that has to go.
Hops. Too much for some?
There is too much focus right now. Hops are wonderful, but it can mask what’s going on in your beer. It’s all about balance.
What is a style you think we’ll see more of in Alberta?
Alberta is lagging behind a little bit. There’s still a lot of hops varieties out there. Farmhouse ales and ESB. (Co-incidentally, Big Rock may happen to have an ESB in the hopper)
What style of beer do you think more people should be drinking?
Saisons are great for sure. Some of the beers we’re doing have been national (Scottish Heavy, German Oktoberfest). I would like to see some malty beers coming out. There’s hundreds of different malts coming out.
What beer trend would you like to see end?
Citrusy IPAs. There’s enough of those out there.
What is the biggest mistake people make when serving/drinking beer?
I’d prefer to see people pour their beer in a glass always and everywhere.
What is your favourite place to enjoy a beer?
I like enjoying beer with friends. I prefer conversation with beer instead of sitting at home and having a beer. You learn a lot.