Meet the craft brewer looking to shake up London’s beer scene

“I’m living the dream” is a common euphemism that people frequently use to describe a day at the office that isn’t particularly fulfilling.

When Diana Salazar uses it, there’s not a hint of sarcasm. She is completely serious. Then again, she’s not your typical Canadian craft brewer either.

“The dream job? I have it right now, in the present. I want to enjoy what I’m doing and I’m doing it because in the future I probably want to open my own brewery.”

Unorthodox rise in the world of craft brewing

Part of what sets Salazar apart is his unorthodox rise in the world of Canadian craft brewing. She is from Ipiales, a city of 190,000 people straddling the Colombian-Ecuadorian border, known for manufacturing, especially textiles and beer.

Diana Salazar ‘crushes’ in one of Storm Stayed Brewing Company’s wort tanks. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

The 31-year-old Colombian immigrant was hired as the new master brewer at Storm Stayed Brewing Company in London in February. A graduate of a Colombian culinary school, she became interested in brewing during a bartending course in her hometown. After researching schools, she chose the brewing program at Niagara College and hasn’t looked back since.

Co-owner Justin Belanger said the company hired Salazar because, like the brewery itself, Salazar is committed to always improving, improving the product and cultivating a more diverse audience through inclusive offerings, creative and unique.

“This industry needs more diversity. It needs more women. So we’re happy to have someone like her on our team.”

Belanger said what has impressed the brewery the most are Salazar’s plans to “shake up” London’s craft brewing scene with a beer that will be completely unique to the city.

Fusion of Canadian brewing and Colombian culture

“We want to experiment from our wheelhouse. She already has beers planned,” he said. “It’s a secret for now, until we get them going and we’re happy with them.”

Diana Salazar, 31, is a master brewer at the Storm Stayed Brewing Company in London, Ontario. Originally from Colombia, she intends to shake up the city’s brewing scene with proposals inspired by her native country this summer. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Salazar was a bit more forthcoming, saying the new beers will be entirely original and fuse his Canadian brewing expertise with his Colombian culinary and cultural background.

“Because I’m from Colombia, we have so much fruit that most Canadians don’t know about. So let’s say in the future we’ll have some interesting beers with Colombian fruit.”

Getting ready for patio season

Like spring itself, it’s something to expect at a brewery that endured a long pandemic winter, where closures and strict public health measures put an end to the bustle of the normally bustling dining hall of Brewery.

“The pandemic has been slow. We’re looking forward to patio season and good weather,” Bélanger said.

Storm Stayed Brewing Company has a reputation for offering some of the most creative and unique beers in London, Ontario. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

The same goes for Salazar who, after spending the last year in her native Colombia, is back in Canada ready to roll up her sleeves and embrace the hands-on nature of a job she loves.

“I like to stand and do physical work,” she said. “I never wanted to walk into an office or onto a computer all the time.”

Salazar said she’s especially looking forward to Storm Stayed’s clientele getting a big-picture view of the action at the back, where she works hard.

“Because the tap room is attached to the brewing site, I hope women will come to see that there is a woman brewing the beer they drink and I hope they will feel proud and still enjoy more beer.”

About Maria Hunter

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