Regina’s Bushwakker Brewing Company is mourning the loss of their founder and president.
Bev Robertson passed away on Nov. 19 at the age of 78. The Bushwakker family made the announcement on Facebook Thursday.
Grant Frew, bar and marketing manager for Bushwakker, said Robertson had a rare form of leukemia that he’d been battling for the past few years.
The brewer had tried a number of different treatments, some of them experimental, to no avail.
“Unfortunately those forms of treatment were quite aggressive so I think his natural defense system really got run down and it just finally took him,” Frew said.
Robertson opened the successful Bushwakker brewery and pub in Regina in 1991, but had worked as a scientist at the University of Regina for years before.
He specialized in crystallography — the mapping of a natural formation’s molecular structure.
“Not exactly your Monday morning topic of discussion,” Frew said.
Robertson was drawn to craft beer while on an educational sabbatical to Germany in the 1970s. While there, he was exposed to world class German lagers.
When he arrived back in Canada, he tried different beer offered by big breweries but found no comparison to what he’d experienced in Germany.
“There was just no flavour, he didn’t even think it was beer at all,” Frew remembered.
“He used to joke about it, it was when he burped he knew there was some carbonation so it must have been technically beer.”
That’s when Robertson started buying imported beer. However, it was expensive and didn’t travel well from Europe, often arriving stale.
When the imported beer plan failed he began brewing at home, but that wasn’t good enough either because he didn’t have enough control over the final product.
Frew said Robertson then started “full-mash brewing,” buying malted barley and developing his own recipe.
He eventually shared that beer with his friends and colleagues at the U of R, to rave reviews.
“Having that strong science background really helped him understand the chemistry of brewing,” Frew said.
Robertson’s love of craft beer was so infectious his friends started brewing with him at his home on a regular basis, naming themselves the Bushwakker Brewers.
Shortly after, he entered his Palliser porter into a national home brewing competition and won the top prize.
“That gave him the confidence that maybe ‘I can really make some really good beer and I should take this commercial,'” Frew said.
Robertson spent months learning the business side of brewing, visiting pubs all over North America during academic trips as part of the health research board. He examined what successful brewers did well, and attended lectures on the matter.
By 1991, he was able to open Bushwakker with that expertise. Since then, he’s passed the knowledge down to future generations.
Robertson’s daughter is the general manager, his son-in-law is a chef, his granddaughter is the office manager and his grandson is the head brewer.
“That’s one thing he’s said, when you have a family business it will actually increase your chances of success just because everybody is that much more dedicated to the cause,” Frew said.
The public is being invited to a celebration of Robertson’s life on Nov. 27 at 2 p.m. at the Conexus Arts Centre, followed by a small celebration at Bushwakker Brew Pub at 5 p.m.
All food and drink proceeds that night will be donated to the Allan Cancer Centre in Regina.
At 6 p.m. Bushwakker will hold a ceremony where they will tap a cask of Palliser porter, Robertson’s award winning beer, which will be served for free.