Question Period with Greg Zeschuk

    The co-founder of BioWare left a storied video game career to start fresh. Really fresh — with wheat and barley and hops.

    By Omar Mouallem on December 12, 2014

    Call it an informal education: Greg Zeschuk, ’90 BMedSc, ’92 MD, has earned his beer-judging certification and is writing about beer, lobbying for craft brewers and doing a little craft brewing himself in his friend’s garage. We caught up with him to talk about his new-found passion and modern gaming.

    Your new baby is The Beer Diaries web series. How did the idea come to you?

    I got inspired during my time in Austin [leading BioWare’s Texas office], meeting some of the local brewers, who have a combination of entrepreneurship and devil-may-care attitude to the challenges of starting a brewery in a relatively inhospitable climate. I wanted to tell their stories. That experience gave me the confidence to connect with brewers and beer-lovers everywhere and the skills to also become executive director of the Alberta Small Brewers Association.

    People probably ask you all the time, “Greg, why beer?” 

    I’m inherently a bit of a foodie, a taste explorer. I like wine and scotch, too. Beer, though, I find most complex and varied. It’s got the biggest range of flavours, textures and smells. There’s subtlety in wine that you have to be sensitive to, but with beer, it’s broad strokes.

    Why not stay a hobbyist?

    At some point I intend to start a brewery. Part of this is the experience of learning the brewery business and how to brew.

    You mean an informal education?

    I tend to throw myself fully into something. I don’t really dabble. I took the Beer Judge Certification Program, which let me learn and learn and learn. I look at beer and see that, if I want to stick with it, I have my remaining lifetime of learning ahead of me. There is that much to it — there’s history, science, esthetic.

    You mean, as opposed to video games’ 40-year history?

    Right. Fermentation started in China about 7000 BC; they were doing a mead-ish wine. About 5000 BC, the Sumerians had what was probably beer, and then the Egyptians after that definitely had beer — their art shows a loaf of bread and a litre of beer. With video games, in contrast, you can go back to the mainframe guys in the early ’70s.

    Do you still play games?

    I’m back into them now. I was just so entrenched with games that I stopped playing for almost two years. The passion was gone. But over the last while, I’ve inadvertently become an entrepreneurial adviser or board member to my friends in video game companies. Out of friendship, I said, “OK, I’ll advise you. And if I advise you, I have to start playing.”

    What’s it like playing and working with video games again? 

    It’s a different space. Video games have become very segmented. One of the most exciting segments is true indie — they’re selling on Steam [the desktop competition to the App Store] and without marketing. It’s very different from what I did. But it’s neat to see this indie startup scene come up. I see in them what we used to be like. 

    Watch for more from Zeschuk in future issues, as he launches a new beer column for New Trail.