Straight to the Pint: Big Rock brewer turns passion into career

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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

      My name is Jody Hammell, and I am the B.C. brewmaster for [Calgary-based] Big Rock Brewery here in Vancouver at Big Rock Urban.

      Dad's favourite beer

      Sounds kind of silly, but he doesn’t really drink. I think it’s safe to say that his favourite beer is anything I make.

      First go-to brand

      My first go-to brand was actually Big Rock. Working at the brewery back then really was my introduction to craft beer. I quickly realized that it was far superior to what was out there, and I got to try pretty much everything we brewed—back in those days, we got to drink the low fills.

      Life-changing beer

      Growing up in Calgary in the ’80s, the only thing I really knew about beer was that it tasted terrible. My friends and I would usually buy some Extra Old Stock or Rainier or Molson Golden. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Big Rock beers when I started working at the brewery in 1992 that I fell in love with Buzzard Breath Ale and McNally’s Extra Ale and realized that beer isn’t supposed to taste bad.

      Dream destination

      Jardines de la Reina. It is a national park and marine reserve on the south Caribbean side of Cuba, where they only allow a limited number of visitors each year. A few years ago, my wife and I went there for a five-day scuba-diving excursion and dove with all kinds of different sharks, eels, turtles, and more. I even have a picture of me holding a can of Traditional Ale at a hundred feet down with all these sharks in the background (and no, the can was not full of beer). There is not much more satisfying than having a cold beer at the end of a good day, even if it is a Cristal—the craft boom has not made it to Cuba… yet.

      First beer brewed

      The first beer I brewed that was my own recipe was when I worked for Whistler Brewing Company in about 2006; the beer was Export Lager. If I remember right, it actually won a Canadian Brewing Award for European-style lager! I was so happy—I had recently completed my schooling in Berlin, and it was nice to think that I actually learned something.

      Crowning achievement

      Actually being able to make a career out of my passion for making beer. I have dragged my wife with me through two countries, a few provinces, and several cities for a number of different breweries. I have worked very hard, but I have also been very, very lucky. I like to think that for most of my adult life, I have never had a real job.

      I’d love a beer with

      My Uncle Kenny. He passed away quite a few years ago. He would be so ecstatic that I make beer for a living—I think he was the guy that drank all of my dad’s beer.

      Amanda Siebert