Michael and Karen Kuzyk, owners of Category 12 Brewing, with a flight of beer in their Keating Cross Road tasting room. Don Denton photograph for Pearl Magazine

Michael and Karen Kuzyk, owners of Category 12 Brewing, with a flight of beer in their Keating Cross Road tasting room. Don Denton photograph for Pearl Magazine

Category 12 Brewing Pushes the Boundaries of Beer Making

British Columbia brewery provides a variety of craft beer styles

  • Sep. 4, 2018 11:30 a.m.

Running out of beer might not seem like a great start for a budding craft brewery, but for Category 12 Brewing’s husband and wife team, Michael and Karen Kuzyk, it marked a sign of greater things to come and reassurance that pursuing a career change in Saanichton may not have been such a crazy idea after all.

Following years of planning, five days is all it took for patrons to drain the tanks at the company’s funky new taproom on Keating Cross Road back in December of 2014.

“We ran out of beer, so we had to close up shop for a few weeks,” says Karen.

The delay evidently didn’t leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth as the brewery now employs 11 full-time staff, carries some 24 year-round and seasonal brews that can be found in shops across Victoria and beyond, and has imminent plans for a tasting room expansion and lounge.

Now fully immersed in their craft brewing experiment, the couple says it’s hard to believe there was ever any doubt about the road they’ve chosen to travel together. Little more than five years ago, Michael was working at a scientific software company just down the road from the brewery. The job was the culmination of doctoral studies in microbiology and biochemistry at the University of Victoria, followed by a promising early research career. With two pre-teen children, Michael and Karen appeared to be living the dream, yet financial uncertainty and questions about their future had them searching for plan B.

Category 12 Brewing owner and brewer Michael Kuzyk looks over his brewing tanks. Don Denton photograph.

“I didn’t want to ever say, ‘I wish we had tried’ for the illusion of security and having a semi-regular paycheque,” says Karen. “You’ve got one life, so what are you going to do?”

Fortunately, Michael wasn’t only studying cellular structures and microscopic organisms during his university days; the Parkland Secondary grad had also cultivated a knack for home-brewing beer.

“I had friends who were always saying, ‘you should start a brewery,’ but it was kind of a joke,” he says. “Then it just dawned on me following a round of layoffs at my office.”

When some of those friends who’d suggested Michael consider brewing full time offered to invest, the prospect of launching the business suddenly became a real possibility.

Like many young home-brewers, a taste for good beer and a tight budget encouraged him to expand his hobby. Unlike many basement brewers, however, Michael’s natural aptitude for experimentation, meticulous record keeping and the scientific method sent his beers in all manner of new directions.

A look through Category 12’s eclectic selection is an exploration that pushes the boundaries of beer making.

“We discovered that the anal retentiveness that helped him obtain his Ph.D is really applicable to different parts of the brewing business,” Karen says.

Karen, who confesses to being a “wine snob” in a previous life, says she developed a taste for ale when she learned about the variety of beers available, a discovery assisted by her husband’s pastime. She says the specific beer that got her hooked was a full-bodied Belgian-style brew with a whopping alcohol content of just under 10 per cent.

The sum of Michael’s brewing and scientific background, mixed with Karen’s aptitude for design and marketing has created a unique gem in a province that offers some pretty stiff competition: a boutique brewery wedged into an industrial park that’s churning out some impressive award-winning selections.

List of the days beer offerings on tap in Category 12 Brewing taproom. Don Denton photograph

“We’ve been described as Mad Men meets Breaking Bad,” Karen says. “The industry has been and is increasingly so busy that having a genuine ‘differentiater’ and having branding that represents something true to yourself is really important. That was a pathway that we embarked on very early on,” she says.

Part of that difference is evident by a glance at the brewery’s intricately detailed labels, which were mostly inspired by real life events. Many offer insight about the pair’s personalities and experience. Take the label of Hiatus, for example. A man and woman are on the deck of a ship sailing through a West Coast inlet. The woman leans on the railing, taking in the view as her partner sits on a nearby bench, focussed intently and writing in a journal. It only takes a few minutes with Michael and Karen to figure out who the couple in that label might be.

Disruption, an award-winning Black IPA, reveals an underground laboratory beneath the couple’s Peninsula home. Inside, a figure is busily concocting the next great beer. Parked outside is the couple’s faithful Volkswagen Westfalia.

