Skip to content

The business of beer: Kamloops-born author wrote the book on the geography of suds

Born and raised in Kamloops, author Mark Patterson knows more about beer than the average Red Collar customer.

Born and raised in Kamloops, author Mark Patterson knows more about beer than the average Red Collar customer. The professor of geography at Kennesaw State University is behind a book, National Geographic World Atlas of Beer, slated for release next year. Dave Eagles/KTW So far, the quest has taken Patterson, whose National Geographic World Atlas of Beer is due out next year, to five continents and 30 countries to try about 2,000 varieties of beer. More are still to come: he'll cross a sixth continent off his list on an upcoming trip to Australia next month.

"We're trying to put together the stories of beer," said Patterson over a recent pint at Kamloops' own Red Collar Brewing Company.

"Each country, each region of the country has its own unique story and we try to tell those stories."

A few Kamloops stories may make it into the tome, as well.

Red Collar brewer David Beardsell was one of the first people Patterson interviewed, along with Brian MacIsaac of Crannog Ales.

Asked to pick a tale from the road, Patterson pointed to the Sorrento-based brewery's push to brew all-organic beer with a limited supply of organic barley. Told there wasn't a demand for the stuff, MacIsaac headed out to prove his supplier wrong.

"He went on a road trip from here to the coast and down to San Diego and stopped at breweries along the way and convinced enough of them to sign up for organic barley that he could go back to his supplier and say 'Look, I've got some'," Patterson said.

"And now, organic beer is becoming more common."

Hops Canada, a hop farm on the Tk'emlups Indian Band reserve that's the largest in Canada, may also get some recognition in the atlas.

An avid home brewer, Patterson got his start as a beer writer when he and co-author Nancy Hoalst set out to write an academic text, The Geography of Beer, inspired by a similar treatise on wines.

After its publication, National Geographic approached the pair about writing a layperson's guide.

In addition to great stories, the book will look at how brewing has developed in varying countries and regions, diving into the history and culture that shaped various regional styles, such as the monk-brewed Trappist beers of Belgium.

It will also include shortlists of must-visit breweries selected by brewers themselves.

Some continents have offered up more material than others -- Europe will comprise about a third of the book, while Patterson said African craft brewing is mostly centred in Cape Town, South Africa. Patterson's also found himself pulled in some unexpected directions -- Italy, better known for its wines, has topped the list of countries most recommended by European brewers, requiring another trip to Europe in the near future.

While he's made his way through thousands of brews in the last year, Patterson said the drinking isn't the highlight of the work, nor what drew him to beer in the first place.

"It's the sharing of beer," he said.

"I home brew and, when I got home from Europe, I had a 25-litre batch ready to be bottled. And I'm thinking while I'm bottling it, I've got 66 bottles and I think I'll be lucky if I drink about 10 of these, because you give them away. You want to be social with beer."w

That doesn't mean there haven't been some standout tastes along the way. Patterson recalled one barrel-aged red ale, poured out in an Irish brewpub hidden beneath another brewery in Rhode Island.

"It was so cloudy you couldn't see through it, and he'd added some wood chips -- and he said, be careful when you drink it not to drink any of the chips," he said.

"It had almost no carbonation and it was room temperature and it was the best beer I've ever had."

National Geographic World Atlas of Beer is due out in October 2017. To follow along with Patterson's continuing beer exploration, visit