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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Two Cowboys: New Zealand Beer in a Can Made Perfectly Every Time with WilliamsWarn in Dunedin, New Zealand

Kiwi In A Can

We all know that beer doesn't travel well. Light, movement and temperature fluctuations are some factors contributing to the rapid degradation of the flavour profile of freshly brewed and fermented beer. How can you then send beer halfway around the world and ensure that it is as fresh as it should be the day it is poured?

I think WilliamsWarn in New Zealand has the answer. They send New Zealand's best brews as malt extract in a can all over the world, and leave the last steps of the beer making process - fermentation, pouring and consumption - up to their customers. At the same time, they liberate their brewers from some of the heavy-handed taxations that accompany man's oldest beverage.

It's like the tea and coffee business. The manufacturer does all the work with the best ingredients they have, and all you have to do is add water or pull a shot of espresso. In the case of WilliamsWarn, add water and yeast, give it a little time, chill and pour yourself a clean, crisp, fresh New Zealand beer!

At Speights with WilliamsWarn

Award Winning Home Brewer - Nick Koppers

Chef Jason van Dorst - Experimental Brewer


We were hosted by Sean Toohey of WilliamsWarn at Speights Brewery. He wanted us to see first-hand, where the deliciousness of WilliamsWarn's beer came from.

The brewery is in one of New Zealand's iconic beer locations - Dunedin. It is rich in history and famous for its "Pride of the South" branding. James Speight, Charles Greenslade and William Dawson handed in their notices at Well Park Brewery in 1876 to establish their own brewery in Dunedin’s Rattray Street. Dawson was the brewer, Greenslade the maltster and Speight the businessman. The rest is history, as they say.

Today, the business is part of the Lion Group of companies. Not only do they still brew the famous Speight’s Gold Medal Ale, but the facility is now also a key producer of malt extract for food producers, craft, micro and home breweries the world over. Almost as much as half the capacity of the facility is dedicated to this niche line of products that are made uniquely and exclusive with New Zealand brewing ingredients. Yes, you heard it right. New Zealand hops, malt and specialty grains are added to the famous water from the spring underneath the Brewery to produce perfect wort extracted in a can of malt, and then they send it to us here in Canada courtesy of WilliamsWarn.

WilliamsWarn's patented BrewKegs unlock this Kiwi goodness for us when we add water and yeast, and a little hops to taste, and send us on a taste journey back home to our Island, and to the people that are proud of their South and their beer.


The beer business is complicated. Brewing is even more tricky. You can be a lover of beer and hate everything that comes with the industry. It is tricky not only due to the way it is done but because of the players, grandstanding, dress-ups, technologies, regulations, taxations, ingredients, branding, tariffs and more.

Amongst all this complexity of what should be a relatively simple matter - like baking bread - we are sincerely thankful for someone that can obscure it all, and deliver to us a simple, failure proof way, we too can take charge of our beer.

What we've learned now, thanks to our visit to Speights, is that not only does WilliamsWarn liberate us and our beer by making it simple and easy to make our own beer, it also sends us goodness from home, extracted in a can of malt. What an ingenious way to do it!

Thank you for our New Zealand beer - in a can!

Hendrik van Wyk
Beer Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities.


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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Two Cowboys: Conversation with Julian Bond at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts in Vancouver, Canada

If Your Name Is On The Door

You find these people in the slums of grimy chip shops in London, at local markets across Asia, or at the roadside taco stands in Mexico City. They operate a smashed burger food truck grill on a beach in New Zealand or the dessert station of a world-renowned hotel's kitchen. They mind the oven at the local pizza parlour or the pasta station at the Michelin Star restaurant in Downtown New York. I am referring to the ever-present culinary workforce that is responsible for much of our food every day.

The food industry is vast, and the opportunities are endless. There are possibilities for anyone, anywhere in the world. It was always, and still is a trusted way to earn a living. Cooking and food preparation is as old a profession as civilized man, itself.

We wanted to know from Julian Bond, the Vice-President & Chief Operating Officer at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Art (PICA), what determines the success of the individual that ventures in by choice or chance, in such a vast array of opportunity, locales, and roles. 

See the full documentary here at


Sue Singer founded the Institue in 1997. The school is located in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada, at the entrance to Granville Island. It is an accredited, private and co-educational culinary training facility that provides students with world-class training in a setting filled with both cultural and recreational opportunities.

