Executive Reads: Dimitri van Kampen

Dimitri van Kampen is the Founder and President of Spearhead Brewing Company, a family-run craft brewery located in Toronto dedicated to brewing Beer Without Boundaries™. In 2011, Dimitri left the world of international law and finance to brew off-the-hook beer, seeking to challenge perceptions of beer and traditional style categories. He has traded grey suits for blue jeans and a boardroom for his local pub. Curious what led to the sudden transformation and his continued success? These books might reveal a little…

Brewing up a Business by Sam Calagione (2005)
Sam Calagione is the founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery located in Milton, Delaware, one of the most exciting craft breweries in the United States. Sam is a rock star of the U.S. craft brewing industry and one of its leading advocates. His at times highly anecdotal account of starting Dogfish Head is equal parts informative, insightful and inspiring. It is an autobiography that moonlights as a textbook on starting your own business. It resonated deeply with me and was hugely influential in my development of Spearhead’s business model. Like so many other craft brewers, I owe a huge debt to Sam, who was years ahead of his time. I hope to repay him by making Spearhead one of the most interesting and exciting craft breweries and by brewing beer that in turn just may inspire others. High hopes? Sam teaches us to dream big.

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
One of the most clever, satirical and downright funny books ever written. Joseph Heller’s insight into the humour and tragedy of the absurdity of our world is second to none. Our hero, Yossarian, takes us through a world beset from all sides by bureaucratic absurdity centred around the circular reasoning of the no-win situation. I love to revisit this 20th century classic if only to remind myself of the humour found in our humanity. Required reading for anybody who has ever considered starting his or her own business…especially in a government regulated industry.

The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell (1975)
One of the finest works of literary criticism of the 20th century, Fussell’s seminal work is a beautifully written and incisive exploration of a selection of literary works by participants in the Great War and how they reflected and encapsulated the psychological impact of that cataclysm on a generation. His analysis of memory and its shaping of our collective understanding, particularly through the impact of irony, is both deeply moving and enlightening. This book has had a profound impact on the way I consider my own memories and experiences. I’m not sure I can say with any certainty how this book has specifically affected my professional career, but I suspect that it is in some ironic manner and that Fussell would be ok with that.