Name of Blog: bryehn.net
Location: Ottawa, Ontario
Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m 36 and originally from North Bay, Ontario. I have a background in tech support, marketing and customer service, but had to quit working in my late 20s because of complications related to cerebral palsy. Around that time I took up writing about video games, specifically their role in education and how they can help people cope with physical and mental disabilities. I’ve been with my partner for 11 years and currently play the role of stay-at-home dad to my 16 month old daughter.
How did you get into craft beer?
As long as I remember in my drinking “career”, I leaned towards oddball beers with cool names, but really started to seek out “non-commercial” brands when I moved to Ottawa in 1999 and started frequenting places like The Dominion Tavern, The Well and Chateau Lafayette. At parties while friends were drinking whatever macro was on sale that week, I’d be picking up sixers of stuff like Gritstone, Red Cap and such. I was always interested in finding new flavours.
How long have you been writing your blog? What made you start to write?
I started my video game site in 2008 after freelancing for a couple years, so I’ve been writing for a while. I published my first beer review in May, 2010. It was a poorly written review of Trailhead Premium Lager from Wellington. I really had no idea what I was doing from a technical standpoint and I learned mainly from reading user reviews at Beer Advocate and to a lesser extent, Rate Beer. I’m not sure exactly why I decided to write beer reviews, but remember finding a sixer of Brooklyn Lager in a sweaty Union Station LCBO in Toronto and saying to the wife “I need to tell people about this”. That was almost a year before I published that first review. As I wrote more, I instinctively wanted to lean about ingredients, the brewing process, styles, etc and I take a lot of pleasure from learning about a new style, or simply the reasoning behind a beer’s name or inspiration.
Why did you choose the name?
bryehn (Brian) is a pseudonym I adopted in the early 1990s when the internet came along and I began to frequent forums, chat rooms and IRC. I actually produced electronic music under the name bryehn geocef (Brian Joseph) in the mid to late 90s and early 2000s. The blog was originally intended to cover music, review consumer products and talk about sports in addition to beer. The beer reviews really took hold of me and generated a good amount of traffic, so I stuck with it. I’ve published about 220 reviews so far and always have about a dozen ready to publish.
Favourite beer style(s)?
Imperial IPA, American Pale Ale, Saison, Lambic/Geuze, ESB, Czech Pilsener and English Mild off the top of my head ;)
Beau’s (creativity), Great Lakes Brewery (quality, consistency), Grand River Brewing (great malts and mineral character), Southern Tier (variety), Nickel Brook (creativity, variety, quality) and Lately Beyond The Pale (really high quality malts)
Are you a home brewer? If yes, what is your favourite creation?
Not yet. I have plans that should see the light of day next summer and plan to start with an English Mild and a hard Dandelion and Burdock Root Beer
Favourite beer & food pairing?
No joke, Pizza and Pilsener. I’m big into charcuterie and dry sausage as well, which I generally like with fairly malty ales.
If you could work with or for any brewery which one would it be, and why?
Beau’s design and marketing department. No one does better packaging in my opinion and they throw a ton of events.
If you had to recommend one craft beer to someone who has never had a beer before… what would it be & why?
Depends on where they’re coming from. For a pilsener/lager drinker, Prison Break because it has a traditional taste with a touch of modern hop bite. For a 50 or Export drinker, Naughty Neighbour from Nickel Brook. It’s accessible and very versatile ale. I always recommend to friends that drink Hoegaarden to try real German stuff like Weistephaner or lately Denison’s out of Toronto.
Favourite beer festival?
Truth be told I haven’t been to many, but Cask Days stands out and I go to Beau’s Oktoberfest every year. I really liked what National Capital Craft Beer Week started last year, but wasn’t very impressed with Winterbrewed.
And last but not least…
Everyone says they’ve had a ‘life changing’ epiphany on how they discovered or truly fell in love with craft beer. What was that moment for you?
It was my 19th birthday and I lived about a block from an LCBO in North Bay. My first legal beer purchase was a 750 mL bottle of La Fin Du Monde from Unibroue. When I poured it for me and a couple friends I literally said “what the fuck is that shit?” when the sediment started to come out. “Grossness” aside (which I’ve since grown to love…mmm, yeast), I took a sip and new that the flavour was something special. I probably bought a 40 of Schlitz the next day, but that experience always stuck with me and took away any fear I may have had about branching out.