Behind the Beer: Steam Whistle’s Marek Mikunda & the Craft Revolution

In the 15 years since its founding, Steam Whistle Brewing headquarters has become a fixture in Toronto’s downtown. Housed in the John St. Roundhouse – formerly a Canadian Pacific Rail steam locomotive repair facility – Steam Whistle has also become an icon of refined taste, independent craftsmanship, and sustainability. Having dedicated their entire enterprise to making the finest pilsner possible, they’ve succeeded spectacularly.



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We recently spoke to Steam Whistler Master Brewer Marek Mikunda.

What is it about making good beer that led you to dedicate your life to it?

When I was in high school in the Czech Republic, our technical program included work placements. I had several in different industries but on the first day that I went to work in the fermentation area of a brewery, my fate was determined in that moment. I felt such respect for the traditions of brewing. I admired how the work of a Brewmaster combined passionate artisanship with a technical scientific approach. And so I began my years of schooling and apprenticeship to become a Master Brewer.


Photo courtesy Steam Whistler Brewing.
Photo courtesy Steam Whistle Brewing.

Why is the craft beer market doing so well these days?

For years consumers were fed what they were supposed to like from the macro brewing producers, who meanwhile were changing beer to suit their own objectives. Cost cutting and efficiency won out over centuries old brewing traditions. In the 1990’s premium imported beers from Europe awakened consumers to beers that were different, of higher quality and had more flavour. Home brewing really took a foothold in Canada then which encouraged trial and ultimately led to the rebirth of craft brewing.

You’re stuck on a desert island, what’s in your six pack?

I would have six good lagers/pilsners. I love this style for its balance of sweet maltiness and hop bitterness. This is the most refreshing kind of beer and also has a great smooth taste.


The new Can Van Ten Pack.
The new Can Van 10 Pack.


Which of your beers are you proudest of? Why?

Over my career I have worked at quite a number of breweries and made many different brands of beer but I am most proud of Steam Whistle Pilsner. I have been Brewmaster here for more than a decade, and so have been able to truly pursue perfection here. I believe our efforts have been appreciated and I’m proud of our win in the Lager category this year at the Ontario Brewing Awards (our fifth to date) and our earlier Gold Medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards.

Sample Steam Whistle and other fine brews at the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival, beside Steam Whistle headquarters, downtown Toronto, Saturday August 8–Sunday August 9, 12 noon till 7. 

As a bonus for our readers we’ve partnered with our friends at Innate Gear who’ve produced these custom Craft Growlers – the ultimate in insulated beer-on-the-go convenience. We’ll be giving one of these away with each post we publish – just give it a good ol’ Like on our Facebook and we’ll draw the name out of a hat!