Straight to the Pint taps those on the frontlines of our booming local craft-beer industry for stories about their biggest brewing successes, dream vacation spots, and which brand was always in the family fridge.
Who are you
I am Steve Forsyth, founder of Off the Rail Brewing Co.
Your dad’s favourite beer
I remember the Old Style label from my childhood and thinking how cool and interactive it was. My late paternal father was a seaman, so he used to bring the original Carlsberg back from the ships when he returned from a stint away. I remember it as a good beer, imported and in stubby bottles. He would be doing a jig in his grave if he knew his son owned a brewery.
First go-to brand
I think the go-to beer as a late teen was ‘Hi-Test’ (O’Keefe Extra Old Stock)—the obvious choice, given the bang for the buck. It wasn’t long after, though, that I discovered Heineken and Beck’s and realized the few extra dollars was well worth it for skunky imports.
In my early 20s, I went on a European vacation where my first stop was England. I had some friends who immediately took us to their locals, and my God the beer was good! I still fondly remember the milds and bitters at that time and still love them. There was a similar experience I had at the Big Time brewery in the U District in Seattle many years ago. I had an IPA that was so good it was difficult to stop drinking it…so I didn’t and may have had the proverbial one-too-many price to pay. Keep in mind it was at a time when we had no local IPAs, and when I asked a few brewery reps about producing IPAs, the response was that no one would buy them! Nice to be here to see the changing times.
I was fortunate enough to be in Munich when Bayern Munich won a championship years ago, and it was quite a scene. My wife, Antonella, and I were in the middle of a huge celebration and had to join the crowds at the famous Hofbräuhaus for a tankard or two of traditional German beer. I would like to go back next year, ride a bike, visit some smaller breweries, and end up in Munich for Oktoberfest. Maybe have some bratwurst. We have friends who are from North Van and summer every year in the Czech Republic and we are planning to someday visit, see the sights, and test the beer culture there. Any holiday would do, really.
First beer brewed
The first all-grain beer I brewed was a Czech-style pilsner…because I love them and I had some extra Mt. Hood from my hop field. I was astonished at how well it turned out. Beginner’s luck. Blair Calibaba from Bomber (Brewing) had suggested a recipe to try and I tried it, tweaked it, tried it, tweaked it some more, until finally I was so satisfied that it ended up being our house Czechmate Pilsner. It’s hard to beat a good pilsner on a warm summer’s day.
We have a neighbour behind the brewery who has an ice business and was a big help to us when we were just starting the process of putting the brewery together. I told him that I wanted to name a beer after him, so I started thinking of what would work as a fun tribute beer for our friend Raj the “Iceman”. A test batch of a mild IPA with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf would become our Raj Mahal India Ale, and we have been urged to bring it back into our main lineup of beer. Raj got quite a kick out of being immortalized on a label!
I would love to have a beer with
Arthur Guinness—in Ireland—would be something, but he’s not available. A real pioneer, and I hear a philanthropist, to boot. Our head brewer, Mike Evans, and I invited John Mitchell—the godfather of microbreweries—to the brewery a few months ago and had some fun and interesting conversation. He’s a pioneer himself and a very nice man. Apparently, our ESB needs more B, though. I admire Gary Lohin—brewmaster extraordinaire of Central City Brewing—and love what he can do with beer. Gary spent some time with me prior to us opening the brewery to give me some brewery setup ideas and equipment essentials I would need. I had some much-appreciated advice from knowledgeable people.