Kitchener-Waterloo

Beer club toasts late member by brewing her English Mild for Canadian Homebrew Day

Members of the True Grist Homebrew Club wanted to honour a member who died from cancer this year, so they created a kit with her award-winning English Mild recipe to raise money for charity.

'She was a strong person and had a lot of character,' friend says

Christina Burbadge, right, stands in Stack Brewery with friend Ryan Dunlop. Burbadge won a homebrew competition at Stack Brewery in 2019. She died this past March and members of her homebrew group are honouring her memory by selling kits to make her award-winning beer with profits going to charity. (Stack Brewery/True Grist Homebrew Club)

An Ontario homebrew group is honouring the memory of a member who died earlier this year by helping people brew her award-winning beer for Canadian Homebrew Day.

Canadian Homebrew Day is held on the first Saturday in June in Canada. Usually, home brewers are asked to all use the same beer recipe. The True Grist Homebrew Club, which has members in Waterloo region, Guelph and area, has decided to do something different, though.

On March 19, True Grist member Christina Burbadge died after battling cancer. To honour her, and raise money for charity, the group has decided to sell kits with instructions and ingredients of an English Mild beer she made that won a homebrew competition in 2019.

Ryan Dunlop became friends with Burbadge as student experimental physicists at the University of Guelph.

He said, at first, she didn't care much for beer. 

"It was kind of unfortunate because for our work, we got to travel to places like Germany a lot and she never really appreciated the beer that we were drinking while we were there," he said.

Over time, Burbadge discovered she did like certain beers, like ones that were sour or hoppy. As her interest in beer grew, so did her interest in homebrewing.

"And so she just like got into it and started asking us a bunch of questions and we taught her and she just was passionate about it," he said.

After trying out the recipe on her own, Burbadge and Dunlop brewed a batch of the English Mild at the same time on their own brewing systems. He says she decided to enter her version into a competition at Stack Brewery in Sudbury in 2019, which she won.

'Right way to mark' day

That English Mild recipe, and its ingredients, are now part of a kit being sold through partners of True Grist, including Short Finger Brewing in Kitchener, and KJ Urban Winery and Craft Brewing Supplies in Guelph. The hops and malts in the kits were donated by BSG Canada in Guelph and the yeast was donated by Escarpment Labs in Guelph.

Kat Rogers-Hern, who owns Short Finger Brewing with her husband Rob, and who does beer education, says the fundraiser in Christina's honour "feels like the right way to mark" Canadian Homebrew Day.

"For me, as a woman in the beer industry, it means a lot to be able to highlight and celebrate Christina's recipe," Rogers-Hern said.

"From what I know of Christina, she was a big advocate for gender equality and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). Homebrewing and craft beer are still fairly male dominated; it feels really special to be able to honour Christina by celebrating her talents as a brewer."

Dunlop says Burbadge didn't fit the stereotypical image of a home brewer and while she would be a little embarrassed by the attention, Burbadge would also be happy that she would be breaking barriers with people brewing a beer she made.

"I think the beer is a great metaphor for her. It's an English mild, so it's only three and a half per cent alcohol. Most people think that these low alcohol beers are boring and don't have a lot of flavour. But it's a really bold beer. It has a ton of flavour for what it is. And I think that's kind of who she was as well," he said.

"She was a strong person and had a lot of character and yeah, I think they should remember her for being that type of person."

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