September 12, 2013 Features & Images » Feature Story

Brew it and they will come 

Whistler's inaugural craft beer festival storms out of the gate

click to flip through (10) PHOTO BY VINCE SHULEY. - Brewmaster Derrick Franche has been steering the Brewhouse for the last two years. His 5 Rings IPA won best IPA at last year's B.C. Beer Awards.
  • Photo by Vince Shuley.
  • Brewmaster Derrick Franche has been steering the Brewhouse for the last two years. His 5 Rings IPA won best IPA at last year's B.C. Beer Awards.

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Eye of the Beerholder

I'm sitting at one of the back tables of the Dubh Linn Gate with two Whistler gentleman. Liam Peyton, special events manager for Gibbons Hospitality, is working his way through a pint of White IPA from Oregon's Deschutes Brewery. Harrison Stoker is the general manager of the Dubh Linn Gate and is obviously still on the clock, given the water in his pint glass. These two long-time locals are the brains behind the WVBF, and their eyes can not hide their excitement about launching Whistler's premier craft beer festival.

"All of our electronic ticket sales are coming in from the Lower Mainland, Washington, Interior B.C., even Los Angeles," says Peyton.

"We're doing double-digit sales every day, well underway to sell 2,000 tickets in advance and hoping to have a few hundred on the door."

The capacity of 2,500 people is due to the festival having changed its venue to the open lawn of Whistler Olympic Plaza. The original space was slated to be in the Village Square in front of Cittas' and Araxi, but after getting the go ahead from the RMOW and the RCMP, the 45 attending breweries will be able to spread out their booths this Saturday.

"The Village Stroll would have been a little congested and a bit of logistical challenge, but we really wanted to involve the centre and the heart of the Village where it all started," says Peyton.

"But we got given the opportunity to move it to Olympic Plaza, to increase the size of it and give it the opportunity for growth in coming years. We're only using about 40 per cent of the entire site to serve 2,500 people, including about 150 staff. In the coming years we can crank the number at that site to around 6,000 people."

Adds Stoker: "We were logistically limited by the space we had our eyes on.

"Forty-five breweries made sense (for the Village Square) and still makes sense for year one. But now that the Olympic Plaza is the limit, watch out for year two. We're promising Beer in the Mountains, and that's what you're going to get."

With the 45 attending breweries sampling 105 beers, the fenced off Olympic Plaza will transform into a beer "farmers' market." Background music will play from a discreet DJ booth, but there will be no dance floor or live bands. Just a few picnic tables and a lot of beer lovers sipping samples from four-ounce tasting glasses, and a lot of talking to the brewers. Again, the emphasis of the WVBF points back to quality over quantity.

"We want to make this a brewer's festival," says Peyton.

"That's the focus, making it the best festival for them and everything else will follow."

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