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
Gary Lohin. Brewmaster-partner at Central City Brewers and Distillers, home of Red Racer beer.
Your dad’s favourite beer
Well, I remember my dad drinking Carling Black Label and Old Style Pilsner in stubbies. He used to have a couple after cutting our big lawn in North Vancouver during the summer months, and it wasn’t too long before I inherited that lawn-cutting job.
First go-to brand
It took a while before I really had a “go-to” brand. I bounced around trying different beers like Black Label, Charrington Toby, some imports like St. Pauli Girl and Beck’s. I never really liked the local beer scene, so I started home-brewing while in university in the early ’80s. I would drink my own craft beers, until Okanagan Spring came onto the scene. I remember trying their first lager and thinking, “Mmmm, this tastes like the beer I make,” so then I tried their pale ale too and it became my real first go-to brand. Big Rock in Alberta was another beer I’d stock up on whenever I was able and bring it back into B.C.
It was on my trip to England in the late ’80s when I visited Tadcaster in the Yorkshire area. I tried many hand-pulled beers from the Sam Smith’s and John Smith’s breweries and quickly fell in love with them. They were so good that I would line up at 10 in the morning, waiting for the local pubs to open so I could get a pint. When I designed my home-brewed beers, they would be similar to those softly carbonated English styles using the famous East Kent Golding and Fuggle hops. When I was able to run my first brew pub and sell to the public beers that I designed, a lot of my initial beers were emulated from that England trip, so my professional career really started then. It really was how I got to where I am today.
When I travel, a big component is always beer. I’ll search for brew pubs, breweries, and taprooms wherever I go and try to drink local. I’ve visited the famous brewing centres like England, Germany, Belgium, and the Czech Republic. In the USA I really like Portland, San Diego, and Seattle. I still travel frequently to Portland and I really love that city. A lot of my influences in brewing today come from these three cities in the States. My dream destinations come from the craft-brewing places I have yet to visit, like the east coast of North America and the countries that are up-and-coming, like Denmark, Norway, Japan, and New Zealand.
First beer brewed
It was that fateful day when my parents bought me my first home-brew kit. I remember there was a can of Coopers Real Ale malt extract that came with the kit, so I added the requisite amount of corn sugar, pitched my yeast, and fermented it. To my surprise, the beer really tasted good. That spurred me on to continue brewing. My first professional beer that I brewed, that was totally my recipe, was derived from a home-brew book called The Joy of Homebrewing. In it, there was a recipe that called for honey in the beer, so I made a honey pilsner that became a staple at that local brew pub. I still remember it fondly today.
What I am most proud of is the three World Beer Cup medals we’ve won as a brewery: one for our Thor’s Hammer Barley Wine, one for our ESB, and another for our Barrel Aged Porter. It’s nice to know that all the passion and effort that it takes to make a great beer was recognized on the world stage. It’s about passion, baby! The team I’ve had at Central City continues to create great beers today and I’m very proud of all of them, too.
I’d love a beer with
Iain Hill at Strange Fellows Brewing. He’s been a passionate creator of great beers for so long and has been in the industry as long as I have.
Don Moore. He has opened up so many breweries and brew pubs, and has helped out so many of the people in today’s B.C. craft-beer scene. He’s now working for Canada Malting, which provides very important ingredients to our local craft breweries so they can make their amazing beers. I always have time for him. Don was/is a brewer and is definitely worth an interview by you.
Conrad Gmoser from Brassneck. Originally from Steamworks, Conrad has a long, storied career locally and I have always admired his beers. He continues to push the boundaries of craft beer.