Calgary

Calgary beer lover downs pints to get to his 20,000th unique brew

A self-proclaimed beer nerd is getting ready to drink his 20,000th unique brew. Don Tse has been counting down to this day for two decades.

Local brewery makes new concoction in Don Tse's honour, dubbed 'the Village Idiot'

Don Tse takes beer seriously. He's a certified beer judge and a professional beer writer. He's also about to mark having sampled 20,000 different beers. (Michele Tse)

A self-proclaimed beer nerd is getting ready to drink his 20,000th unique brew.

Don Tse​ of Calgary has meticulously tracked his beer drinking for the past two decades in a spreadsheet. As of Wednesday morning, he had recorded having sampled 19,983 different beers.

"Even when I hear it, I'm a little bit shocked by it. I have 17 to go," Tse told the Calgary Eyeopener, while sporting a T-shirt that read "The Don of Beer."

He plans to drink 16 by Saturday, because that day, he'll drink his 20,000th beer.

To mark his incredible stomach for suds, Village Brewery has concocted a new type of beer, "which is called the Village Idiot, named after me," Tse said.

The brewery, and restaurant Pig and Duke, have put together an 11-course, beer-paired dinner to celebrate and raise money for Providence, a set of schools for Calgary children with disabilities.

Don Tse helped create a beer Village Brewery is making to mark his 20,000th beer. It's called the Village Idiot. (Don Tse/Twitter)

Tse sees the humour in his unusual race-against-himself but he isn't just an amateur enthusiast.

He's a regular freelance beer writer and a certified beer judge. He also blogs and tracks his beer drinking on his website, beerstoyou.ca, with a counter to mark each new brew.

His passion for brews dates back 20 years to when he bought a book about the drink's variety of styles.

"I am, just by my nature, kind of a nerd and I like keeping track. I keep track of lots of things," Tse said. "And so I just put it into a database and just kind of kept adding to it."

At first, he was drinking three or four new beers in a month. Then he set a goal of 365 different beers in a year.

"That was really, really hard to do. I scoured the city, all the stores, trying to find something new," Tse said. "You know, I had some beers that were new ... and regretted them because they tasted horrible."

Now "with the proliferation of breweries all around the world," he typically drinks a different beer each evening, maybe two.

"My wife and I love to travel, and that's really where I rack up my numbers," Tse said.

That how's he's been able to clock in roughly 2,000 a year — which works out to more than five different types a day.

Don Tse and his wife, Michele Tse, love to travel and make a point of hitting breweries in whatever place they're visiting. (Michele Tse)

On trips, the couple might visit three or four breweries in a day. Each of those might have up to 10 beers he hasn't tried — not that he'd drink them all, he said.

Sometimes he drinks little samplers but often he does down the entire pint. Regardless, you'll see him drinking with a laptop out or a notebook in hand to take notes.

One of his favourite beers was one he discovered on such a trip more than a decade ago in Luxembourg. With his wife, Michele Tse, he took a train and then a bike to a remote part of the province to find a monastery built in the early 1000s.

Sometimes Don Tse will drink sampler-size or smaller glasses of beer but often he does have a full pint. (Michele Tse)

The Trappist Monks are a strict order marked by vows of celibacy and silence. They're famous for their beers, brewed for their own daily consumption. They sell small batches to fund their expenses and charitable works.

The Orval, named for Orval Abbey in Luxembourg, is among Tse's favourites. He's held onto a bottle of it now for 10 years.

"It's a blend of sort of German, Belgian and English beer style," he said. "Everything great about beer, all together in one glass."

Don Tse drinks his beer with his notebook or laptop ready in order to track each unique drink. (Michele Tse)

Tse is getting suggestions for the final few beer before the 20,000 mark, but he says he has it well in hand. He saved a few unique ones in the fridge, and he's visiting Edmonton on Friday, where he'll try out a few new micro breweries.

"I've been drinking more beer over the last couple weeks than I normally would, and you know, thank you to all my friends who are seeing me through this," he said with a laugh.

Listen to Don Tse describe his passion for beer tasting:

Tse said he doesn't believe he's close to breaking a world record for drinking the highest number of different beers. He's seen some users of beer tracking apps clock even higher counts.


​With files from Judy Aldous and the Calgary Eyeopener.