The main focus of the Whistler Village Beer Festival (WVBF) is for folks to come around and try some new brews, but with three judged prizes and a people's choice award, there's a competitive element to it, too.
In 2017, the big winner was Richmond's Fuggles & Warlock Craftworks, which will be back this Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 15 and 16) at Whistler Olympic Plaza to defend its title.
Owner Glen Hutton was thrilled to benefit from the festival's unique prizes, as the WVBF and numerous watering holes in the resort are owned by Gibbons Whistler. Fuggles & Warlock found itself on tap at Longhorn Saloon and with a bottle listing at the Garibaldi Lift Co. as a result of its win, while Tapley's Neighbourhood Pub picked up some offerings as well.
"It worked out really well for us. It's something we've put some effort into, for sure," Hutton said. "It goes a long way for your brand if you spend any time in Whistler.
"Just the volume alone at Longhorn is very good. I don't know what their expectations were, but it worked out for us."
This year, Hutton said Fuggles fans can expect a Pineapple Destiny IPA and the brewery's "newest and biggest release," a Gin and Lime Pilsner, at their stand this weekend as they look to defend their title. They'll also be found at the Longhorn on Friday, Sept. 14 as part of that bar's MasterCrafters Fruit Fight event.
Last year's runner-up is from a little closer to home, as Squamish's Backcountry Brewing was a hit with the judges with their mango sour and Widowmaker IPA.
Co-founder Ben Reeder is opting for a similar tack this year, with a session IPA and raspberry boysenberry sour set to pour this year.
Reeder was proud to be recognized in the brewery's first year of operation, having only opened its doors in April 2017. Backcountry found itself on tap at Tapley's with bottles at Dusty's Bar and BBQ.
"It was a pretty awesome honour," he said. "We're popular in the Sea to Sky because we work pretty hard to represent ourselves up here.
"It seems like the Sea to Sky people stick together."
On that note, being located just down Highway 99 from Whistler, Reeder said Backcountry gets an additional boost as visitors will not only have a beer at Tapley's or Dusty's, but will seek out the source when passing through Squamish.
"A lot of them will stop in and check out the brewery because it gets recommended by the bartenders," he said.
Reeder added that if last year's WVBF is any indication, they won't be hard to find, as their booth had a little bit of commotion surrounding it and some tasty beer to offer once people found themselves there.
"We literally had a little dance party going on, so that helped draw people in," he said with a laugh. "What generally happens with those events is people start talking."
Organizers have also been excited to see the festival grow this year, as events began as early as Tuesday, include new tastings like the Craft Cultures night held at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre on Wednesday night, and brought in breweries from across the continent.
Gibbons director of festivals and events Katrina Frew said this year will see 10 more breweries, with companies as far away as Hamilton, Ont. (Collective Arts Brewing), Quebec (Montreal's Glutenberg and Shawnigan's Le Trou de Diable) and Michigan (Founders Brewing Company). As well, she was pleased to expand the WVBF's cider offerings for those less inclined towards beer. She said 2,500 thirsty visitors are expected to pass through the gates on Saturday with another 1,600 to 2,000 coming Sunday, depending on the weather.
While Frew noted the brewers look to impress the judges and earn their position on local beer lists that way, there are other opportunities as well, as restaurant managers often attend the festival.
"A lot of them are choosing their draft lineup and recreating their menus for the winter season, so a lot of them are coming onsite," she said.
For more information, visit gibbonswhistler.com/festivals-events/whistler-village-beer-festival.