The cliche might be 'it's a long way from Ballarat to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada' but for distiller, brewer, winemaker and Mt Clear College alumni Tim Wilson there are striking similarities between his home in the vast province and the state of Victoria.
One is the cold snap we're currently experiencing this Christmas, although the average Christmas temperature where Tim is working is between two degrees above or below zero, a little cooler than his hometown.
It's a five-hour drive from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the capital Toronto, a city of more than 2 million people, but Tim says the drive is not dissimilar to the long journeys we make in Australia - again, except in winter, when snow and ice are the accompanying conditions.
"While it's a massive province - it's a days drive for me to get out if I drive west - it doesn't feel much different to Victoria," Tim says.
"It very much has an Aussie, laidback feel, but just has nasty winters. Where I am isn't horribly unbearable by Canadian standards, but those -20 mornings start to wear thin."
Tim Wilson is a 'master brewer and distiller' for Wayne Gretzky Estates, a winemaking, breing and whisky-distilling venture owned by Canadian wine company Andrew Peller Limited. He oversees production in the Niagara-on-the-Lake distillery, and dislikes the term 'master'.
Ballarat always had a vibrant music scene when I was younger, I've always carried that love with meTim Wilson
"The title of 'master' in front of any of those is something marketing loves to brandish about but honestly I like to reserve those titles for the real legends of the industry," Tim says.
"I've almost come full circle. My initial interest in beer sparked it all, which led to wine, then to spirits and whiskey, and now partially back into beer again. I have a fantastic brewer working under me taking care of the heavy lifting of recipe development and dealing with production schedules, allowing me to focus mostly on the spirits side of the business."
That 'initial interest' in beer began, he says, at a rather early age.
"I guess my entire career in beverage alcohol started as a 15-year-old in Ballarat, brewing beer in my closet at home, or over at a friend's places," he says.
"I had a strong background in science at school, attending Mount Clear college from 97-02, so fermentation and beverage production was something I always was interested in and wanted to get into.
"I initially looked into the brewing program at Federation University, University of Ballarat at the time, but through a few conversations with people at uni open days, I came to find out that a lot of the head brewing guys across Australia came from winemaking backgrounds; mostly due to the biochemistry and microbiology similarities between the industries."
Tim graduated with a BSc in Wine Science from Deakin Uni in Geelong in 2006. From there, he says, it was straight into the industry, here and in Canada.
"I had every intention to head back to brewing, but in the end I really loved winemaking and spent time from 2003 to 2017 in the wine industry, travelling and working harvests between Canada and Australia, which I loved," he says.
"In 2012 a local distiller, Dillons Small Batch, set up production in one of the wineries I was working for in Canada, so I had the chance to help out and get my toes wet a little. I had been in the wine industry for on 15 years when I decided to make the jump into distilling full-time in 2017. The timing just felt right.
"I started at the bottom at Gretzky, joining as assistant distiller in 2017 while beginning my Master of Science. After 12 months I was promoted to distiller; after two years my predecessor moved onto another project and I was promoted to head distiller, blender and brewer."
Tim now works with senior winemaker Tim McDonald producing new, sometimes blended products such as beer brewed from whisky grains, whisky finished in icewine and cabernet sauvignon barrels, to artisanal craft wine spirits.
For the uninitiated, Wayne Gretzky Estates is named for the Canadian ice hockey player regarded as the greatest ever. Does he pop in for a brew?
"Wayne has come down from time to time, and I was lucky enough to meet him; really awesome guy," Tim says.
"Down to earth, modest and easy to talk to. Also loves the whisky I've been producing, so that's a good sign!"
There's another altogether antipodean sport Tim Wilson is bringing to the province of Ontario.
"During the summers I've been involved with the AFL Ontario for over a decade. I was president of the Hamilton Wildcats AFC for some years, and involved at executive level of the AFL Ontario and AFL Canada bodies. Having that connection to Aussies and creating great mates was integral to making Ontario feel more like home."
"I have spent a lot of time in footy over the years, volunteering my time helping grow the sport. I'm semi-retired now, but still get out for a few games a year when they're struggling for numbers."
"We head to the cottage a lot during the warmer months with the family: fishing, kayaking and canoeing. The scenery across Ontario is pretty spectacular. Outside of that I still play a bit of music, anything from drums, guitar, uke, bass... Ballarat always had a vibrant music scene when I was younger, I've always carried that love with me.
"Oh and typically every Australia Day we try to get together for some ice fishing with some fellow Aussies if the weather permits."
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat's story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great city.