They provide an array of programs from casual classes to wine programs, their award-winning Bistro 101 Restaurant and Bakery 101 Café course. They cater for a wide range of corporate events. The flagship is their Professional Diploma Programs in Culinary Arts and Baking & Pastry Arts.


What is considered success nowadays in the culinary world? Is it surviving the next paycheck as line-cook, obtaining the almighty Michelin star as a chef, gaining fame and celebrity on television, or having the fortune of owning your business? Maybe it is becoming a mentor and a teacher training the next generation of cooks and chefs like Julian is doing?

He had some choice words. Like most sages, much of what he had to say went beyond his profession. He shared some life lessons.

For example, some people enter the business through the dishwasher's door; others have the privilege of attending a prestigious culinary school and working with a renowned mentor. For everyone, their foundation, work ethic, focus and commitment determines their path in the culinary industry, as it does in any other business.

It helps to start with a good foundation. It makes it easier in the long run. For some, a sound basis is cutting their teeth on the hard work at the bottom rungs of a kitchen, learning the basics and work ethic that goes with the playing field. For others, the foundation is the chemistry of ingredients they discover in a structured certified cooking program like the ones at PICA. For all, it is ultimately their focus and commitment that determine the chances for success. More often, it is not the talent that makes it to the top. Instead, it is the person willing to put in the work, that becomes distinguished.

There is no substitute for experience and only two possibilities to get it. You can either make your own mistakes or surround yourself with the right people and use the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. A culinary school provides an ideal environment where you can learn from a lot of errors - your own, and those of your classmates.

It still left us with the big question. What is a success and how do you recognize it in the industry? Success is realizing the value of sitting down with your family for a home-cooked Sunday afternoon meal. It is the discovery of the transitional states of sugar and seeing the unfolding of a protein. It is tasting the burst of caviar, the perfume of truffle, the tingling of champagne bubbles and the fragrance of a freshly peeled orange. Ultimately, success in food is very much the same as it is for life. If you blink, you miss it. If you look away, it slips by you. Success is the realization that every moment counts, and it is only the moment that count.

If your name is on the door, you better be in the restaurant. If your bread is in the oven, you better watch it. If your steak is on the grill, you better keep an eye it. It happens fast in a kitchen as it does in life. If your students are in the class, you better teach them. If you've found your passion in life, you better live it.

Ultimately, success is being in the moment in all its glory. Before you know it the restaurant will be opened, entrees prepared, souffle done, stars awarded, desserts served, service completed, dishes washed, and goodbyes said, before all starts again in the morning.

It always starts again in the morning.

Hendrik van Wyk
Cullinary Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. We use Patreon to publish our premium content. Please become a patron at if you want to see more of this and other local maker stories.







Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Two Cowboys: The Story of Alberta's Maltsters at Canada Malting in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Where Beer Begins

As the saying goes, "Behind every successful man, there is a loving and supportive wife". The same goes for brewing: "Behind every perfect glass of beer, there is a devoted and talented maltster".

Brian Dunn from Canmore Brewing Company puts it best when he says that brewing beer is relatively easy. Brewing good beer is not that hard either. Doing it consistently, over and over, again and again, is a real challenge. Then, you realise as craft brewer that you have to rely on the help of your maltster.

The maltsters understand the grain. They are the people that provide excellent breweries with a consistent foundation and reliable platform from where they can tailor their clients' favourite brews. Without them, every brew is bound to be different. Gone are the days where the brewery planted the grain, grew the hops, malted the barley, made the beer, distributed and served it. Today, every step of the value chain is fragmented and specialised. With the revival of craft brewing and distilling all over the world, it is even more evident that over-ambitious fledgeling breweries underestimate their reliance on right quality ingredients and trustworthy ingredient providers.

There is a straightforward recipe for a successful craft brewery to keep its patrons and stay in business. Make delicious beer consistently. If your batches deviate in taste and vary in quality, you risk alienating the very customer you've just won over from the brewery down the road. Big breweries know this. Craft breweries are learning it the hard way. Merely to have a brewing license is not a recipe for success. You have to make delicious beer and do it consistently.

