Brewing Community

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Wheelhouse Brewing Co.

Brewing Community

🕔May 01, 2017

Craft beer breweries from Prince Rupert, Terrace, Quesnel, and Valemount are overcoming the challenges of doing business in the north by working together. The “4 The North Collaboration Pack” is a four-beer mix pack, with each brewery contributing one 650 mL bottle. If you haven’t seen the packs around, that’s because sales have been brisk, testament to the popularity of the project and evidence of the continued success of craft breweries. The collaboration is effectively shrinking the space between our towns while making it easier for locals to get their hands on seasonal beer offerings from around the region.

Beer producers in northern BC agree that education and geography are the biggest challenges. “Craft beer culture isn’t huge up here yet and the majority of the population hasn’t been exposed to it—so beer education is a big part of the job,” says general manager Justine Pelletier of Quesnel’s Barkerville Brewing. Owner and brewer Craig Outhet of Prince Rupert’s Wheelhouse Brewing points out that the geography of the north can make things tricky. “Brewing 1700 km away from Vancouver does add time and cost,” he says. “The cost of getting ingredients and equipment up to us is extraordinary.”

While these challenges create financial pressure on northern breweries, making beer in the north is something special. “You can form a close connection to your community,” says Outhet. “Our customers are our friends and neighbours, which means we get incredible support”. Owner and brewer Michael Lewis of Three Ranges Brewing in Valemount adds that those connections extend further than a town’s boundaries. “The north is very much like a small town,” he says. Lewis says the shared experience of living and brewing in a remote location brings northern breweries closer together. “Because we all understand the challenges, we work really hard to make collaborations happen.”

Despite being busy with individual endeavours, Wheelhouse, Sherwood Mountain, Three Ranges, and Barkerville brought something new to the BC craft beer market. “Nowhere else in BC are breweries coming together to package product together,” say Outhet with pride. “You’ll often see collaboration brews but this is four different breweries putting their own product in a sampler box.” For Outhet, the objective is “to raise the profile of craft beer to people living in northern BC and make people in the Lower Mainland extremely jealous.”

The extra work that goes into this project is absolutely worthwhile, says Darryl Tucker of Terrace’s Sherwood Mountain Brewhouse. “The collaboration pack gives us an opportunity to go to market with a four-pack that includes four ‘harder-to-get’ beers,” he says. The hope is that more exposure to offerings made up here will inspire northerners to have pride in their breweries and bring attention to the north as a whole, adds Lewis. The collaborative project is already getting attention from folks down south, though there aren’t any plans to expand distribution—yet.

When it comes to living in northern BC, there’s no doubt that strong community is important, and as northerners we can all agree that the firm ties we have to each other is what makes this place special. The spirit of these breweries teaming up is a great example of our communities coming together to make the north a better place to live.

— Laura Sapergia