Talk about a fun assignment.
Head to the beautiful Sunshine Coast and check out some breweries.
I have been watching, with interest, the massive growth in B.C.’s craft brewing industry.
A decade ago, if you asked for a Sleeman’s at a bar, someone might brand you a “Connoisseur.”
Now, there are more than 100 breweries all over the province and many more on the way.
First stop: Powell River.
The community was born a mill town and the paper mill is still kicking out steam on the waterfront.
But just up the hill is a man is working under his own steam – his dream, creating a tasty beer business you would not expect in a “Blue Town,” one where Labatt Blue and Lucky Logger were top sellers.
Cedric Dauchot came from Belgium where he worked in a huge brewery – Stella Artois.
He traveled Canada, married a Saskatchewan woman and ended up starting a Townsite Brewing.
Surprisingly, he says his Belgian style beers were not a tough sell. “People seemed interested in trying it and the beer was good and they realized you could make good local beers.”
Dauchot ages some beer for up to three years in barrels, “They don’t do that at big breweries because that is not where the money is.”
Townsite Brewing has built a local following, but knows there is huge tourism potential tapping into the massive number of people who love craft beer.
That is the idea of “The Ale Trail.”
Townsite’s sales manager Michelle Zutz says “People who don’t realize that beer tourism is a thing are grossly misjudging our culture.”
She says it is a great opportunity for people to see amazing scenery on the West Coast and taste amazing beer.
Day two, we head south to Gibsons.
Persephone Brewing is on a farm where it is growing its own hops.
Hops help give the beer a distinctive taste head brewer Anders McKinnon is looking for.
He started off as a home brewer and he is seeing tourists checking out the scenery and the beer.
“Certainly Persephone, Townsite and all the the island breweries have distinctive styles.”
Persephone is expanding and bringing in a canning line so visitors can grab a six-pack.
On the way home, we stopped at Bridge Brewing in North Vancouver to meet the executive director of the B.C. Brewers Guild.
Ken Beattie says the number of craft breweries is exploding. “In the time we have talked there might be another one open. It is over 110 and another 28 planned this year.”
That means more “Ale Trails” in seven regions around B.C., with a rollout in October.
Beattie says, with a report finding 4,000 people directly employed by the industry and more breweries on the way, there is no sign of the craft beer bubble bursting.
Maybe there is still room for a small basement brewer like me!