See the full documentary here at


In the late parts of 2016, just as Alberta's late-blooming craft brewing and distilling industry took off, we embarked on something we referred to as the great Alberta Beer Run. We wanted to meet the heroes and heroines of Alberta's craft liquor revival. We tried to take in the elixirs of joy, meet the license anointed, grant selected and subsidised entrepreneurs who overcame the regulatory perils of liquor production in a Province still suffering from a prohibition hangover. We planned to proclaim their success to an audience in waiting. Alberta finally arrived in the world of craft beer and distilling, and they are here to stay! Hooray!

Once the euphoria subsided in 2017, and we recovered from our hangover and after-taste of bad experimental brews, we discovered a whole different side to the story. A typical epiphany of craft played out for us like it did for craft disciples in other jurisdictions as well.

What we discovered was that brewing is actually easy. Beer is just beer. The best beer is fresh beer. The guy with the beard may look like the brewer but probably isn't. Your "local" beer may not be that local. If you are a brewery or distillery, your contribution to tariffs, excise and taxes make you a de facto public servant. We've found community dress-ups and craft impersonators. The sales droning of glacier-fed water, terroir authority, farm-to-glass spiels and the countless self-celebratory awards became monotonous with every sip of gin and with every ale we drank in the hope for something, anything genuinely inspirational and authentic to reveal itself.

Then it hit is. Behind all this make-believe of craft is a rock solid foundation that is also the foundation for businesses before and much more substantial than craft. All of these players rely on the simple ingredient for the success of their business. The maltster is the one person all of them have in common. Malt is the foundational ingredient before flavouring with hops, botanicals, barrels and any other concoction that makes it into your drink, and Alberta produces it. That is the real inspiration and the genuinely authentic story of how Alberta's maltsters are fueling the fire of creativity for brewers and distillers beyond our province.

The story is bigger - much bigger. It is the story of Alberta's place in the world of brewing and distilling, and no one is telling it. That is why we are showing it.

Alberta, Canada has a strong grain producing history thanks to the flat topography of its landscape, its fertile soil, sunny summers, and the pioneering hardiness of its people. The Province's farmers plant and grow the best barley and wheat in North America. It is this grain that is sent all over the world to make some of the world's best beer and whiskies. It is also the grain that is helping to fuel the explosion; some may say the revival, of craft brewing in North America.

However, there is a less glamorous side to the story. A contribution that begs to be highlighted and must be shared. A role that remains obscured in the beard boding, hipster culture wielding world of craft. It is the role of the maltster. Before Alberta's grain becomes beer and whisky, it needs first to become malt, which is the foundational ingredient in any brew. Someone is malting our grains and we need to know who it is. We are telling the maltster's story.

The role of Alberta's Maltsters goes back to the late eighteen hundreds with a company called Canada Malting. Today, this company is the most significant malt company in Canada, producing approximately 400,000 metric tonnes of malt per year. They are sending it to brewers and distillers around the world. Alberta's maltster has been fueling the beer industry, and more recently, the craft beer and distilling industry in a substantial way, and they are planning to continue to do so.


We thank the people we could feature in this documentary for an opportunity to include you in this story. We appreciate the commitment that you've made to the Two Cowboys, and for allowing us to get to know you and your businesses better. Some of you even became loyal friends and clients over the months we've put into filming this production.

The most significant lesson we take away from our work producing this documentary is a realisation that one should invest in the people that invest in you. That is what we endeavour to do every day. The businesses that embraced us made this documentary possible. As a thank you, we hope the exposure they get from our work contributes, even if it is a small part, to their future success.

This documentary is entirely self-funded. No one paid us to do it. We did it because of our love for beer, and for our people.

You are:

Hendrik van Wyk
Beer-Loving Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. We use Patreon to publish our premium content. Please become a patron at if you want to see more of this and other local maker stories.


Alberta's Maltsters







My Fresh Beer

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Two Cowboys: Life's a Lot Like Bull Riding at Wicked Willow Log Works in Carstairs, Alberta

Bull Riding and Small Business

You never know where you're going to land. One day you're on the back of a bucking bull and the next you are starting a small business in Alberta. These endeavours have more in common than you may think. It happened to Rodeo Star Beau Brooks in 2014. In his words, "You have to stay on top to get paid."


