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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The prize for the "Best in Fest" beer will be a draught beer contract at several of Whistler's bars and restaurants, including the Longhorn. This particular Gibbons Hospitality Group venue served one of the highest volume of draft beer during the 2010 Olympic Games, second only to GM Place in Vancouver. It's a big incentive for the attending craft breweries and will be judged by the 2,500 attendees on Saturday.

"We like connecting with the community and really dealing at the consumer level," says Aaron Wirth, the events marketing manager for Ninkasi Brewing Company, out of Eugene, Oregon.

"A lot of our marketing is just letting people make the decision for themselves whether they like the beer. The best way to that is to get the beer on the street."

The drive from Eugene is quite a bit further than the regional beer festivals that Wirth's marketing staff attend (up to five festivals a week in the summer), but Wirth admits that his visit has somewhat of an ulterior motive.

"We're big mountain bikers and I've never actually been to Whistler," he says.

"We sponsor a couple of Canadian Transition riders, we're going to bring them some beer and throw them a party on the way up. They're going to lend us a couple of bikes so we can go do some shredding on the mountain."

Ninkasi will be showcasing its signature Total Domination IPA as well as its popular Oatis Oatmeal Stout, Believer Double Red Ale as well as Wirth's personal favourite, the Tricerahops Double IPA.

Showing off some of Oregon's finest craft beer in Whistler and spending the rest of the weekend riding in the Whistler Bike Park was an opportunity Wirth was not willing to miss.

"It's the perfect combo, I feel really lucky that this is my job," he laughs.

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