Straight to the Pint: Steamworker Julia Hanlon gets the pint

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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 Julia Hanlon. I am the brewmaster for Steamworks Brewing Co.’s William Street location.

      Your dad's favourite beer

      When I was growing up, I would see the occasional six-pack with red labels and a ship on the front, which I later came to know as Molson Export. My dad must have sought out this brand, because I don’t think it was sold in many places in Western Canada. These days, my dad goes for a Steamworks Heroica Red Ale.

      First go-to brand

      I drank my fair share of beer in university (which is to say, a lot of beer), but I was pretty unaware of beer styles and was swayed by clever branding. I would say my go-to was Sleeman Honey Brown—I liked my beer sweeter back then. And there was something about the clear bottle that seemed cool.

      Life-changing beer

      I don’t know if there was one beer that changed everything for me. I would say it was more like a couple of life-changing experiences that involved beer that changed everything. After university, I backpacked in Europe for a few months and our stop in Bruges, Belgium, led us to a bar called ’t Brugs Beertje, where we were presented with a menu listing pages and pages of bottled Belgian beers. I tried my first Trappist beer, my first kriek, each served in its own unique glass, and with that, I was hooked. A few years later and a couple of years into my brewing career, I had the opportunity to visit the Bavarian region of Germany and also Prague. Beer is such a big part of the culture there, to the point I remember going for breakfast and ordering tea to drink and the server giving me a sideways look because I didn’t order a beer. Their reverence and appreciation for beer was completely contagious!

      Dream destination

      I always crave a nice cold pint when I am somewhere hot and sunny…and I love the Caribbean. I think if I win the lottery one day, I would pack up my family and move us all to somewhere in the Caribbean and start a little brewery. It would have to be on a beach. I don’t know if there are any other breweries on beaches, but as long as I win the lottery I’m sure anything is possible!

      First beer brewed

      Unlike many craft brewers, I got my start at brewing with a large brewing company—Molson. I was hired into a program that Molson used to train brewers, called the production trainee program. During this two-year apprenticeship, after which I wrote my Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD) diploma exams, I worked in every aspect of brewing, from raw materials and brewing right through to packaging and distribution. It was very hands-on, so I got to climb in tanks to push out yeast and run packaging equipment. I also got to create my first recipe and brew it at the old Rickards Brewpub in what was then GM Place. I made a maple cream ale and I remember buying jugs of maple syrup from Costco.

      Crowning achievement

      Probably my two daughters. But as it relates to beer, getting my IBD diploma in brewing, and winning the Crisp Malting Award for the highest grade on one of my exams was definitely a highlight because I got to visit Germany to receive the award. In more recent history, I am so happy about making the leap from big brewer to craft brewing and to be making beers that my friends and family are excited to drink.

      I'd love a beer with

      Lauren Salazar, who manages the wood cellar and blending at New Belgium Brewing, because I love sour beers and I would love to pick her brain on the dos and don’ts of starting a sour program. And maybe also Larry David, because I think he is hilarious. I would hope to make a beer that he would say is “pretty, pretty good”.

      Amanda Siebert