Vancouver craft brew pioneer pours botany, biology into the mix

These days breweries are popping up all over Vancouver. But when botanist James Walton (BSc 1985) founded Storm Brewing in 1994 he was basically flying solo. Today, Storm is the longest running craft brewery in the city.
  • James Walton
  • BSc 1985

When did you first start making beer?

When I was a kid my dad bought an encyclopedia and I read the entry on beer. So I went to the barn and got barley, made a mess out of the kitchen, and two weeks later I had the most awful beer I’ve ever made. In university, I’d make batches of beer when I lived at Gage Tower and all the students would drink with me. You could say I got a lot of encouragement early on.

What’s the appeal of beer?

Brewing is like cooking for a thousand people all at once. You have fun and feel powerful at the same time. I know it makes me sound like an evil genius.

How has your science background helped with beer making?

Brewing beer is about biological processes. You’re trying to get consistency from batch to batch, which can be difficult. But I also designed all the equipment at the brewery myself—I built it from scrap. I know those tanks inside and out. My friends thought I was crazy, cruising scrapyards, welding derelict tanks together. But I like the look of it.

What’s your work week like?

Monday is snowboard day. Wednesdays is brewing day and I do all the brewing. Each week we have different Brainstorm Brews and on Thursdays it’s brainstorming day. That’s when we decide what we are going to make the next week. Then on the weekend we do deliveries and it gets busy with people coming in to buy growlers. I love hands-on work and would hate working in an office.