Thank you, Ryan Jespersen: Tapping the West and the Alberta craft beer boom

“He kind of sounded like he was shouting at you,” said one friend who listened to this recent interview. He was joking, but the observation speaks to the enthusiasm with which Ryan Jespersen approaches pretty much any topic he covers – including Alberta craft beer. I think it’s great.

Many thanks to him for having me on the show in early May to talk about my book, Tapping the West, and about some of the factors that went into making the province’s craft beer industry possible. And awesome.

Definitely something worth shouting about, I’d say.

Thank you, Avenue Edmonton: An interview about Tapping the West

If someone’s willing to think of me as an artist for having a written a book about beer, I’ll take it! Thanks to Avenue Edmonton and writer Cory Schachtel for this interview in the May issue of the magazine.

“The book is about the beer scene, but it’s also about business diversification in Alberta. And to me, that’s something that the craft beer industry represents.”

Thank you, CBC Edmonton AM: Tapping the West and the state of Alberta’s craft beer industry

Not to make excuses for myself, but I’m about to make excuses for myself. This one was done at 6:40 in the morning, long after I’d switched over to keeping work-from-home pandemic hours. How does Mark Connolly and his team do it everyday? Cheers to them!

I’m grateful for the interview, no matter what I might have said. (I can’t bring myself to go back and listen – something to do with the idea of having to listen to my own voice, perhaps.)

Thank you, Canadian Beer News: Announcing the release of Tapping the West

I’m very grateful to Canadian Beer News, an online voice for beer industry developments across the country, for sharing news of the upcoming release of my new book, Tapping the West.

The book officially launches May 5, and is available at local bookstores (like Audreys in Edmonton, which offers curbside pickup) and online at Amazon and Indigo.

Homebrewing in the time of COVID-19

With a book coming out, and no chance of a launch anytime soon thanks to the pandemic, I was asked by my publisher to pull back the curtain on what I was up to at home these days. Here’s the big reveal.

This blog post doesn’t have a lot to do with Tapping the West: How Alberta’s Craft Beer Industry Bubbled Out of an Economy Gone Flat (now available for pre-order!). Writing it, however, got me thinking about the potential for COVID-19 to teach us something about ourselves. If this thing doesn’t kill us, it might indeed make us stronger somehow.

And if the proof doesn’t turn up in the pudding, maybe it will in the homebrew.

Give verse a chance

Ryan Merkley [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

After Gord Downie, is there hope for lyrics in mainstream Canadian music?

This article originally appeared in Eighteen Bridges, a Canadian magazine of narrative journalism.

A LOT OF WHAT I SAW ON MUCHMUSIC in the 1990s has stayed with me. Perhaps it’s because I entered the formative years of my adolescence during the channel’s heyday that so much of my memory bank has been signed over to VJ Erica Ehm, Big Shiny Tunes playlists and Dan Gallagher handing out two-slice toasters on his gameshow, Test Pattern.

But some useful things stuck, too, like a report from the network that aired on September 24, 1994. That day marked the release of Day for Night, an album that galvanized (in platinum, six times) the Tragically Hip’s reputation as atypical but accessible CanCon.

Toronto record stores stayed open until midnight to move copies, and MuchMusic cameras captured an scene that still strikes me as anomalous. A frenzied teenage boy tears plastic from the CD to free the liner notes. “There’s lyrics!” he shouts. Weirdly, he’s not alone. His frenzied friends join the chorus, high-fiving as if Bill Barilko or Paul Henderson or whichever hockey hero that Downie deified in verse had just pocketed a winner. I’d never seen anyone lose their mind over the words a modern, popular Canadian singer set to music. But MuchMusic took note, so I did too. Frenzied Teenage Boy and I became kindred spirits, acolytes of the people’s poetry of Gord Downie.

Continue reading Give verse a chance

Why a blanket exercise made me disappointed, uncomfortable and angry

As participants in the blanket exercise that was to come, we were told that we’d likely need the boxes of tissues being set out for us. It was a way of being told we weren’t ready to hear the things we were about to learn. Colonialism, our facilitator said, was “a brutal history.”

I’m ashamed to say that I really had no idea. This exercise helped me learn. Please read more at techlifetoday.ca.

The launch of another great issue of Eighteen Bridges

The fall 2017 issue features writing about Edmonton for Canada’s 150th birthday

eighteen bridges magazine, fall 2017, canada 150, edmontonAs senior editor at Eighteen Bridges, one of Canada’s top magazines for narrative journalism, I have the privilege of reading, working with, and helping to publish the writing of incredible authors. (Sometimes I even get to appear along side them, as the magazine’s music columnist.)

The fall 2017 issue was extra special. A collaboration with the Edmonton Community Foundation, it enlisted talented essayists who bring unique perspectives on Edmonton’s past, present and future. The result is a rich and varied anthology that runs the gamut of what makes Alberta’s capital a fascinating, complicated and, on the whole, amazing place to be.

I’d love for you to buy a copy to see it all for yourself – or better yet, subscribe! To help make my case, here’s a sampling of the awesome stories you can expect from this issue and those to come:

Why I returned to heavy metal in middle age

An unexpected reaction to Heavy Metal Parking Lot, 30 years later

heavy metal parking lot documentary
I hope filmmakers John Heyn and Jeffrey Krulik don’t mind me using this still from Heavy Metal Parking Lot.

Revisiting Heavy Metal Parking Lot when it turned 30 in 2016 was a shock.

At first, watching the cult classic documentary – which explored the inebriated human condition outside a Judas Priest concert in Maryland – was fun. It was a window onto the cringeworthy awkwardness of youth.

Or, was it a window onto myself?

And not my young self. Maybe my middle-aged self of the here and now. I wondered: Should I be worried? In an effort to figure that out, I wrote a short essay.

I hope you’ll enjoy it at eighteenbridges.ca. Rock on.