When Will Miller and his family opened their own microbrewery, The Beer Farmers, in 2018, they hoped to draw more people to their longtime home of Pemberton while standing out as one of the few breweries in the province that grows its own barley. Four years later, the BC Beer Awards have taken notice.
At the BC Beer Awards in Vancouver on Nov. 5, The Beer Farmers won the overall Judges’ Choice Award for their Farmer’s Daughter White, a traditional Belgian-style wheat beer spiced with orange peel and coriander that also beat out 15 others in the Belgian Ale category. Miller’s operation also earned third place in the Specialty Wild Ale category for its Rose & Hibiscus Sour, while Whistler-based Coast Mountain Brewing took second in North American Pale Ale.
For Miller, the awards are a welcome reassurance that he and his family’s hard work is paying off.
“Definitely, it can be a good foot in the door,” he said. “[Our Farmer’s Daughter White] is beer that we’ve always made since Day 1. It’s nice to be able to make a more classically styled beer and have it recognized instead of having to do something that’s super fancy. It’s something that anyone might enjoy.”
Farmers by trade, the Millers and their ancestors have worked on Pemberton-area fields for about 120 years. Today, they grow their own hops and barley as a nod to their agricultural roots. According to Miller, barley is underappreciated in the beer industry despite representing “99 per cent of the ingredients in beer.” He and his family are happy to offer guests a change of pace from the Manitoba-grown barley found in most B.C. beers, he added.
As word of mouth has spread, The Beer Farmers have entertained a diverse clientele in the past few years. Many visitors frequent their tasting room, but some of those out-of-towners are pulled in by enthusiastic locals won over by the Millers’ brand of Saison and Belgian beers. Miller and his team prefer to use their homegrown ingredients in lighter, specialty styles that accentuate nuances in flavour, he said. An innovative new flavour is slated to join the lineup in a few weeks as well, he added: a barley-based collaboration between The Beer Farmers and two other B.C. breweries.
After seeing “a lot of different versions” of his hometown through the years, Miller is excited that his family business can be part of the growth spurt that Pemberton is experiencing.
“It’s really exciting and encouraging to see the town kind of growing up, and, you know, it’s nice to see more options, different things to do,” he said. “Especially younger people moving here and the creativity, and the sort of reinvention that that brings.”
Even as The Beer Farmers team looks to be creative in developing new and exciting products, they remain committed to the family-oriented hospitality that got them this far. Miller fully intends to continue earning the trust of his customers, including the latest influx of newcomers.
“We really put our name on things and [we take] the pride and also the pressure that comes with that,” said Miller. “So, you know, we’re pretty careful, we’re slow and methodical. And we want to make sure we get it right.”