Alumni Western Be Extraordinary The Campaign For Western

From class to glass

by Hugh Kruzel, BEd'86

from class to glass

Three cheers to Saccharomyces cerevisiae!

Has that caught your attention?

This single-celled blue brown yeast is responsible for more than just beer, it is the willing workhorse collaborator in business ventures by Western grads.

Just ask Tim McLaughlin, BA’06, graduate of Western’s Management and Organizational Studies program (BMOS), at Steam Whistle brewing. What started out as summer employment in the retail end of the business became a dream job he has kept and grown. McLaughlin is adamant “it couldn’t be a better fit.”

In 2004, who had heard of the Craft Brew Movement? Popularity is growing exponentially. Where are you on the curve?

With the summer kick-off of Ontario Beer Week, activists/lobbyists like the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), and Twitter abuzz with news of fresh LCBO releases, beer is suddenly a very hot and current topic. It is discussed in serious tones by novice and knowledgeable alike. Hot, humid, hazy? Grab a Hefeweizen, Blanche or a Belgian Witbier. Seriously, beer will expand your international vocabulary.

Not an isolated case, micro- and craft-breweries by – or including – Western alumni are emerging all across Ontario: Sudbury, Toronto, and naturally London, are home to up and running facilities. More are surely being sketched out on the backs of napkins and beer mats right now.

Dave Reed, BESc’98, of London’s own Forked River Brewing Company had both German and UK beverage R&D exposure, and deployed his design and built knowledge (his custom-fitted process controls are a pride) to bring his beer to market. Response was so strong that after only the first month growth is proving necessary. “We are already brewing to capacity... we did not plan on being at this place right away, and our licensee sales are twice what we projected. 80-90 hour work weeks to prepare for a weekend of BBQ is where I am at right now,” Reed says. The other two members of the team, Steve Nazarian, BSc’01, PhD’07 (Microbiology), and Andrew Peters, MSc’00 (Microbiology), are going to be busy with upping production of Riptide Rye and Capital Blonde to meet the demand. Coming out from under what could be the paternalistic neo-prohibitionist dark cloud, we are seeing a return to what once was; towns and neighbourhoods supporting local production. The big multinationals are watching their market share diminish. They are crying into their mass-market grainbased liquid.

Not so for David Tait, LLB’02. He shared the story of birthing Toronto’s Hogtown. “As both a member of the Bay Street Rugby Team and close friends with many of the Hogtown founders, it was easy to get involved, and be swept in by the infectious excitement of not only starting a business with close friends, but it being a brewery to boot.” Along with fellow grads Andrew Buxton-Forman, HBA’09, Andrew Tyler, BA’08 (BMOS), and Daryl Lougheed, LLB’02, they empowered craft beer enthusiast Noel Chambers to build an “...easy-drinking beer, one with excellent craft qualities and a prominent hoppy bite to it, but also one to enjoy after a hard day at the office or on the pitch.”

When asked about his experiences in London, Tait was quick to return the following observation that ties it all together: “Western is a great school, but also has such a positive social scene. Whether it was on campus, Joe Kool’s or the Ceeps – I don’t think I would be the only Western student of my generation to have stared into a pint of beer, and thought… What if?”

Over at Liberty Village Toronto, they have yet another new brew crew. Cassandra Campbell, BA’10 (Music), Kosta Viglatzis, BA’08, BEd’09, Steve Combes and Eric Emery (from Hawaii) are contracting their brewing out currently, but have definite plans to construct a facility in their namesake vibrant and supportive neighbourhood.

beer collection
First, they are going to build the brand and volume. This allows them to demonstrate “... a track record, and proof of concept,” says Campbell. She astutely bridges into an expanded philosophy to answer the next question: “Western has a deserved reputation as a ‘social’ school. There are endless internal and external opportunities to build relationships with your friends, classmates and community. For the obvious reasons, beer too is a social industry. You’re not going to survive if you’re a wallflower.

Sudbury has been without a local brewery for a few decades now. Figuring out what to, when to, and how to, were deck discussions for Shawn Mailloux, BEd’00. “Last Canada Day I said, ‘Fine let’s get the pen and paper out and jot some ideas down’,” and a working name took one more big step from imagination to measurable production.

Shawn is a man of action. From finding a brewmaster to having a bottle in hand, it was a 14-month journey. “Let’s make beer!” was the easy nod of agreement in the process. “We got into this to have fun,” states Mallioux. It looks like it would be a great sandbox to play in but there clearly is sweat and some strain.

Stack Brewing is really a ‘nano’ with potential. It has five styles in five restaurants and when we spoke licensing for an on-site retail outlet, it was just an email approval away. “Stand by, I’ll fire up the computer and see if there is a message. I hope by the long weekend. We have enough quantity standing by.”

He swings open the door to the refrigerated space obviously proud of the contents. Mailloux graduated from the Faculty of Education in 2000 and continues working in schools. It is understandable that he may consider delivering a course in enterprise and entrepreneurship.

On the big boy end of the craft scale Steam Whistle (165 employees) is only doing one product, but have coast-to-coast exposure. Steam Whistle has four Western grads in their senior management. Their iconic green pilsner bottles have a nostalgic yesteryear feel that when combined with their fleet of unique vehicles just feels so right as a beer choice. Home delivery like the milkman of the 1950s is boosting sales ever higher.

James Foran, BA’06 (BMOS), now looks after British Columbia sales and marketing for Steam Whistle. He says Western is “... a step above, I was building a high calibre of knowledge and in parallel a great network of contacts and friends. My time in London was rich and made me who I am.”

Meeting and going to school with McLaughlin - Brand Manager at Steam Whistle - was one of those valuable lifelong friendships. Being in charge of strategy and positioning and thinking about long-term objectives, he naturally recruited from the known and trusted. Western was also home to more of this team: in sales, Brendan Beamish, BA’05 (Sociology), and as Trade Marketing Coordinator, Brandon Harvey, BA’09 (Health Sciences).

Don’t just stand by. Go and grab a glass.

This article appeared in the Fall 2013 edition of Alumni Gazette
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