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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Breaking the Shoulder

In Whistler's ever-expanding events portfolio, the WVBF's September date sits on an ideal weekend to help the slow but sure elimination of the shoulder season. GranFondo has wrapped up the major sporting events for the summer and the now 10-day-long Cornucopia is still two months away.

"We consulted with Tourism Whistler and found out what the quiet weekends were and how we were going to fill them," says Peyton.

"The two weekends we found in September just happened to be wedged between the Great Canadian Beer Festival in Victoria and Hopscotch (whisky, beer and spirits festival) in Kelowna. It's perfect."

But the planning and execution of this festival — including the move to Olympic Plaza — could not have been possible without the support of the community stakeholders. The RMOW, RCMP and Tourism Whistler have all given their support, not only to get the overarching heads-in-beds count up during a quiet September weekend, but because there are beer lovers on their staff who want to see the festival succeed.

"It hasn't really been an uphill battle," says Stoker.

"The fact that it's 'Beer in the Mountains' probably puts a sparkle in most people's eyes. It's pretty easy to get behind that concept when it's so wholehearted."

The mandate for every event in Whistler is to not only get visitors for the day but to extend that stay into multiple nights. The WVBF itself may only be taking place for four-and-a-half hours on Saturday afternoon (1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.), but plenty of other events are planned in Whistler's restaurants and bars to let attendees interact with brewers and encourage those travelling from out of the region to stay a bit longer in Whistler.

After-parties to the festival are planned at the Longhorn and the Amsterdam, as well as several beer dinners taking place at the Dubh Linn Gate including the "The Butcher and the Brewmaster" — a pairing of cask beers with artisan meats and cheeses and the "Still in Bed with Beer" hair of the dog brunch on Sunday morning.

The beer and food pairing movement may not yet have the cultural prestige of wine, but evolving the WVBF from a beer "farmers' market" into a literal beer cornucopia is definitely something on the minds of Stoker and Peyton.

"It's not just craft beer, it's this whole craft culture of making it from scratch and building it with passion," says Peyton, who sees the WVBF as returning stronger for next year and beyond.

"We're a lot more confident with the newer venue in regards to the success of the event. This is one of the few events in town that's born and bred in Whistler.

"We're passionate Whistlerites that want to make Whistler bigger and better and bring more people here to experience what we have granted to us every single day. That is the vision.

"And if there's a few cheeky beers involved, even better."

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