Mad Men meets Breaking Bad at Category 12 Brewing

Mad Men meets Breaking Bad at Category 12 Brewing

Brewer and scientist Michael Kuzyk drinks in craft beer success

  • Dec. 11, 2018 9:40 a.m.

Brewer Michael Kuzyk among the tanks at his brewery Category 12 Brewing. Don Denton photography

– Story by Erin McPhee

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

The last thing Michael Kuzyk wanted to feel was regret.

Having devoted a decade of his life to research and the academic world, culminating in the successful completion of a PhD in microbiology and biochemistry, he followed that up with another 14 years of professional work, applying his scientific expertise to a variety of fields ranging from infectious disease and cancer research to software development.

Clearly no stranger to stick-to-it-iveness, it was therefore not the easiest of decisions to step back from his hard-earned career and embark on an exciting new vocational venture, which to some, might have seemed like worlds apart. But to Michael (and his partner in the new business and in life, wife Karen), it made all the sense in the world — scientific or otherwise.

In 2014, the Kuzyks launched Category 12 Brewing, a stylish and innovative microbrewery and tasting room on Keating Cross Road in Saanichton. What is proving to set Category 12 apart from its peers is the application of the very science background that Michael, in some ways, chose to leave behind.

His experience with experimentation, meticulous record-keeping, interest in working with different yeast strains and brewing techniques, and overall dedication to driving innovation forward, have all contributed to the brewery’s early and continued success. It has also inspired Category 12’s retro branding and even resulted in the brewery being commonly described as, “Breaking Bad meets Mad Men,” a caricature the Kuzyks find immensely flattering and continue to have fun with.

Category 12 currently employs 12 full- and four part-time staff members and is expanding its reach throughout Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland as more and more craft beer drinkers savour the delicious year-round and seasonal brews creatively crafted by the passion, perseverance and technical skill of its head brewer.

“It’s never too late to make a change,” says Michael, 45. “I always tell people, ultimately, it comes down to you to make a change for the better in your life. No one’s going to do it for you. Hopefully you’ve got people around you who are supportive. Nothing ventured nothing gained. You don’t want to be decades down a path that you regret and then wish you had done something different. The only way to find out if it’s the right way to go is to actually embark upon that new path.”

Brewer Michael Kuzyk takes walk among the tanks at his brewery Category 12 Brewing. Don Denton photography

Michael’s decision to open a brewery with his wife, who serves as co-owner and head of branding, isn’t one that happened overnight. He first got into homebrewing in the 1990s while studying at the University of Victoria. In some ways, his early interest was simply due to the “financial realities” of graduate studies, he laughs.

Regardless of his initial motivation, those early years gave Michael an opportunity to hone his skills and experiment with a variety of ingredients and methods, ultimately opening his eyes to the creativity inherent in craft brewing.

“The sky was the limit,” he says.

Michael was often told by friends that his beers were so good he should consider brewing professionally; however, a few more pieces of the puzzle would have to fall into place before he would listen.

“Working with the biotech sector, that took me down to San Diego a lot,” he says. “Getting to see the scene down there is what started to pique my interest that someone with a day job that’s completely unrelated to commercial brewing could make the leap and do it.”

On one such trip in 2011, Michael happened upon Mike Hess Brewing, a nanobrewery launched by its namesake who had previously worked in finance.

“He was making amazing beer and had a packed little taproom. It was probably one of the first things I kind of filed away and thought to myself, ‘There’s something here, maybe,’” he says.

Michael started considering a career change more seriously after a round of layoffs in his office. While he survived the layoffs, he realized having a Plan B would be wise and started applying for other jobs, including one position in Paris, France. Although he didn’t get it, his family had been on board, ready to pack up and embark on a new adventure abroad together. With that mindset now a possibility, Michael and Karen decided it was now or never and finally moved forward with Category 12, launching it four years ago with the tongue-and-cheek tagline: “We make beer worth leaving your career for.”

Brewer Michael Kuzyk looks over the tanks at his brewery Category 12 Brewing. Don Denton photography

Michael is pleased to house Category 12 on the Saanich Peninsula, as he grew up in the area. His first job was at The Butchart Gardens and his first post-doctorate position was at a biotech firm just up the road from the brewery.

He and Karen and their two boys, 17 and 14, currently live a few kilometres south in Saanich’s Strawberry Vale.

While over the years, Michael has spent his fair share of time indoors in countless science labs and these days can regularly be found within the walls of the brewery, he has long maintained a passion for the outdoors, something he enthusiastically shares with his family. Mountaineering, biking and camping — most often up-island and frequently in eastern Washington — keep the Kuzyks entertained during their off hours.

Michael has a number of exciting plans underway for Category 12, including adding a kitchen and expanded lounge area and at top of mind, is his commitment to being even more innovative.

“I’m not satisfied with just creating another beer style that’s similar to someone else’s beer of that style. I want you to know that you’re drinking Category 12 beer because there’s something unique and interesting about it,” he says.

“We have about 20 different yeast strains in the brewery and half of them I haven’t even had a chance to release a beer with … I’ve just got so many ideas still,” he adds.

Yopu can find Category 12 Brewing here.

BC Craft beerBeerCraft beerFood

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

Just Posted

Japanese Canadian citizens being transferred into waiting trucks outside Hope Station House. Photograph courtesy of the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre.
Public hearing will see 123 letters in support of saving Hope’s historic train station

Hearing set for May 10 to help council decide on future of Hope’s Station House

Gordon Cook
SLIDESHOW: Hope springs to life in pictures

A collection of images from the Standard and its readers

Chilliwack volunteer drivers are needed to help get cancer patients back and forth to Abbotsford (shown here), Surrey and Vancouver cancer clinics. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Volunteer drivers needed to expand cancer driver program to Chilliwack

Drivers will need to commit to one full day of driving, or two half days each week

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of May 9

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Winnie Peters, centre, spoke about the loss of two husbands over the years, both of who were murdered. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls event in Hope on May 5, 2021 included prayers for men who have been killed as well. (Jessica Peters/ Hope Standard)
Red dresses hang in Hope’s Memorial Park in remembrance

Group gathers for National Day of Awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Vancouver Giants celebrated a Justin Sourdif goal Saturday night in Kamloops. Giants dropped a 3-1 decision to Kamloops, a game that clinched the 2020-21 B.C. Division banner for the Blazers. (Allen Douglas/special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Vancouver Giants drop 3-1 decision to Kamloops

Third-period rally should have come sooner, said coach of Langley-based team

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country’s crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
IHIT investigating after man killed in Burnaby shooting

Police looking for more information on fatal shooting

After Bobby Henderson apologized online for his comments to a Toronto reporter, the Langley Rivermen announced that he was no longer team coach and general manager and in fact, had ‘parted ways’ with the franchise in March. (file/Twitter)
Former Langley Rivermen coach and GM apologizes for comments to Toronto reporter

Bobby Henderson blames stress due to the pandemic for his ‘disparaging’ remarks

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Most Read