Working For the Weekend: With James Foran of Steam Whistle Brewery

By Jessica Brodeur
Photo: Sarah Whitlam

Photo: Sarah Whitlam

VANCOUVER — September 20th will kick off Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany and at The Imperial in Vancouver, thanks to beer and party expert James Foran at Steam Whistle. The perks of being a beer rep range from watching shows to researching local bands to sponsor, to delivering beer to thirsty customers and more. BeatRoute sat down for a cold pilsner on a hot day with Foran, who even sported his jolly lederhosen in anticipation of next month’s Oktoberfest festivities. Prost!

BeatRoute: How long have you been working for Steam Whistle?

James Foran: I’ve been with them for about six and a half years now, about three in Toronto and three and a half in Vancouver.

BR: How did the Oktoberfest event start?

JF: A few years ago Steam Whistle recognized anyone who had been at the company for five or 10 years of service. For anyone who’d been there at least five years got a trip to the following Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, and a tour of breweries through to Prague. After the first trip the guys came back and had an amazing time and decided that it would be awesome to bring that experience back to Toronto. We started it at the brewery in Toronto. We have a beautiful beer hall with a capacity for 600 or 700. That was a success and we extended it to other provinces. 2013 was our first Vancouver Oktoberfest and now we’re in our second year at a bigger venue, we outgrew it in our first year! We’re at The Imperial now; it’s such a beautiful old building. We’ve got a band, a DJ, a German dance troop, and we’re going to decorate the whole thing and turn it into a bierhalle.

BR: Did you go on the Germany trip?

JF: No, for me that’s this year. I go just after the Vancouver Oktoberfest event.

BR: What’s your favourite German food?

JF: Definitely any kind of sausages. We’ve got Bestie from Chinatown doing traditional German fare for us. Nice to work with a local company onboard!

BR: What’s the best part of the job for you?

JF: Besides having awesome beer – which helps to sell it if you really enjoy the beer – we get a lot of freedom at our company. It’s not really regulated as day to go days, so we work with our strengths and work towards each market. The brewery has been really great at figuring it out for ourselves.

BR: What is the “Vancouver market”?

JF: There’s a lot of ales here, it offers a unique opportunity for us as a pilsner among the various other IPAs and ales. There’s a lot of good breweries out here, but we have a different approach. There are challenges as people often ask if we have an IPA or pale ale… but we are Canadian and putting out a premium product and Vancouver has been very receptive to us.

BR: Is there a worst part of the job?

JF: I guess in B.C., and this isn’t even a worst part, it comes with the job, but there’s only three of us out here. We just brought on a third rep about a month and a half ago. Friday night or Saturday night if a bar runs out of beer, that falls to us. There are worst things to have to do than hop in a cab and deliver some beer. It’s not always the most enjoyable, but people are usually happy to see you in that circumstance.

BR: Do you collect beer steins?

JF: I have a few, and my collection has certainly grown over the last few years as Steam Whistle has put them out.

BR: What’s your best stein?

JF: When I was there in Germany I got a couple, a glass one that represents Hamburg; it’s a pretty fun one. My buddy and former colleague Elton Clemente does all the designs for [Steam Whistle steins.] It’s really neat to be able to have a piece of art that my buddy has made. Every year they change so it’s starting to be a collector’s item. Each ticket comes with a half-litre stein that they can take home at the end of the night with them.

Vancouver Oktoberfest presented by Steam Whistle happens at The Imperial on September 20th, see http://steamwhistle.ca/ for details.

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