Meet the Brewmaster: Category 12’s Michael Kuzyk

Out in Victoria there’s a brewery that’s doing things a little differently. Taking a serious science-first approach, Category 12 is scouring the history books looking for traditional brewing methods to pair with modern science to create beers that are wholly unique and pretty much unlike anything else on the market.
I had a chance to chat with Brewmaster Michael Kuzyk, whose PhD and love for craft beer has put Category 12 in a category of its own (only bad pun, I promise).
What do you think makes Category 12 different from other BC breweries?
My background is an obvious differentiator, though I know there are a few PhD’s out there that are intrigued by my seemingly colossal career switch. Because we are both such an integral part of brewery operations, our customer experience is unusually personal and genuine. We’ve prioritized pursuing our passion with integrity over monetary gain, and that’s something that resonates strongly with our customers.
How does science play into the beer process?
This is best discussed over a beer 😉 Put simply, it’s biochemistry in the brewhouse, and microbiology in the fermentors. Combine that with rigorous protocols and you have beer…add the passion, commitment, and loving care that we’ve personally put in every day for the last several years and you have yourself some delicious craft beer
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What is your background/why did you get into craft beer?
I have a PhD. in Biochemistry and Microbiology from UVic. During grad school one of my few hobbies was to maintain a healthy supply of homebrew, and I never left it behind. There is a slightly longer story to this, but that’s the general gist of it.
What styles of beer are you into the most?
The ones that make my wife happy! Seriously, though, we have quite different tastes. Her palate is more suited toward Belgian-inspired beers, while I’ve been a fan of hop-forward West Coast styles for years. This is the reason you’ll see both “families” of beers evenly represented. The beers that come out of our brewery are the ones we’re the most passionate about…those using challenging yeast strains like Brettanomyces, delicious Imperial IPAs, higher ABV Belgians…a lot of fun is being had finding (and making!) our favourite beer!
What do you see in the future of Category 12?
Continued experimentation! It’s an integral part of the process here at Category 12; a natural extension of my personality and background that lends itself to the multitude of beer styles (and breweries) available to the avid consumer. Our Barrelholder program and Elemental Series allow us to complement our year-long offerings with the results of our research so there’s always something new to try!
Your Raw Ale is a unique style of beer, explain why you decided to experiment with this, and do you have any plans for more oddities in the future?
Exploring the myriad of options both historic and present is part of the great depth this industry has to offer. My wife came across the idea during her reading, and given the fact the story of this beer has roots in both of our heritage, it seemed like a natural fit. I was confident that if there was one brewery with the technical know-how to create a commercial version of the raw ale, it would be us. We see it as a great representation of the terroir of our brewery, especially with the addition of Chris Paul’s red cedar.
Have you seen any particular trends in the BC beer industry? 
A few, though it’s worth noting that the industry is reflecting market demand, not the other way around. Beers with more complexity, lower ABVs, softer IBUs, sours…they’re all being made because that’s what people want to drink.
Can you give us a list of three of your favourite BC beers?
Crannog’s Back Hand of God
Driftwood’s Fat Tug
Townsite Brewing’s Shiny Penny
Do you find as a Victoria brewery, it’s hard to connect with a mainland audience?
To an extent. There’s been such a massive proliferation of breweries in the last few years it’s hard even for us to keep track of them all. We jokingly call it the “Island Tax” of being out of sight, as it’s much harder to connect if you have to take a ferry to get to the taproom. Time and money towards marketing can be more challenging as an owner-operated brewery, too.
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