In bull riding, you need to have the guts to climb on the back of a monster beast. Then you hold on for your life and to earn your pay. When you fall, you can only hope to land on your feet to avoid humiliation and injury. Finally, if you have what it takes to succeed, you do it again. Getting back up separates the champions from the "never to be heard from again". Every ride is a learning experience. You learn about your limitations, and you gain respect for the beast. Even if you finish the ride with success, the whole endeavour is set to claim a toll on your body. It will leave you with scars and life stories of a hell of an adventure.

Entrepreneurs don't often see or get to know the small business beast they are climbing. If they did, many wouldn't dare to even try. For the enterprising few that do get on, it is a daily struggle to persevere and maintain focus. Many cards are stacked against their success. As they hold on for life, they become familiar with the all-consuming monster of hard work, at all hours of the day and night. Then there are the regulations, taxation, minimum wage, quality control, financials, staff, and customer complaints that are set to wear you down. With every fall you get to know yourself a little better. When you get back up to try again, you become the backbone of society. That is why there will always be special people that ride bulls, and those with the guts to start businesses. Not many will be able to say that they've done both.

In 2014, as a rodeo star riding bulls and a father to be, Beau Brooks built for his wife Nerissa, a yard swing set and a bedroom set. Friends and family saw the items and wanted the same. The garage was quickly turned into a workshop, and the fledgling business called Wicked Willow Log Works took flight. As demand and requests for new products grew, they had to expand. Since then, they've outgrown the garage. They added some friends to the crew and started to chase the dream of building log cabins in 2017, with the first one delivered and another in process.


It is striking to see the core values of the Cowboy culture in Beau and Nerissa's business. You have two humble, committed, community focussed, and hard-working people with big dreams and big plans. Judging by the pace set by Nerissa, they also have the energy to pull off. They are succeeding in building a flourishing business during one of Alberta's hardest economic downturns.

The products are as unique as the materials they use. They do it with Alberta lumber and take pride in every item that leaves their store because it is rustic and authentic. It is hand-made in with a lot of Wicked Willow talent and commitment.

I asked Nerissa and Beau about their goal for the near future. "If we can build our own cabin like we do for other people, it will be wonderful!", was Nerissa's reply. I have every bit of confidence that the cabin is a lot closer in their future than they expect if you judge it by the demand for their work.

We look forward to visiting them soon in their own home.

Hendrik van Wyk
Log Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. We use Patreon to publish our premium content. Please become a patron at if you want to see more of this and other local maker stories.









Saturday, January 13, 2018

Traveling Cowboys: Trying Out New Hat Styles at Calgary's Only Custom Hat Manufacturer, Smithbilt Hats

It's a Fedora

Some people will call just about anything with a brim and a fixed crown a “fedora”. For the purist, a fedora is a felt hat with pinched sides and a lengthwise crease down the crown. It gives the front a familiar wedge-like shape.

One of the big advantages of a fedora and one of the reasons for the style's popularity is the wide flexible brim. Fedora brims are flat with no constructed edge or curl. The brim can be bent up or down as the wearer pleases.

The crown and the brim can both be moulded to the wearer’s taste. It means one can extract a lot of personality from these hats. The shape of the hat always communicates personality. So does the way it is worn. For example, it can be tilted down over the eyes which gives a mysterious "I mean business" look. It can be angled slightly upward for a more open and approachable form.


We love wearing out Cowboy hats. Brian Hanson from Smithbilt Hats shaped them for us and over the years it's become a part of who we are and a key element of our brand.

There are many practical reasons for wearing a hat and we don't need fashion to convince us to do it. We wear hats because without it we're not dressed properly. It enhances our personality, keep the sun out of our eyes and it means business.

Enhancing personalities with hats is something Smithbilt has done for almost a hundred years. They've done it for many, many celebrities and visitors alike to Canada's largest western city. We are glad to be counted among them and glad that we can support one of the last hat makers in our country.

There's a saying that goes, "Never touch a Cowboy's hat". We are quite happy with ours, so don't even try touching or interfering with the way we look. However, Brian invited us to find out more about some of the other, more contemporary, styles of hats manufactured and shaped by this iconic company. We were introduced to the Baby Grizzly and the iconic Fedora.

If you want to see more of the "newer" style hats we recommend a visit in person to their new more contemporary building. If you cannot make it in person, check out their hat collection and accessories in their recently launched online store.


We wear hats and we encourage more people to do so. Remember, that when you wear a hat there is an etiquette.

