Whistler is buzzing with craft beer excitement as the start of this year’s Whistler Village Beer Festival (WVBF) draws closer. For 4 days starting on the 11th of September Whistler will play host to 50 different breweries and 4000+ craft beer drinking attendees.
The beer scene in Whistler has changed a lot in the past few years and the introduction of this beer festival, which kicked off last year, has likely helped it along.
CraftBeer.ca will have some staff attending the festival this year and to help quench our thirst for Whistler and beer I decided to ask some questions about the history of the festival.
So, I spoke to Liam Peyton.
Liam Peyton is the man behind the festival. Liam has lived in Whistler for the past six years and work wise got his start as a door host at the Longhorn Saloon.
The Longhorn is a place that many Whistler visitors can point to as their first introduction to the village. After finishing off the last run of the day, you ride (or ski) into the village and the Longhorn is right there to greet you, calling you in for a beer. I’m sure many readers can remember walking onto the longhorn patio after a day of spring skiing and grabbing a cold Budweiser or Corona out of the trough of ice.
Although great memories, the beer choice wasn’t exactly plentiful at the time.
In Liam’s time at the Longhorn he moved from door host, to bartender and on to bar manager. Most of the taps were dedicated to the big brewers like Molson and Labatt with the exception of Whistler’s local brewery (and now festival sponsor) Whistler Brewing Company who had taps around the village.
As Liam neared the end of his time working at the Longhorn consumer’s interest in craft beer was growing and Liam found himself wanting to get more involved with the brewing industry.
Meanwhile, Gibbons the company that owned the Longhorn Saloon where Liam worked were making some moves of their own in the craft beer industry. Gibbons was able to get in on an opportunity to invest in Deep Cove Brewers and Distillers and around the same time had meetings with Tourism Whistler about starting a craft beer festival in Whistler.
This was the opportunity that Liam was looking for. He became the territorial rep for Deep Cove beer in Whistler and Pemberton. He also was given the reigns to make Whistler’s first large scale beer festival a reality.
Liam’s goals in creating the festival aren’t as simple as just to bring good beer to the people. Of course craft beer is the main focus, but, he also wants to bring the people to Whistler and showcase all of the great venues that Whistler has to offer. In addition to highlighting great beer Liam says that he wants the festival to “make every business in this community benefit”.
That boost in business was evident at the very first festival last year. A five dollar food voucher included with festival tickets resulted in packed supporting venues. The popularity and success of the vouchers ended up playing a role in the only “bad press” (emphasis on the quotation marks) that the festival received.
Last year the festival had 4 supporting venues including the Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub. In that first year of the festival they were so swamped with patrons enjoying the pub and redeeming their food vouchers that the kitchen had to temporarily stop taking orders, so, that they could maintain food quality and service for the 200 customers already seated and waiting to eat!
The Dubh Linn Gate was the first venue in Whistler to really experiment with growing their craft beer taps and they have been a big supporter of the Whistler Village Beer Festival since the beginning, so, it’s great to see Dubb Linn Gate is back as a supporting venue this year, but in year two they have reinforcements. The number of supporting venues has more than doubled from four to ten* establishments.
The increase of venues for the festival mirrors what’s going on with Whistler’s craft beer scene in general. Craft beer’s rise in popularity isn’t showing any signs of slowing down and this year’s ‘Best in Fest’ awards should help keep that ball rolling.
Instead of the traditional beer festival medals the awards handed out at the ‘Best in Fest’ will be draught contracts in one of the local pubs, so, you’ll still be able to enjoy your favourite beer in a Whistler pub for the year that follows.
The festival is also keeping pace with the growth by adding a number of unique events and seminars over the four days to enhance the main event.
2014 Beer Seminars
As much as beer drinkers today enjoy just sitting back and enjoying a couple pints they have also shown a growing interest in gaining a greater knowledge of what goes into creating great craft beer.
WVBF is looking to meet that growing demand by introducing a new seminar series to this year’s festival.
If you can make it up for Thursday you can take advantage of sitting in on a seminar with Ken Beattie of EurekaBeerGuide.com, a Prud’homme certified beer educator with over 25 years of experience in the beer industry. This one is the first scheduled event of the festival starting at 4pm and also includes a tour of the Whistler brewery.
On Friday there are 2 seminars lined up with the first starting at 2 in the afternoon. Joe Wiebe, the “‘Thirsty Writer” and author of Craft Beer Revolution leads a history lesson taking a look at over 30 years of BC’s craft beer history.
After learning about BC’s brewing history you can roll into another seminar with Ken Beattie. This time the focus is on six different styles of beer and how they shaped the beer world that we are familiar with today.
These seminars are set to educate and entertain you all while drinking some beer.
If only all school was that much fun! As Liam Peyton put it, “you get to sit in the classroom and drink beer it’s probably the best way to do it!”.
After attending those seminars you’ll be set to strut your stuff at all of WVBF’s other events, beer dinners, cask showdowns and of course the main event of the festival on Saturday which starts at 1pm.
I’ll see you there!
If you don’t have your tickets yet, check out the events page at WVBF.ca
* Looking for a list of venues where you can redeem your $5 food voucher? You can choose from any of the 10 listed below;
- Garibaldi Lift Co.
- Longhorn Saloon
- Dubh Linn Gate
- Tapleys Pub
- The Beacon Pub
- Amsterdam Pub
- La Bocca
- Le Brasserie
- Buffalo Bills