As I continue to delve into those who are part of the craft beer community, I continue to be curious about why brewers got into brewing in the first place. What is becoming rather clear is that a passion for beer borne from home brewing, consuming and learning seems to be the Launchpad. From here, a desire to do more and to take that passion further resulting in turning it into a career.
This week I had the chance to sit down with another such person, Jeff Wiebe. As lead brewer at PEG Beer Co, Jeff has taken the passion he had for beer and turned into his career. At the age of 27 he has accomplished a lot and has become an integral part of our craft beer community. So, who is Jeff?
Jeff describes himself as pretty random. It’s obvious from talking to Jeff that when he isn’t brewing beer he loves to be out doors. He rides BMX, skateboards, rock climbs, and basically does anything outside that involves hanging out with friends and grabbing a few beers afterwards. He was born and raised in Manitoba and developed a strong work ethic growing up on a farm. After high school, Jeff spent a year living in the Netherlands on a work-vacation program. It was here that he had the chance to expand his beer consuming horizons. You couldn’t get MGD or Bud. Instead, being so close to Belgium and other fantastic beer brewing countries, Jeff had his fill of excellent beers.
After returning to Manitoba from this experience, Jeff became interested in home brewing. He had read a lot of stuff online but, like most of us, had some concerns about delving into. Luckily for us, Jeff’s friend’s roommate was a n avid homebrewer and took Jeff under his wing. He and Jeff brewed his first beer together, a west coast pale ale, and this gave Jeff the opportunity to connect his read knowledge with the hands on experience and make those connections.
From this point, Jeff couldn’t stop brewing. After 2 ½ years of home brewing, Jeff knew that this was something he wanted to do. He applied to Olds college and Niagara College for their brewing programs. Accepted to both, Jeff took off for Niagara where he spent the next 2 years honing his knowledge of beer and brewing. Having the opportunity to delve into sensory courses, water chemistry, brewing, and brewery management, Jeff was able to build a knowledge base that was combined with hands on experiences. They’d brew four batches of the same beer making slight variations and then break them down in the sensory courses. Overall, Jeff feels it was a fantastic learning experience and a great learning environment.
Between semesters Jeff had the chance to work for Half Pints in all capacities. From brewing to bottle washing to delivery, Jeff got to try it all. This gave him a taste of what it’s like to be in each of these capacities and helped him get a better idea for the overall brewery operations. This opportunity to put theory into practice and work on a large scale commercial system helped set Jeff up for what would be his first brewing gig, Lake of the Woods. Jeff spent six months working at Lake of the Woods before he got the nod to move over to PEG where he would setup his home.
Being brought on to a brewery in construction was really neat for Jeff. It gave the team an opportunity to put the blood, sweat and tears into actually building a brewery. This experience not only gave a sense of ownership and pride, but it also helped build a strong team dynamic that exists at PEG to this day.
As a question I always want to know what beers a brewer always has in their fridge as well as their favorite style. For Jeff, he always has Muskoka Detour (though he’d love to have Ballast Point’s Sculpin) as it’s an easy drinking, hop forward beer that his girlfriend also enjoys. When it comes to favorite style, Jeff jumps across the pond and chooses Flanders Red Ale. Certainly a tasty style as well but quite different from Muskoka Detour.
Jeff also updated me a bit on what’s happening at PEG. They just got a new shipment of hops come in which means that Life Coach will be coming back onto the menu. It also means that Soundtrack, their shifting IPA, will brewed again with two new hops.
There is also an English Pale Ale in the fermenter that will hopefully be coming on soon and Jeff dropped that they are looking at “having more fun with sours”. Since Peg doesn’t have any barrels, we know this will be Kettle Souring, but it’s exciting to hear.
I plan to continue to chat with brewers around the city as I get a chance. I know it’s a long term commitment, but they are interesting folks. I’ve got plans to follow-up with One Great City and Brazen Hall in the near future. I am also planning to check in with Little Brown Jug. Jeremy Grisim, the subject of my first get to know a brewer, has made the move over to Little Brown Jug. I’m excited to follow-up with these folks and to continue to bring you stories from the craft beer community.
Also, a reminder that this Sunday (January 29th) is the charity raffle in support of Winnipeg Harvest. It’s a chance to win some great prizes, including one of five bottles of Westvleteren 12. Hope to see you there.
– Beer Winnipeg