Straight to the Pint: Bomber brewer talks shop

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      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’m Blair Calibaba. I am the head brewer with Bomber Brewing Company in East Vancouver.

      Your Dad's Favourite Beer

      I recall a number of different brands of beer like Club, Labatt Blue, and one called Cool Spring. I used to collect bottles and cans—a habit I acquired from my pack-rat grandfather—and I liked that green label that Cool Spring had. The green must be the Saskatchewan Roughriders fan in me (though I never liked Molson Pilsner).

      First Go-To Brand

      I (kind of) remember when I was young drinking a lot of macro-brewed Canadian beer like Extra Old Stock and Molson Dry. But I eventually started trying the European beers that showed up in Canada, and ended up being a pretty dedicated fan of Tuborg. I loved the flavour imparted by that Danish yeast strain; I just didn’t know why at the time.

      Life-Changing Beer

      That would have to be Pilsner Urquell. I first tried it about 20 years ago, and later when I began home-brewing, I became obsessed with making hoppy but balanced lagers and, specifically, trying to replicate that one. I love how aromatic and malty it is, without being too sweet. Later, when we were preparing to open the brewery, and after much R&D consultation with my hockey team, I was compelled to craft a pilsner that had the body and hoppy aroma of Urquell, and the easy-drinking quality of, say, Molson Pilsner. And so, Bomber Pilsner was born of that pursuit.

      Dream Destination

      Broken-record time, but I have yet to visit the Pilsner Urquell brewery, and I would love to go there, maybe as a part of a cross-continental river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. I have been lucky enough to travel many of the freeways of Europe, as part of my previous life in music production and sound engineering. I even enjoyed a beer pilgrimage in Bamberg, Germany, on a day off during one tour, when my friend and I each drank seven litres of carefully catalogued Franconian-brewed awesomeness in a 12-hour period. Rough next show; I’ll tell you that for free.

      First Beer Brewed

      Like so many before me, I was guided by our dear late friend Dan Small to brew either a Strathcona Pale Ale, or Shirley’s Nut Brown Ale. Another musician friend helped me with my first brew—all-grain straight away!—and I was hooked.

      Crowning Achievment

      I’d like to think that it hasn’t happened yet, as I have so much more I want to accomplish in brewing. But, being involved with opening and operating Bomber has been the most rewarding business and creative pursuit for me to date.

      I’d Love A Beer With

      It would either be Ken Grossman, cofounder of Sierra Nevada Brewing in California, or Charlie Papazian, the author of The Complete Joy of Home Brewing and cofounder and president of the Brewers Association. Both of these guys are symbols of the pioneering spirit of our industry, and I would like to throw a “Cheers!” at them for all they have done to foster and further the craft.

      Amanda Siebert