In Year 2 of the Squamish Beer Festival, which returns to O'Siyam Pavilion on July 9, organizers will have a renewed focus on what they do best.
"We're going back to basics, keeping it simple, and our main focus is to have a great tasting day. That's why the programming this year is pretty light, but all the energy is focused on the day and making sure people want to come back year after year," said event producer Jean-Philippe Tondreau. "(Beer) is what we do best and that's what people want."
That's right: No unnecessary frills, no unwarranted distractions, just delicious craft beer from over 40 breweries hailing from B.C., Ontario, Saskatchewan and the Pacific Northwest. Without the scope and scale of some of the region's other beer-themed events, Tondreau said the goal at the Squamish Beer Festival is to give attendees and presenting breweries the best experience possible while offering a chance to sample beers they may not find anywhere else.
"Obviously there are lots of craft beer events (in the region), and it's hard to reinvent the wheel," said Tondreau. "A beer tasting event is a beer tasting event at the end of the day, so for us, it's all about creating a flawless experience basically by the time you show up onsite all the way to the time you leave, and that goes from the box office, ticketing to the overall guest experience. I think that's how we stand apart."
With the ubiquity of craft beer in B.C. combined with Squamish's youthful vibe, organizers believe the quick-growing community is the perfect fit for the emerging festival.
"Last year we were quite surprised because we ended up having mostly locals coming to the event. We talked to the brewers after and everyone was amazed at how much people in Squamish know about their beers," Tondreau explained. "Squamish is a very young demographic — I believe the average age is 38 years old — and people are really craft-beer savvy."
That's why, Tondreau explained, the Squamish Beer Festival is aimed first and foremost at the locals.
"This year we really want to attract Squamish residents first, and we believe the Squamish crowd is a really good market for craft beer and we believe the beer festival has lots of room to grow within Squamish," he said. "Obviously without any major events here — the Squamish Valley Music Festival is gone — I think there's lots of room to grow and make it a multi-day event, and that's our goal. Next year we're going to make it a multi-day event, for sure."
On top of the 120 beers on tap, there will also be tunes and lawn games on offer, as well as grub supplied by a handful of food trucks onsite. The $40 general admission gets you four tasting tokens and a four-ounce mug, with additional tokens available for purchase. The event runs from 2 to 8 p.m. at O'Siyam Pavilion Park. Tickets are available at www.squamishbeerfestival.com or in-person at Howe Sound Brewing Company or Scotties Liquor Store.