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Serving up a local take on craft brewing

Having developed a passion for craft beer, Elmira’s Scott Willard has been spreading the word. His established Instagram reviews have recently been joined by a video podcast co-hosted by Jim Brickman, a fellow who knows a thing or two about craft brewing.
There are now two episodes of The Beer Show posted on YouTube, the first featuring Rural Roots Brewing in Elmira and the second focusing on Block Three in St. Jacobs.
Willard has been doing beer reviews on Instagram (bigwilly1827) for four or five years, with the idea for a podcast fermenting for about a year after he met Brickman, the founder of one of the country’s earliest craft breweries, Brick Brewing Co.
“He’s the original craft guy in Canada,” said Willard of Brickman, who launched Brick Brewing in 1984. “It’s nice to see his take on things.”
In mapping out the podcast, they looked at the logistics of studio space, a home locale and the like.
“We were trying to figure out how to implement it. Then we said, ‘why don’t we go to breweries?’”
Starting with his hometown, Willard and Brickman visited Rural Roots before heading down the road a piece to Block Three, which is where he first got into craft beers.
“The guys from Block Three got me hooked on craft beer,” he noted.
Since that time, he’s taken craft beers to heart, travelling near and far to sample them, as well as trying brews sent to him by likeminded people he’s met through his online postings.
“I’ve gotten to know so many people in the industry,” he said.
In that time, he’s seen the craft brewing field explode, with hundreds of small breweries in Ontario alone.
That alone ensures he’ll never run out of material for his podcast. His plan is to start locally and expand outward in geography. Next up, for instance, is TWB (Together We’re Bitter) in Kitchener, with plans to include Innocente, Counterpoint, Elora and Descendants.
“We want to feature these local guys, promote them,” he said. “Every brewery has a different story.”
At small craft breweries, the person pouring your beer is often the one who made it. The people who get into the field are typically passionate about beer, often having been home-brewers for years, and they love to talk about beer and making it, said Willard, noting they’re not shy about spreading the word.
“The breweries love it when you talk about them,” he laughed.
And there’s always something new to talk about, as craft breweries are always experimenting with new recipes, making small-batch products and delving into various ingredients. There’s an unlimited number of options.
“You want to come back because there’s always something new,” he said of visiting the small breweries, which certainly counts as research in his case.
And he’s very fond of research, enjoying a variety of beers.
“I love brown ales and porters,” he said. “And there are some really nice pilsners and lagers. And great seasonal stuff.
“I like everything,” he concludes, with a laugh.
That comes in handy as he works his way through the many beers now available, posting his takes via Instagram and, now, the podcast.
The idea being the show, which is largely unscripted and “off the cuff,” is to maintain an intimate feel, Willard explained.
Part of the inspiration came from Robert Arsenault, aka Drunk Polkaroo, who does reviews on YouTube.
“He’s the guy that got me going,” he said, noting Arsenault has been helpful as The Beer Show gets underway.
In fact, people in the industry as a whole are always supportive of one another, he added, pointing to established brewers being happy to assist those just starting out.
That’s a big reason why he says he’d love to make the reviewing an even bigger part of his life, though the day job with the city of Kitchener is still a thing. For now, he’s concentrating on ramping up the podcast, which is produced by Jody Schnarr, Patrick Schnarr and Mike Brown, with filming and editing done by Adam Rochon of Respecting The Process.
“We would love to get it on some kind of streaming network,” he said, quaffing a cold one – the research never ends.

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