Beer tasting played a big role in retired brew master and Fairwinds resident Douglas Babcook’s career.
He created the legendary Baderbrau beer through countless tasting during tours in Europe. Two decades working at Stroh Brewing Company helped, too.
He started at Stroh as a brew master in 1969 after successfully completing the Institute of Brewing exams for the Master Brewer designation.
This involved several years as an apprentice, assistant and finally, brew master at Dow Brewery in Montreal, one of the Canadian Breweries chain, composed of Dow Brewery, Carling Brewery and O’Keefe Brewing Co. He then spent six months at the American Brewers Academy in New York.
The neatly dressed, naval ex-lieutenant argued that the key to creating a great beer is not from a recipe, but knowledge and experimentation.
“A good cook doesn’t follow a recipe. You modify it, change it, and do what it takes to make it taste better to your liking,” said Babcook. The 85-year-old believes beer tasting helped identify different flavours and combinations.
“Beer production is more complex than making wine,” said Babcook.
It involves natural ingredients that change from year to year. He follows the German Purity Law, a method of beer production that restricts the brewer from using any preservatives other than malt, hops, yeast, and water.
Babcook started his own consulting business after leaving Stroh in the late 1980s. He wanted to use his knowledge to help other breweries create better tasting beers.
“Consulting allowed me to travel the world. I spent three years in Russia and visited over forty breweries in the country,” said Babcook. He also traveled to Paraguay, Sri Lanka, India and China. He now resides in Fairwinds, beckoned by the ocean 12 years ago.
In 1989, when Babcook was hired as a consultant with Pavichevich Brewing Company in Chicago, he and the owner, Ken Pavichevich, travelled to Europe to taste beers. On their third beer tasting tour, Babcook decided the best beers in the world were in the Czech Republic. Sitting in 111 Beers, a dimly-lit, pub-style tavern in Munich, he told Pavichevich they would create a combination of the Czech Pilsner and Budweiser Budvar. Babcook filled an empty stein with fifty percent of each of the two draft beers, and the legendary Baderbrau was born. It was a smooth, Czech-style Pilsner that followed the German Purity Law.
Ten years later Babcook received a call from Baderbrau Brewing Company. It took two years for owners Rob Sama and Joseph Berwanger, to track down Babcook. They purchased the rights of the beer name and wanted to reinvent Baderbrau, the dark, creamy beer Babcook created.
The beer’s life had ended when the original brewing company claimed bankruptcy several years earlier.
Babcook provided his expertise to ensure an exact replica of the original dark beer. It was an award-winning brew that Michael Jackson argued was “the best Pilsner I have ever tasted in North America.”
Babcook wanted to share his beloved beer with the world. Opening Creemore Springs Brewery with John Wiggins in 1988 was his third brewery venture in North America. Creemore Springs beer earned a Gold Medal in the Pilsner category at the Canadian World Beer Championship.