Personal touches such as these are a good match to Category 12 Brewing’s astounding range of flavour profiles. Unlike many craft breweries, Michael and Karen’s tasting room limits their hoppy selections to about half of their taps. The rest are nods to experimentation and variety.

“There’s a common perception that all craft beer is really hoppy, but it’s not. We want to show that there really are a lot of styles out there,” she says. “One of our goals is to promote anything that broadens our customers’ understanding of what beer is. We want everyone to know what’s out there and we see our taproom as a way to bring them into the fold, expand their horizons and show them what beer can be.”

Patrons take in the viewing of the brewing tanks from a seat inside the Category 12 Brewing tasting room. Don Denton photograph

In addition to Michael’s sense of curiosity and experimentation, the secret of Category 12’s diverse and ever-evolving menu of brews stems from his infatuation with yeasts and bacteria. Whereas many breweries focus on different hop varieties for flavour, Michael teases out an additional layer of variables by turning to an amazing variety of yeasts, which he grows onsite in his brewing lab.

“Many places use one or two yeast strains and that’s good enough for most breweries, but I actually find how wild yeast and bacteria fit into the historical production of food very fascinating so we’re always experimenting,” he says.

And that’s good news for craft beer lovers on the Saanich Peninsula, because it means Category 12 Brewing isn’t likely to run out of beer again any time soon.

-Story by Sean McIntyre Photographs by Don Denton

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

AleBC Craft beerBeerBlack IPABrewerBrewerybrewingBritish ColumbiaCanadaCanadianCategory 12Category 12 BrewingCraft beerFoodHoppyhopsIPAKaren KuzykMichael KuzykTasting roomtravelvancouverislandWild YeastYeast

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cpl. Dan Moskaluk, left, joins the newest addition to the RCMP Victim Services team Labrador/Retrieveer Calypso and her handler, victim services program manager Dede Dacyk in front of the Penticton RCMP detachment in 2016. (Western News file photo)
B.C. awards Penticton’s Dede Dacyk and Calypso

Dacyk has been supporting victims of crime and/or trauma for 17 years

Highway 97 Brewing owners Nick and John Kapusty are excited about moving to downtown Penticton at 200 Ellis St. with a bigger taproom and and patio. (Western News file photo)
Highway 97 Brewing gets green light to move to downtown Penticton

Highway 97 is moving into the former Mile Zero Wine Bar on Ellis St.

Four staff members at the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen were self-isolating on March 19. The regional district is also considering whether to continue keeping its doors open to the public. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
No funding for Primary Care Networks from South Okanagan Similkameen Hospital District

The $1.4 million was part of Interior Health’s annual budget request

The Greater Vernon Ringette Association is one of six Vernon sports groups benefitting from B.C.’s Local Sport Relief Fund. (Morning Star file photo)
Relief funds keep Okanagan in the game

Clubs at risk of closure due to inability to offer programs and fundraise

The historic Leir House building run by the Penticton and District Art Council was vandalized, with glass smashed and graffiti placed on the porch and wall. (Facebook)
Penticton Arts Council looking for help after Leir House vandalized

Glass was smashed and graffiti placed on the historic building

The BC SPCA is adapting its fundraising after cancelling events due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
BC SPCA gets creative with fundraising as pandemic continues

The non-profit’s in-person fundraising events all had to be cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions

Voting is the number one, bare minimum way to have your voice heard by government. (File photo)
Jocelyn’s Jottings: Want to make change? Here are some suggestions

As a citizen you have a voice, you just have to know who to talk to

Hedley residents are advised to not drink the water until a pump in one of its wells is fixed. Photo Andrea DeMeer
Hedley residents under do-not-consume-water order due to arsenic levels

Residents in Hedley remain under a do-not-consume-water order, due to higher than… Continue reading

Scammers are luring people in with promises of online relationships, only to later extort money from their victims. (File photo)
Kelowna RCMP warn of ‘sextortion’ scams

RCMP say social media users should be cautious of unsolicited friend requests

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

City of West Kelowna mowing services have been moved in house, saving the city from a potential quarter-million dollar increase in costs. (Pixabay)
West Kelowna cuts mowing contract, saves over $200k

Since forming in 2007, the City of West Kelowna has been contracting out their mowing services

Copper Mountain Mine is Princeton’s largest employer, with approximately 460 workers. Spotlight file photo.
Princeton Copper Mountain Mine worker tests positive for COVID

Town’s largest employer stresses its commitment to safe practices

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read