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John Rowling is past President and co-founder of CAMRA BC (the Campaign for Real Ale Society of British Columbia) and a co-founder and long-time director of Victoria's Great Canadian Beer Festival Society.
Rowling was born in the United Kingdom, in Sidcup, Kent in the suburbs of London on May 11, 1940. He survived the Blitz and a bomb that destroyed all the houses on his street save his family home. Rowling studied at London University, graduating with a B.Sc. in Geology in 1962. He emigrated to Canada later that year to pursue graduate studies at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Fredericton. After four years at UNB, Rowling settled in Calgary, working as an exploration geologist for Chevron and other companies for the next 20 years. In 1988, he moved to Victoria to take up a position in the Petroleum Geology Branch of the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, continuing there until his retirement in 1997.
In 1968 Rowling married Carol Graham, and they had three children and six grandchildren. Carol passed away in 2022.
Rowling has been a beer and pub enthusiast all his life. From Canada he followed the activities of the UK's Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) movement. His brother Rob had joined CAMRA UK in 1974, later becoming President of the Boston, Licolnshire branch. Shortly after his move to Victoria, John learned of the existence of a CAMRA Canada and signed up. On April 7, 1990 at a meeting at Spinnaker's Pub in Victoria, Rowling along with his wife Carol and Phil Cottrell and Dave Preston founded a CAMRA Victoria branch. The group opted for independence from the eastern-based CAMRA Canada and in September 1990 registered CAMRA BC as an incorporated society, with its own constitution, by-laws and finances. Rowling served as the first President from 1990-1992, with a further term in 2000-2003.
Rowling and other CAMRA BC members participated in Victoria's first beer festival in July 1992. The experience inspired them to create an annual festival under CAMRA's auspices. Starting in 1993 as the Victoria Microbrewery Festival, it showcased BC's craft breweries, while also bringing in a smaller number of brewers from other provinces and the USA. In 1995, the event was renamed the Great Canadian Beer Festival (GCBF) and a separate body, the GCBF Society, was spun off from CAMRA to assume ongoing responsibility for planning and organization. Rowling and Gerry Hieter were for many year the main organizers, and Rowling remained a GCBF Director until 2018. In 2019 the GCBF Society disbanded and a new organization, the Victoria Beer Society, took over responsibility for the festival.
Rowling was a frequent contributor to CAMRA BC's newsletter, What's Brewing, launched in June 1990 under the editorship of Phil Atkinson. (CAMRA UK, CAMRA Canada and CAMRA BC all had newsletters by this same name.) With the very first issue of What's Brewing BC, Rowling started the long-running column that would eventually become The Hopbine, "a fresh gathering of news and gossip"). In his column Rowling brought together short news items, announcements, reviews, comments and opinions on happenings in the beer world; he continued to write it until the end of 2003. From about 2004-2015, Rowling regularly wrote about beer and the BC craft beer scene for Victoria's Eat Magazine, and during the same period he was the BC correspondent for the California-based Celebrator Beer Magazine.
In 2002, Matt Phillips of Victoria's Phillips Brewing Company created a special beer to honour Rowling as "a trailblazer and true champion of the craftbrewers' art" – Big Bad John's Traditional English Barley Wine. "Giants fear him / Taste buds applaud him" declared its label. In 2018 Rowling stepped down from the Board of the GCBF Society. The following year, Rowling and Gerry Hieter were presented with Legend Awards at the BC Brewing Awards, in recognition of their contributions to BC's craft beer community.