GOOD BEER FOLKS BLOG
If you’re not yet familiar with the Brewmaster behind our Pilsner, it’s Marek Mikunda’s knowledge and passion that goes into producing our craft Pilsner.
A few weeks ago, our friends at Restaurant and Hotels Blog had a chat with Marek about his love of brewing, European beers vs Canadian beers, craft vs commercial, and what made him join the Good Beer Folks at Steam Whistle.
R&H – Can you tell us about the Brew Master’s role in making beer?
MM – As the Brewmaster, I am responsible for the entire process of brewing from the receipt of the first kernels of barley (and other ingredients) through to the last bottle of Pilsner being shipped to stores, and all stages in between – the wort or raw beer as it is brewed; green beer when it is first put into fermentation tanks; after it has finished aging but still unfiltered, then filtered and finally packaged beer. Any activities that are part of those stages of making beer fall under my jurisdiction including the equipment needed for brewing and aging, and of course, a key success factor is our people and their training.
R&H – Are there many differences in that role in Canada vs Europe?
MM – The differences aren’t as pronounced between brewing in Canada and Europe, but the differences are significant between global commercial breweries and small independent craft breweries, which both exist in either market. Large brewers are very concerned about ‘efficiency’, ‘cost-cutting’, and mechanization; whereas the smaller independent craft breweries are more interested in traditional artisanship, premium ingredients and quality standards. I’m glad I work at the second type.
R&H – How have you taken the old Bavarian Pilsner brewing laws and modified them for use in the Canadian Market?
MM – I haven’t modified the Bavarian Purity Law at all. Steam Whistle Pilsner is made according to those old world traditions.
R&H – Can you tell us a bit about your work history?
MM – My first job after my master brewer training was to work at Pilsner Urquell in the Czech Republic. I then worked as Brewmaster at a Pilsner Urquell brewery in Russia. From there I moved to Brazil where I worked at an independent brewpub. About 12 years ago I moved to Canada, first working at Labatt’s and then Creemore Springs (Molson-owned) before settling at Steam Whistle as Brewmaster in 2005.
R&H – How have you applied all that knowledge at Steam Whistle?
MM – One of the biggest projects I have had was designing and commissioning a new brewhouse for Steam Whistle in 2008 that was built in the Czech Republic. One of the key elements to a true Bohemian Pilsner like Steam Whistle, is the ‘decoction’ stage in our brewhouse. Decoction brewing involves boiling a portion of the mash at higher temperatures in order to caramelize the sugars present in the barley. This contributes to the beautiful golden colour of our Pilsner and also adds to the robust head on the beer at the time of pouring. The decoction method of brewing is not used in Bavarian style Pilsners only Bohemian style Pilsners, so having a brewhouse built in the Czech Republic was key.
R&H – What’s next for you and for Steam Whistle?
MM – What’s next is more of the same good stuff we are up to. Our motto is DO ONE THING REALLY, REALLY WELL so we are committed to staying focused on our single brand, Steam Whistle Pilsner. Our hope is to eventually be regarded as Canada’s most respected premium beer so we will be slowly growing across the country. Currently we are available in Ontario, Alberta, BC and new this year in Manitoba.
R&H – What’s the best thing about being a Brew Master?
MM – The best thing is that I love my work to the point that it doesn’t feel like work. Brewing really is my passion and I feel fortunate that I get to do that every day. And, finishing the work day with a cold beer shared with my co-workers is always a pleasure!
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