Who is the Brewmaster behind Steam Whistle’s Award-Winning Beers?

Meet Brewmaster, Erica McOustra & Team

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January 20, 2021

Erica McOustra was promoted to Brewmaster in June of 2020, earning this honour after a decade at Steam Whistle – most recently as Head Brewer – working alongside our two previous Czech Brewmasters. A credentialed Brewmaster, Erica received her education at the Versuchs- und Lehranstalt für Brauerei (VLB) Beer Institute in Berlin, Germany. This renowned technical research institute offers full degree and post-graduate certificates in brewing to domestic and international students. The quality-focused curriculum is steeped in German brewing traditions, including rigour and discipline with a strong orientation to Lager brewing. The institute is also at the forefront of technology, utilized to elevate quality and gain process efficiencies. Erica brings this training and experience to her leadership in crafting Canada’s Premium Beer.

How would you describe your philosophy of brewing, applied in leading the team at Steam Whistle?

My brewing philosophy includes an appreciation for brewing traditions while adopting a continuous improvement mindset – always driving quality forward.  By understanding and utilizing all the tools at hand – ingredients, laboratory testing, the diversity of the brewing team, and equipment – we make small tweaks to the process to have pronounced impacts on the final aroma and flavour of the beer.  The thoughtful combination of all these factors will showcase the best of each ingredient in our beers.

Who makes up the brewing team at Steam Whistle, and what are their roles?

I am truly fortunate to have a stellar group of colleagues working with me. Each brings unique training, experience and focus to our diverse group.

Cellar Manager, Evgeny Matyukhin

Evgeny Matyukhin is our Cellar Manager. Like me, he attended VLB in Berlin and earned his master brewer education. Despite being there concurrently, we never met as he was in Russian-language classes while I was in the English stream. But we share a similar outlook. He previously completed his Food Science degree at Voronezh State Technological Academy, specializing in Fermentation, Production and (Winemaking) Technology. Evgeny worked for larger breweries in Russia and then at Molson Canada before transitioning to the craft industry, first at Brunswick Bierworks and then at Steam Whistle.  As the Cellar Manager, he oversees the beer after it leaves the brewhouse, during fermentation and conditioning, through Filtration. The nuances of flavour, carbonation, and the beer’s stability develop in the ageing process, making it a critical phase.

Brewing Team Lead, Joyce Lau

Joyce Lau is our Brewing Team Lead, joining Steam Whistle after heading up brewing and R&D at Kombucha Brewery. She had previously assisted in brewing at Bellwoods, led tastings and events at Collective Arts Brewing, was a Draught Quality Auditor and a Beer Consultant to the hospitality industry. Joyce received her Craft Beer Brewing Certificate from the London, UK-based Institute of Brewing and Distilling, earned a certificate in Quality Assurance & Microbiology for the Brewer from Oregon State University, and is a Prud’homme Certified Beer Sommelier. Joyce provides oversight in brewing/filtration planning, data collection and analysis, and brews Steam Whistle’s portfolio of beers.

Brewing Specialist, Gabriel Deschenes

Gabriel Deschenes is a Brewing Specialist on our team. After receiving his Bachelor of Science (Biology) at Bishop’s University, Gabriel completed his Graduate Certificate in Brewing Science, which included theoretical studies and more than 200 hours of hands-on experience at the Bishop’s Arches Brewery.  Gabriel recently headed up brewing at Hogtown Brewery before joining Steam Whistle.

Brewing Specialist, Josh Kirke

Josh Kirke is a Brewing Specialist on our team with a focus on Ingredients and Materials. Josh completed a Bachelor of Science (Biology and Chemistry) from Wilfred Laurier University, and brings years of brewing experience from several Ontario and Alberta craft breweries to his role. Josh attended professional development courses in malting and hop science where he learned to appreciate that quality brews come from quality ingredients.

Brewer, Ian Fraser

Ian Fraser is a Brewer, joining our team after working at Outlaw Brew Co. Ian first graduated with his BSc focusing on microbiology and molecular biology; he followed up with a post-grad certificate in Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management, from Niagara College where he graduated top of his class.

Jeff Pearson has been a Brewer at Steam Whistle for more than 20 years. He has brought a wealth of practical experience with him, having also been a brewer at Upper Canada Brewing and Molson Canada. Jeff has contributed to Steam Whistle’s quality and consistency with his steady, long service. We are going to miss him after his retirement at the end of 2020.

Brewer, Jennifer Gibson

Brewer, Jennifer Gibson brought inspiration from the Beer Appreciation course at George Brown College to her role at Steam Whistle and experience drawn from previous work as Assistant Brewer, Granite Brewery and in conducting tastings and packaging at Twin Pines Orchard and Cider House.

Eric Machacek, Brewer, joins our brewing team after stints at Mill St. Brewery and Great Lakes Brewery. Brewer, Dan Tackaberry gained experience in the Steam Whistle packaging department before joining the Brewing team. Eric and Dan’s operational experience was an asset during relocation and commissioning of brewing equipment from the Roundhouse to the Squarehouse in 2018. Rounding out the crew are Esther Farias and newer recruit Alan Trimble, who are receiving on the job training to add to their passion for brewing. Esther recently completed the Concise Course in Brewing Technology from Siebel Institute. Both Esther and Alan came to the Brewing team from other Steam Whistle departments after showing keen interest and passion for the craft. 

What are some of your recent initiatives at the brewery?

I have been taking a more quality-focused approach to ingredient selection. In developing the recipe for our Pale Ale, I travelled to Washington State to personally select the hops for that brew.  We will typically buy forward contracts on hops from single purveyors to secure a consistent, high-quality supply for established brands. But for new products, we have been using our pilot brewhouse to trial new ingredients and recipes.  It has been fascinating to detect each unique hop or barley varietal’s slight differences and then curate a desired finished product from select ingredients.

I am also emphasizing our team’s future by building a focus on training and development. We work cooperatively, seeking each team member’s input on new product recipes, or providing cross-training opportunities in each other’s area within the brewery.  We are a strong team, made stronger through collaboration.

I promise to introduce more product innovation in 2021, in the form of unique beers made locally for the Biergarten onsite at the Roundhouse.  We also have new, seasonal brews planned to be packaged for distribution across Canada.

Stay tuned!