Thursday, 24 May 2018

Matt & Jess set to make waves in Cambridge

(but I don't want them to go)

I was eavesdropping on someone else's conversation when I heard the news that Jessica was leaving.

"You can't go," I said to the long-time Buster Rhino's manager, all-round awesome person and my dear friend. "I'm going," she responded.

Jess is headed west at the end of the month with her boyfriend Matt - the Brewing Mercenary - who is taking a job as a brewer at not-yet-opened Wave Maker Brewery in Cambridge.

Which means Jessica Billingham is leaving.

"How about you stay here and visit Matt on weekends?" I countered. "No," was all she said.

I'm going to miss both of them.

The happy couple
Jessica has been at Buster's for four-and-a-half years, which is slightly longer than I have been coming to this craft beer, whiskey and barbecue joint in downtown Oshawa.

All I have ever known is a confident young woman who effortlessly straddles the line between being sweet and nice and totally amazing to being a self-assured young manager who gets her staff to do their jobs the best way they know how because they want to.

Because it's Jessica.

Surprisingly, Jess wasn't always this way, as I found out a couple of weeks back. Darryl, the capable, culpable and candid proprietor at Buster Rhino's, told me that six months into her job as a server he wasn't sure she had the chops to be really good at it.

"She kept saying sorry so often it was driving me crazy," he said. It was Sarah, the manager at the time and Jessica's friend, who told Darryl  to give her a little more time to find her way.

The rest, as they say, is history. Which is, of course, what Jess will be in Oshawa after this weekend. "You sure you won't stay Jess," I pleaded, summoning up my best puppy dog eyes. "Sorry," she responded, without batting an eye.

Did I mention that I'm going to miss her? I think I did.

Jess, Sarah and me
I worked for the bar for a year, so I know first-hand how good she is at her job. Best boss EVER, in fact. And what you see at work is what you get after work too. One of my favourite people in this world and most others I've visited.

I'll lump Matt in that class as well. My point man whenever I had a technical question about beer (which was frequently), Matthew Chellew is known and loved by virtually everyone in Durham's brewing world, having collaborated with most of 'em during his long run as owner of the Brewer's Pantry brewing supply store.

An absolute peach of a guy too and their beer cellar is something to see.

I knew something was up when Matt sold Brewers Pantry, but when he told me he really wanted to brew full-time I just assumed he would hook up with one of the newer breweries that have taken this area by storm.

(I even started to handicap where he was going to land after I had drinks with Matt and Town Brewery's Tim Ferriman soon after the sale and took it as a sign, instead of a couple of pals just out for beers.)

Instead Matt is going to be working with his pal Scott Pautler, who was the founding brewmaster of Old Flame Brewing and has won 30-plus medals for his beers, including golds at both the provincial and national levels.

Scott and his family are opening Wave Maker Brewery & Distillery this summer in Cambridge's Preston neighbourhood, complete with a 1,300 sq.ft. tap room.

Scott was in attendance the first time I enjoyed a beer share at Matt and Jessica's Bowmanville digs (Dark Lord Day) and I remember the passion this well-travelled brewer had for beer and brewing. Loved his Lambics, as I recall.

With the Brewing Mercenary ready to join him at the end of the month, I think Wave Maker is going to make out just fine.

The Buster Rhino's staff and us regulars (as well as Jessica's many friends) will be toasting Jess tonight at her farewell party at the bar, one of two events planned to give the couple a semi-appropriate send-off.

There will be cool balloons and maybe even some cake on Friday, I'm told.

The second party is Saturday at the Village Inn in Bowmanville, Matt's long-time part-time bartending gig. Matt is pulling out all the stops at this event, with music by the Doozies and some unique beers on tap for the occasion from Manantler, Little Beasts, 5 Paddles, Town, Old Flame and Chronicle.

I hope to get a head start on at least one of the beers when I pop into Chronicle Brewing in Bowmanville Saturday to see Brewmaster Jim, and buy a few Hasheeshians, a  Hop Hash Hefewizen that was the result of a collaboration between Chronicle and Wave Maker.

Wave Maker's first official beer, as far as I know.

I expect the beer to be great; the parties (both of them) to be even better. The company? Well, that will be priceless, wouldn't it?

Cambridge is not far. I smell a road trip this summer.



  1. Hi Glenn! Great write up on Jess and Matt. Both amazing people and glad to have Matt come aboard. Thanks for the mention! That was a great tasting we had for sure. Let me know when you are coming down to Cambridge and I will put some beers aside for you and show you around the brewery. Cheers! Scott

    1. Careful what you wish for. If I have my way there will be a big crowd coming to take over your brewery! Or maybe just one car load but we will take over anyway! And you are welcome. It was an easy blog to write. See you in July hopefully.