Straight to the Pint: Strange Fellows Brewing's Iain Hill

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      Straight to the Pint taps those on the frontlines of our booming local craft-beer industry for stories about biggest brewing successes, dream vacation spots, and which brand was always in the family fridge.

      Who are you

      I’m Iain Hill, co-owner and brewmaster of Strange Fellows Brewing.

      Your dad’s favourite beer 

      I remember him drinking a beer called Toby that, naturally, came in stubby bottles. Likely it was something fairly bland with a bit of caramel colour and marketed to expats like him. I also remember him taking me to Spinnakers when I was of drinking age and introducing me to the flavour of hops.

      First go-to brand 

      I didn’t really have a single go-to brand when I was young. I suppose in university I drank quite a bit of Foster’s Lager, which was popular with my peers at the time. I did visit the two brewpubs in Victoria quite a bit. Swans, which was fairly new at the time, and Spinnakers were great places to drink English-style ales.

      Life-changing beer

      In 1995, I went to Belgium with my girlfriend to look at Flemish Renaissance art and to taste really awesome Belgian beer. Naturally, the beer part of the pilgrimage included visits to many abbey breweries and some of the famous lambic producers in the Pajottenland. Sitting in cafés drinking Gueuze, Kriek, and Faro from some of the most unique breweries in the world changed my life and started me on a path of discovery that led to making sour styles of beer long before many people in North America could even imagine they existed.

      Dream vacation destination

      Besides travelling around the Middle East, which is not a beer experience, I’d like to visit northern Italy. The craft-beer scene there is apparently exploding right now. I’ve had visits from several Italian brewers and am super interested to check it out. Might do so next summer.

      First beer brewed

      The first beer I brewed would have been something with my dad when I was just a kid. I can’t remember what it was, but I do know it would have been from a book called Brewing Beers Like Those You Buy by David Line. That’s the book he got some of his early recipes from. The first beer I home-brewed on my own was, I think, a brown ale with cherries, and the first I brewed professionally would certainly have been Shaftebury Cream Ale. I also brewed the last batch of London Porter at Shaftebury before they discontinued it back in 1993.

      Crowning achievement 

      Several things come to mind: finally opening my own brewery has to be pretty high on the list. Learning the art of distilling, setting up, and developing the spirits for Yaletown Distilling Company would be another. Having and raising my kids. Pioneering sour styles of beer here, like my Oud Bruin.

      I’d love to have a beer with

      So I do like Madonna’s first album, or maybe it’s the second. The one with “Borderline” and “Lucky Star” on the first side and “Holiday” on the B-side. I’ve heard that she likes cask ale, so if she wasn’t such a tough businesswoman type, I’d say it would be good to have a beer with her. The trouble is, I’m afraid I wouldn’t want to hear the music after that. As far as brewers go, I would really like to sit down with Peter Bouckaert of New Belgium Brewing or Frank Boon of Boon or any other multigenerational lambic producer. Any time I can share a beer with one of Vancouver’s awesome brewers is great, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had a beer with Frank Appleton and John Mitchell, two of my early mentors.