“The more you know about beer, the less likely you are to abuse it,” says Colin Jack, historian, sociologist, webmaster and co-owner of Just Here for the Beer, an independent beer tasting company based in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. Jack and his partners, Zayvin Haqq and Rick Mohabir are not beer snobs or certified beer tasters. Their goal is to help people mainstream about beer by discovering unique qualities in the golden brew and how those qualities relate to their own individual palates. As educators from diverse backgrounds, teaching the average Joe and Joanna about the multi-dimensional world of beer is fun and has its own intangible rewards.
While a student at the University of British Columbia, Colin Jack worked as a program coordinator for the Alma Mater Society, a student association that presented Mini-school courses to the student body. He obtained approval for a Beer Tasting and Education Course, expecting a high level of interest among his fellow classmates. The initial registration was met with the enthusiasm of a pet rock and the class launched at the speed of snail sludge. Four students, including himself, were the guinea pigs for this new course, while the challenge of finding an instructor yielded no results.
Despite its rocky beginning, they forged ahead, centering the agenda upon fun and beer tasting while indulging in beer movies such as Animal House and Slapshot. During the next semester, enrollment jumped to a whopping seven students. As a special final project, they coordinated an “International Beer Festival” that drew 30 people, stirring up additional interest for future classes.
During this initial trial by fire, a parallel force began to take shape. Enthusiasm for the complex world of beer was sinking its roots into these beer-loving entrepreneurs. They began touring microbreweries in Vancouver, the interior parts of British Columbia and Alberta. Vancouver’s multi-cultural population led them to critique beers with a more global perspective, and the history of beer in Canadian society emerged as a fascinating study of marketing, sexology and beer trends. They identified descriptive qualities in beer, and taught their students how to assess what they liked and disliked about a beer.
Modifying the structure of the class with Powerpoint presentations and their developing knowledge, they began to receive ovations and applause from the growing number of students who enrolled in subsequent semesters. Topics of discussion were supplemented with special presentations: brewpub visits, a blind beer taste test, the “All Beer Commercial Film Festival” or “International Beer Festival.” They reviewed 6 to 8 different beers per class, including domestics, imports, specialty and micro-brewed beers, and developed professional tasting sheets and beer notes.
Just Here for the Beer currently present Beer Tasting & Education Classes at the University of British Columbia AMS Mini-School Program, Capilano College and various Community Centres throughout British Columbia. Classes are taught as consolidated one-day specials, or as more expansive courses spanning 3 or 4 weeks.
Instructors Colin, Zayvin and Rick have teaching degrees with extensive background knowledge in business and marketing, Canadian studies, food & beer, brewing and related studies. Topics presented range from history of beer, marketing and the brewing process to proper glassware, beer styles, macros, micros and beer reviews. They have appeared professionally as guests on TV and radio, and presently co-host the Annual Wine & Beer Festival at the University of British Columbia each Spring. For more information on classes or special events, visit Just Here for the Beer at www.justhereforthebeer.com