Erin McGuire is a Tragically Hip “superfan.”
He’s also a graphic artist who teaches photography and graphic design at the Nova Scotia Community College in Halifax.
So when he heard about the band’s frontman, Gord Downie, being diagnosed with brain cancer, he knew he had to do something.
“When the news came out about Gord Downie, I was affected. I just felt … I was knocked out a little bit,” McGuire said.
“Brain cancer has affected me before through friends that have had the ailment and passed away.”
McGuire set to work creating a carefully constructed graphic featuring every numerical reference in Tragically Hip songs.
He titled his work ‘By the Numbers’ and submitted it to a website that was raising money to donate in Downie’s name to the Sunnybrook Foundation in Toronto for brain cancer research.
McGuire says the website made 100 prints of his design and raised about $7,000 for the cause.
He wasn’t finished.
When his brother-in-law, Michael Whitehouse, contacted him about supporting his team in the Ride to Conquer Cancer in Chatham, Ont., McGuire put his design on a cycling jersey.
McGuire then approached Nova Scotia craft breweries with the idea of creating a special brew to continue his fundraising efforts.
That’s where Halifax’s Garrison Brewing Company and Shelburne’s Boxing Rock Brewing Company came in. The two craft breweries agreed to collaborate on a special brew — an amber wheat ale — and feature McGuire’s design on the bottle.
Dubbed “Courage (for Gord Downie),” the breweries plan to produce about 5,000 bottles and donate $1 from the sale of each bottle to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.
“I looked at that label and said, ‘That’s it. We got to make something with that,’ said Henry Pedro, Boxing Rock co-founder and self-professed Hip fan.
“(Gord Downie) was always a great Canadian. For all those reasons, we thought it would be a great thing to do.”
The wheels were set in motion to have the limited edition beer out this fall, before news of Downie’s passing this week.
“It’s a little bittersweet. It would have been cool for Gord to see it,” said McGuire. “But anything we can do to help … (if it) could help somebody live longer or live better, that’s a good thing.”
Boxing Rock will begin making one batch of the special brew next week, and Garrison will being a double batch at the same time. The breweries estimate the beer will be ready to hit the shelves by early November.
WATCH: Halifax music lovers remember Gord Downie
They also expect it to sell quickly, and in turn, raise money quickly for cancer research.
“Gord Downie was somebody Canada owned in a lot of ways, or felt love and respect and ownership of,” said Brian Titus, president and general manager at Garrison.
“This isn’t a Halifax thing, not a Shelburne thing, not a Nova Scotia thing. It’s a Canada thing.”