Canadian Business: How did you get started?
Crystal Luxmore: A few years ago I went to Australia to visit my best friend. I was working as a freelance journalist and wanted to write a travel story about Australia that hadn’t already been written. The craft beer scene was up and coming there, much like here in Canada, so I decided to write a story on it. We went to a bunch of small breweries, drank beer with the brewers and that was it. I was addicted.
I grew up drinking six-packs of Molson Canadian. I’ve always loved beer but I didn’t know you could get so in-depth. The people involved in the beer scene today are extremely interesting. Small independent brewers are so enthusiastic about what they’re making. It’s very hands-on work.
When I came home, I started writing about beer, but I wanted to know more about it. So I started looking into getting certified as a beer sommelier. In North America, there are two certifications. Here in Canada, it’s the Prud’homme Beer Sommelier. I took classes for that and got certified. Then I felt ready to write my Certified Cicerone exam, which is the U.S. certification. The Certified Cicerone exam involves three hours of writing and an hour of blind tasting. You have to get 80% to be certified. I passed in 2013. All in all it took about a year and a half of dedicated study.
There aren’t many cicerones in Canada yet. It’s nice to be one of the first. It gives me a chance to explore and innovate.
Are there any misconceptions about your job?
I think the misconception is that I get to hang out at bars all day and drink beer. I do tend to drink a lot of beer, but sometimes it’s at my desk at 10:30 in the morning, which is the best time for your palate to drink beer. I may have a sample and pour the rest of the bottle down the sink. Tasting beer becomes a bit like work sometimes.
Do you have a typical day?
I write a few stories a month about beer for national newspapers and magazines, so I’ll be coming up with story ideas, doing interviews or visiting brewers. The rest of my time is spent working on launching a beer school series in Toronto and preparing to speak at beer festivals—the latter of which involves coming up with fun ways to talk about beer to people who’ve been drinking it all day, which is challenging.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Get into beer earlier! I love it so much I wish I’d discovered it when I was younger. It takes a while to really become familiar with beer. There’s so much going on. I will happily be involved in the beer world here in Canada for the next few decades. I have five book ideas. I have ideas for all kinds of events. There are a lot of stories to be told and a lot of energy in the beer scene that makes going to work every day really fun. I only wish I’d started sooner.