Curtis began his brewing journey while completing his Mechanical Engineering degree at UVic and fell in love with the craft beer scene, witnessing first hand the early days of now BC beer giants Phillips, Driftwood, and Hoyne. Learning how to recreate some of his favourite brews was perfect for a student on a tight budget. A few years after returning to Calgary and joining the Calgary homebrewing community (Yeast Wranglers), an opportunity to turn his passion into a career came through the Olds College Brewmaster & Brewery Operations Management Diploma. While completing school, Curtis worked various positions at Brewster’s Brewing Company, Fernie Brewing, and Bow River Brewing before landing as a brewer for Prairie Dog Brewing (PDB). It was through the homebrewing community that Curtis first met the folks of PDB, before their brewpub was even open. It has now come full circle after being recently named the head brewer at PDB and he could not be happier with his career shift and what is next to come.
What made you want to become a brewer?
“If I’m being honest, I never saw myself as becoming a professional brewer. I always saw it as a hobby until I heard about the Olds College Brewing program. Before starting at Olds College, I did a few volunteer shifts at various breweries in Calgary and met some of the industry folks. It was through these experiences that I fell in love with the idea of becoming a professional brewer. The industry is filled with amazing people who come from very diverse backgrounds that have so much passion for what they do and are always willing to help and share their experiences.”
Why do you use Alberta ingredients in your brews?
“Alberta is known across the globe for producing barley and malt products of a very high quality and we are truly spoiled as brewers by having these ingredients at our fingertips. At PDB, we strive to use local ingredients as much as possible and having a high quality products in our own backyard makes it an absolute no-brainer.”
What is your favourite Alberta ingredient to use?
“My top choice would be Canada Malting’s Superior Pilsen as it provides the perfect grainy-sweet and crackery base for all types of beers ranging from a light lager to a NEIPA. But Origin Malting’s Munich malt is a close second. We frequently use it when we’re looking for a strong malty backbone and toasty, nutty flavour. And if we’re making a dark beer, Red Shed Malting’s Chocolate malt is a must-add.”
What brew should guests be sure to try on your menu?
“My two personal favourites that also showcase the full spectrum of Alberta ingredients are the Crispy Gurl Cold IPA (origin Classic Pils base) and our Prairie Lands Vienna Lager (Origin Vienna base). They are very different beers to one another but two beers I am extremely proud of.”
What is a favourite brewing memory?
“One of my favourites was the first time we brewed a fresh hop harvest beer at PDB. We partnered with a local hop farm, Water Valley Hops and designed a base recipe that allowed the hops to shine front and center. Right before harvest, we drove out to their hop yard, completed sensory and selected out hops for the year. Then on brew day, the hops were harvested first thing in the morning, driven to the pub and added to our mash tun that afternoon. The aromas in the brewery were amazing and every year I look forward to producing what is now an annual release for us.”
Why do you like about being a part of the Alberta craft beer scene?
“Like I mentioned earlier, the Alberta craft beer scene is full of amazing and talented people with diverse backgrounds, but they all have the same sense of community and willing ness to share their knowledge (and occasionally ingredients) without hesitation. It’s an industry that is full of passion for the ultimate goal of putting Alberta on the world’s craft beer destination map and that passion is contagious.”