For example, it used to be polite to take your hat off when entering a building, but the loss of hat-check girls (what an era!) and hat racks means this is no longer a rule. No one wants to put a hat that costs hundreds of dollars on a seat a greasy countertop or hold it in your hands trying to go about their business.

Take your hat off when eating. A real cowboy still takes it off in the presence of a lady, or in church. Tip your hat to a gentleman the first time you meet him and to a lady every time you greet her. Tipping your hat to a man thereafter becomes "weird". For a lady, it continues to be a sign of respect.

One last and important rule, never touch another cowboy’s hat. That’s just asking for trouble.

Hendrik van Wyk

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. We use Patreon to publish our premium content. Please become a patron at if you want to see more of this and other local maker stories.


The Hat



Hat Shaper


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Traveling Cowboys: The ¡Perfecto! (Best) Margarita at Aroma Mexican Restaurant in Canmore, Alberta


The problem with our line of work is that our palates are spoiled. We have the privilege and plenty of opportunities to eat the best and drink the fantastic wherever we go. The result is that our expectations are high. It also means that our standards are ever-increasing.

We do have our favourites, though. Ever-so-often, we have to circle back to what we refer to as "our people". They are our friends where to we travel. Visiting them, eating and drinking the best they have on offer is like wearing a familiar pair of comfortable shoes or sitting in a favourite chair. There is no pretence. It is the casual and a part of us.

This is how our love affair started with Margarita, until Laura at Aroma Mexican Restaurant in Canmore, Alberta made it enduring.


A margarita is a cocktail consisting of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice, often served with salt on the rim of the glass. The drink is served shaken with ice (on the rocks), blended with ice (frozen margarita), or without ice (straight up). Although it has become acceptable to serve a margarita in a wide variety of glass types, ranging from cocktail and wine glasses to pint glasses and even large schooners, the drink is traditionally served in the eponymous margarita glass, a stepped-diameter variant of a cocktail glass or champagne coupe.

There are various stories about the origins of the drink during the earlier parts of the last century. However, most people know its murdered cousin found at the typical all-inclusive Mexican hideaway or passed-off as a drink-of-choice for riotous partying Springbreak youngsters in warmer climate locations.

We've discovered that the real Margarita is a drink with character and a power that should not be underestimated. Laura at Aroma Mexican Restaurant in Canmore introduced us to her. Aroma is now our favourite place for our Margarita-time because we've not succeeded in duplicating their version. This spurred us into action. We had to find out more about the secrets behind their particular version that makes it so uniquely delicious.

Chef Jose Castillo and Laura Matamoros were both born in Mexico City and raised in the kitchen. In 2009 they introduced the Bow Valley to their authentic and traditional Mexican cuisine in the Bow Valley. The restaurant has a warm and cozy atmosphere. It emulates the intimacy felt around a Mexican’s family kitchen table. Jose, himself is behind the stove in the kitchen.

He offers a fusion of Indigenous and Spanish cuisine, traditional sauces, tortillas, and desserts. All are artisanal homemade and slow cooked from scratch for each order. It is worth the wait if you are lucky to get a seat during the busy times. We know Jose and Laura personally, so it is our weekly culinary gourmet trip to Mexico. There is always a special table reserved for us, the "familia".


Laura took us on an expedition of Margarita discovery without divulging a single secret. From that perspective, we failed in our quest to know how to make an excellent Aroma Margarita.

Instead, we journeyed through the traditional, the flavourful, the herby, the fruity, smokey and the savoury. Just as our faculties began to fail at number four (or was it six), Laura managed to wake us with the kick of a spicy Jalapeno signature Margarita. After that, it all became a blur!

Aroma is not a "fancy" restaurant. Jose and Laura succeeded in keeping it personal and homey with really good traditional, but refined food. If you take time to get to know them, you will find it quickly turns into a friendship. For us, it is a welcome friendship because it includes frequent rendezvous with the fabulous Margarita.

P.S. Some Margarita's are only available when Laura is in attendance, and you won't find it on the menu. She guards her recipes that closely ;-)

P.S.S. If you have the guts, ask for the Two Cowboys version. See what happens!

Hendrik van Wyk
Mexican Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. We use Patreon to publish our premium content. Please become a patron at if you want to see more of this and other local maker stories.


Order is Up!




The Perfect Time


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