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Francophone holiday inspires new beer

St. Jean Baptiste celebration planning underway

St. Jean Baptiste Day will have its own beer this year.

The brew, called La BrewHAHA!, will have a debut tasting May 26 at Quest University.

The event will also be used to promote two upcoming events where the newest brew can be enjoyed: the Fête de la St-Jean-Baptiste in Squamish on June 24 and Whistler's Multicultural Celebration between June 27 and 29.

About 2,000 litres of La BrewHAHA! is being specially brewed for St. Jean Baptiste Day by the Howe Sound Brewing Company, which will also sell any leftovers.

To come up with the name of the specialty brew event organizers launched a national naming competition. Nearly 150 entries were received with an entry sent from Quebec City coming from farthest away, according to event coordinator Marie Josée Vermette.

The contest winner, La BrewHAHA!, came from Anne-Marie Riopel of Sorel, Québec. Though the panel of judges decided to tweak her original suggestion, La Brouhaha, to avoid potential trademark issues.

"It was decided that for a beer crafted to celebrate French culture in a primarily Anglophone area, the spelling modification fit the St. Jean's cause," wrote Vermette in a news release.  "The word 'brew' facilitates uptake among non-French speakers, yet adheres to French pronunciation."

The name suggestions were reviewed by a jury, which included a graphic designer, a branding expert, Squamish Councillor Patricia Heintzman and Paul Wilson, the Howe Sound Brewing Company brewer.

Wilson will craft the new brew.

"La BrewHAHA! speaks to me as a strong beer, like an uproar or even an explosion in the mouth as the French word would suggest," said Wilson. "It also lends to festivity and summer celebration. I expect to brew a craft beer with character, which will crown one of Squamish's most popular summer festivals."

It's likely the beer will get some attention from those outside Squamish.

"I want several cases," said Alex Brabant, the founder of, a website for French speaking individuals who live in Metro Vancouver and also one of the jury members.

"It's one of the craziest and coolest ideas that I've even heard of in francophone circles in a long time."

Squamish's francophone school ...cole Les Aiglons is the sponsor of the June 24 St. Jean Baptiste festivities, which will be held in the downtown area between 5 and 11 p.m. and will include musical performances, children's activities, francophone cuisine, a blueberry pie eating contest and prizes.

Nicole Guertin, an organizer of the multicultural festival in Whistler, said planning is underway to hold a street party on Main Street in Whistler on Monday, June 27.

She said the location is perfect because the street has ten restaurants representing cuisine from around the world. According to Guertin the restaurants offered to provide gift certificates for the festival and Main Street merchants have been looking for an opportunity to drive more traffic to the area.

"The timing is good because they area ready to do something," Guertin said of the business owners along Main Street. "I really see this festival growin