May 30, 2016

Meet John Palko, Head Brewer at Jasper Brewing Co.

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As head brew-master at Jasper Brewing Co., John Palko (locally known around town as “John the Brewer”), knows a thing or two about creating quality hand-crafted beer with an imaginative twist. John’s extensive knowledge of hops, grains, malts and barley has allowed him to satisfy the beer cravings of locals and visitors alike since he started at the brew pub in 2013.

With a Master’s degree in Chemistry from Carlton University, as well as years of brewing experience, John truly has the art of beer making down to a science, allowing him the freedom to experiment with new and creative recipes.

beer jasper brewing

Photo Credit: Geoff Deman @geoff_deman

We decided to ask John to tell us a little bit about himself, and share with us his insight on the popular time-tested recipes offered at Jasper Brewing Company:

1) What made you decide to get a Masters in Chemistry?

I decided to do an undergraduate degree in Chemistry simply because chemistry was a really fascinating subject for me in high school. During my undergraduate degree, I found a lot of sub fields of chemistry to be really fascinating as well, but it wasn't until I met (then new to the department) Professor Dr. Jeff Manthorpe. He was quirky but always helped out students (even if they weren't enrolled in his classes). He could always answer any question with a number of alternative answers. His proactive nature with students and seemingly endless knowledge (along with his custom Vans shoes) seemed like a great fit for me as a mentor. So, I joined his lab as an undergrad, and an opportunity to pursue a Master's soon followed. 

 2) What made you decide to move to and work in Jasper?

I actually didn't know anything about Jasper prior to moving here. After finishing school, I moved to Banff, where my older and younger brothers lived at the time, to relax in the mountains and (sort of) look for a job in my field. A friend of mine from my first stint in Banff a few years prior took me to the Banff Ave. Brewing Co. for some beers. They had a weekly beer tasting event which we joined and we attended regularly. Five months later they asked me to join their brewing team at their Jasper location. I didn't know anything about brewing but thought I could make it work out. It’s nearly three years later and I’m still in Jasper.

3) What’s your favourite beer in the whole world?

Trick question! I don't think I have drank my favourite beer in the world yet. 

4) Which Jasper Brewing Co. beer is your favourite?

That's another tricky question. There was one batch of Rockhopper IPA that had the right combination of hop varietals, which made it really tasty. Since then, we have been out of stock of a few of those varietals which makes reproducing that flavour pretty challenging. The India Session Ale from the summer of 2015 was a tasty beer too. Again, I had one hop combination I really enjoyed, which was in the first batch, but we soon ran out of that particular variety. My other favourites have been a German-style Hefeweizen from August 2015 and a Dark Rye Lager from October 2015.

Brew Pub

Photo Credit: Cory Johnn @CoryJohnn

5) What time does a typical day begin and end for you?

There's no typical day in the brewery, especially with the tourist season like Jasper has. In the summer I’ll start at 10 or 11 am with my brewer already working on a brew day while I stay until the work is done - which can be anywhere from 7 pm to 2 am. Our business in the summer relies on our brews being ready every single morning. It’s equally important in the other seasons, but we get significantly less business outside of summer, so you’ll usually find me having a pint around 7 pm.

7) What’s your favourite food item on the menu at Jasper Brewing Co? And what beer does it pair best with?

Right now my go to is the Tsukune Burger with side soup or salad. It was designed by our Executive Chef who has worked in Japan where his inspiration came from for the burger. I might get in trouble for this but I prefer not to pair food and beer! I think I can get myself out of trouble though by saying I pair beer with another beer.

8) People must be extremely jealous of the fact that you get to brew beer in a beautiful place, true?!

I guess you're right! Sometimes I do wish I had a larger brewhouse producing more volume so I can spend more time outdoors, but I can't win them all, eh!

9) What’s your favourite specially added ingredient to make beers with and why?

I don't think I have a favourite yet! I brew Old Man Winter Ale for the Christmas holidays which is spiced like gingerbread cookies. It has ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and sometimes other spices in it. Every year the recipe is different because I'm always experimenting with how I use the ingredients. But I'm not going to tell you how I use them. That's my secret!

Group at Jasper Brewing Company

Photo Credit: Jamie Walter @jwalter1337

10) What’s the most popular beer at Jasper Brewing Co.? Why do you think that is?

It's definitely Jasper the Bear Ale on draft. It's light, refreshing, easy drinking and it has our town mascot on the label! We do have a large cult following for our Blueberry Vanilla Ale, however. I can't seem to keep those bottles stocked in the fridge!

Want to meet John in person and learn more about the beer making process? Email [email protected] to book a complimentary brew-tour!

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