NEWS
09/20/2011 08:19 EDT | Updated 11/20/2011 05:12 EST

Former Canadian luger Jeff Christie dreams of owning his own brewery

CALGARY - Canadian luger Jeff Christie is leaving his sport for the beer business.

The two-time Olympian will move from Calgary this week to start a commerce degree at Royal Roads University in Victoria. Christie wants to open his own microbrewery in Calgary when he's finished his degree.

Christie, 28, discovered his passion for making beer while racing for Canada internationally for over a decade.

"The funny thing is I probably didn't touch beer until I was 21," Christie said Tuesday. "It mainly happened in Europe. I tasted beer there and really enjoyed it and talking with people, we agreed that it wasn't quite the same here in Canada."

A few years ago, the Calgarian discussed with his teammates on an international flight the possibility of starting his own brewery.

"I think we were about 23 and we said "let's own a brewery, that would be wicked,'" Christie said.

But Christie isn't diving headlong into beer without having done his homework.

Germany is a powerhouse in both luge and beer. One of the World Cup stops is at the Konigssee track in southeastern Germany near Berchtesgaden. Christie put in a five-week internship at the local brewery Hofbrauhaus Berchtesgaden after the 2010 Olympic Games.

"What I was so intrigued about in Germany is, to become a brewer, you do an undergraduate degree and a masters' degree," he explained. "These guys brewing beer have seven years of education to brew beer. Seven years to brew beer, that's really cool.

"I think the professionalism and education they bring to it is amazing."

Since his internship, Christie says he's toured the Molson facility in Toronto as well as microbreweries in Alberta and B.C. Christie wants to know as much as he can about the product he wants to sell in the future.

"I know I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur in some way or the other," Christie said. "I'd rather work for myself. I think people are moving more towards paying a little bit more for a product that is vastly superior, in all aspects of life."

Christie's ancestor William Mellis Christie co-founded, and was the namesake of, the Mr. Christie brand of cookies and biscuits in Canada.

"I like to think there's a little bit of entrepreneurship in my blood," the luger said.

Canada has played catch-up with the rest of the world in the sport of luge for years. The country finally had success this past season with Alex Gough winning a women's World Cup race and reaching the podium in four other races.

Christie was the athlete posting top-15 results in the years after 2002 when Canada was struggling to make gains in the sport. He finished in the top 10 seven times in 74 World Cup races, including a career-high fifth. In eight world championships, his best results was 11th. Christie placed 14th both times at the Olympics Games.

"I think I've helped our sport grow in a pretty significant way from when I first joined it," Christie said. "I did a large portion to help that team continue to move and succeed.

"When I saw Alex win her medal and be on the podium, did I wish it was me? Yeah, but I feel I contributed to that happening and the program being in the right spot for that to happen."

Christie will still sit on the Canadian Olympic Committee's Athlete Commission. He'll remain active in luge as a director of the Maple Leaf Luge Club and an area representative with the B.C. Luge Association.

Christie believes his sport has taught him the drive and determination it will take to succeed in business. After all, he set a goal as a child to participate in the Olympics some day.

"I figured out a way to do it," he said. "I look at this, starting a brewery and think that's a pretty big concept, a pretty big task, but I look back at what I've done and the dedication I've put into setting the goal and achieving it. So it doesn't scare me as much."