CMBTC VETERAN IS EUROPE-BOUND
By Tyler Difley
After 11 years at the helm of the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre (CMBTC), Rob McCaig is joining multinational brewing giant SABMiller as the company’s chief brewer for Europe.
McCaig will be responsible for the quality of all SABMiller products in Europe, including a variety of regional and international brands. Among these will be iconic beers such as Grolsch, Pilsner Urquell and Peroni, he said. He will be based in Baar, Switzerland, roughly 30 minutes south of Zurich.
“It appeals to me to go back to my roots, to go back to brewing,” he said. “It’s not going to be an easy job. It’s going to be very difficult, but I think the challenge is what drives me.”
McCaig brings over 30 years of brewing industry experience to SABMiller. He was born in Windsor, ON, and attended the University of Guelph, where he received undergraduate and graduate degrees in microbiology. From there, he signed on with Molson, where he worked for 22 years in a variety of roles,
before joining CMBTC in 2003 as managing director and director of brewing.
“He shows a lot of enthusiasm for the malt and brewing industry,” said Steve Goossen, chair of CMBTC’s board of directors and malt barley manager for Parrish and Heimbecker. “It’s a rare breed to have somebody encompassing as much as he does.”
That enthusiasm has translated into the wealth of industry connections McCaig has amassed over the years, said Michael Edney. Edney is a retired research scientist and program manager from the Canadian Grain Commission’s Grain Research Laboratory. He has known McCaig for 20 years and worked closely with him during his time at CMBTC.
“He knows everybody in the brewing industry,” Edney said. “He just has these connections all over the world.”
It is this strong sense of camaraderie in the industry, McCaig said, that has kept him interested in beer and brewing all these years.
“I’ve got friends all over the world that, if I had a problem, even though they were with a competing brewery, we could help each other,” he said. “It’s almost like a fraternity from the operations side, so there’s nothing like it.”
Under McCaig’s leadership, CMBTC has made great strides to become an invaluable resource for farmers, grain companies and brewers. During his time at the centre, CMBTC’s membership has more than doubled, welcoming big names such as AB InBev, SABMiller and Molson Coors. The centre has also secured government funding through a five-year commitment from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, which McCaig cited as the biggest accomplishment of his tenure.
“He’s leaving them on really solid financial ground,” Edney said.
McCaig said he expects CMBTC to play a pivotal role in the agriculture and brewing industries going forward, due to its unique relationship with industry stakeholders.
“I think CMBTC is probably one of the most important organizations out there to ensure that malting barley—and a lot of malting barley—is grown in Western Canada,” he said. “CMBTC, because it bridges from farmer to brewery, is an organization that is going to hold a lot of sway.”
Given everything he has accomplished there, and the friendships he made along the way, McCaig said it was a difficult decision to leave CMBTC.
“There were some great people—not only the staff, but the people we worked in conjunction with at the Canadian International Grains Institute, and the members,” McCaig said. “I love going out and speaking to the malting barley farmers,” he added. “I’ll miss that.”
According to Goossen, McCaig has left some pretty big shoes to fill.
“As far as the board, we wish him all the best in his new endeavours and we want to thank him for the many years that he has provided us with his expertise and guidance,” Goossen said. “As we develop this continuing customer base, I think it’s fair to say that without him and the CMBTC, we would not be where we are today.”