For a small brewery with a limited advertising budget, a quality product is worth its weight in marketing gold. At the Howe Sound Brewing Co. (HSBC) in Squamish, brewing award-winning beers has been the most effective way to spread the good word beyond the boundaries of the community, and they do it with panache. The locally owned and operated brew pub was the recipient of a gold, silver and bronze medal at the 2011 North American Beer Awards held in Idaho earlier this month. Whistler Brewing Company received a gold for its Weissbier Wheat Ale (a Bavarian style Hefeweizen). The medals put HSBC's tally at those awards at 12 over the past three years and only three years after expanding into the retail market, HSBC ales can be found as far as Minnesota and California.
"By putting our beers in these festivals, by entering our beers in competitions and by using the social media channels that are available to us we are able to get the word out and the word about our brewery is we are a craft, quality brewery," said Howe Sound Brewing Co. general manager Trevor Magee. "We only use natural ingredients, we don't add any artificial ingredients and we have established a growing reputation among the beer geeks and the foodies and the people who like to get on the blogs and like to tweet, so the word spreads quick."
Howe Sound Brewing Co. won five medals at the 2010 North American Beer Awards - a North American Brewers Association-sanctioned event - and enter as many beers in as possible in other contests throughout the year. This time around it was their Pumpkineater Imperial Pumpkin Ale that took bronze, the King Heffy Imperial Hefeweizen that scooped silver and the appropriately named Goldtooth Berliner Wiesse that landed gold.
"The Goldtooth was a unique beer we brewed specifically for Vancouver Craft Beer Week, so it was a small batch and not one we do every year. It ended up winning," said Magee.
The light Berlinerweisse beer has roots in - drum roll - Berlin, and is customarily served with a small dollop of syrup to sweeten the finish (typically a classic Woodruff or fruit syrup). The imperial beers are bigger, stronger ales, with higher alcohol and hops content - brewing techniques employed to extend shelf life. These beers (also known as India Pale Ales or IPAs) were designed to wet the whistles of colonizers in Australia and the West Indies and were brewed to endure long ship rides over vast stretches of ocean without spoiling.
The craft brewing movement has existed since the dawn of beer some 5,000 years ago - it's impossible to separate it from its "craft" roots as it was made at home with local products as part of everyday female domestic duties. Fast-forward to the 20 th Century when technology allowed for mass production and the unique styles of beer brewed by individual brewers were largely overthrown in favour of cheap and reliable (if unexciting) beers made by the Labatt and Molsons of the world. A series of major buyouts over the past few decades has left the mainstream beer industry - including the once Canadian Labatt Brewing Company - in the hands of just a couple of companies - the largest is Anheuser-Busch InBev N.V. (which makes a few you might have heard of - Budweiser, Labatt Blue, Beck's, Stella Artois and Alexander Keith's)