Leaving guests with a sour taste in their mouths is not exactly an ideal business model for any festival. But attendees to the annual Whistler Village Beer Festival (WVBF) this weekend can expect just that thanks to an event that will pit 10 breweries against one another in a heated Battle of the Sours.
Scheduled for Friday, Sept. 15 at the Westin, Master Crafters invites brewers to bring their best sour beers to see which will reign supreme, earning them the chance to sell their draft at the FireRock for the upcoming year. Armed with only tasting notes, alcohol percentage and IBU, attendees will select their favourite through a blind taste test.
"That's the one we're probably most excited for and another way we give back to breweries — each brewery receives two complimentary tickets to the event," explained Tara Myers, events manager with festival producer Gibbons Hospitality Group.
"It's a really nice way for the breweries to be able to relax and unwind and all say hi to each other before the madness of the weekend kicks off."
Since launching in 2012, the WVBF, scheduled for Sept. 13 to 17, has grown into a can't-miss event on the beer lover's calendar and a great way to celebrate those last fleeting days of summer. To mark its fifth anniversary, all Saturday passholders will also be granted access to Sunday's main event.
Myers said organizers have learned some important lessons over the event's half-decade.
"We try to listen to our festivalgoers and our breweries about what they like and what they don't. We take that into account every single year and try to make things better every year as a result," she said. "The music is such a big part of the festival, too, so we're definitely looking to focus on building that local music presence, but also looking into bringing in bigger names that will draw people from the city, too."
The concert lineup makes up a veritable who's who of the Whistler music scene, featuring recognizable acts such as high-energy rockers Red Chair, the stylish vibes of R'n'B crooner Jenna Mae & The Groove Section, and the dance-floor-packing jams of DJ Billy The Kidd. Headlining the weekend is Victoria's Band of Rascals, who will be bringing their hard-rock-meets-southern-blues live show to the Olympic Plaza stage on Sunday at 4 p.m.
Of course, it goes without saying the main attraction of the weekend is the beer, and there will be plenty on tap with 60 breweries each bringing two of their best selections to sample. The Sea to Sky will be well represented with the usual cast of suspects — including Whistler's new kid on the block, the ever-popular Coast Mountain Brewing, which took home Best in Fest last year after being open only a few weeks. But there will also be some new faces in the mix from as far away as Washington, Ontario and Alberta.
"(Alberta's) craft-beer scene is booming right now and as a result we're seeing a lot of those guys making trips to Whistler to check out the beer festival," Myers notes.
There's good reason for brewers to want to make the trip. Through the years, WVBF has gained a reputation as one of the most brewer-friendly events on the craft-beer circuit, so much so that there is a long waiting list to participate, Myers said. Part of that is timing; for many breweries, it's the last event after a long summer of festivals. But the potential boon in business that comes with winning a Best in Fest award can also be too good for brewers to pass up.
"Whoever is deemed Best in Fest will win draft contracts and bottle contracts in Whistler, which is a huge draw for a lot of breweries," Myers said.
Breweries will have even more opportunity to win big this year. At past editions, the top three breweries were granted contracts at various Gibbons bars; that's been upped to five this year with the winners of the People's Choice award and the Master Crafters: Battle of the Sours also earning the chance to sell their beer in Whistler for a calendar year.
"We definitely want to promote these guys," Myers added. "They're small businesses as well, quite a few of them, so whatever we can do to help them succeed, we want to."
For more information and tickets, visit gibbonswhistler.com/festivals-events/whistler-village-beer-festival.