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Sea to Sky breweries team up

Coast Mountain, Backcountry, Beere collaborate on pilsner

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On police sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the most glaring symptom of a recurring character's boringness is his passion for a good pilsner.

But Coast Mountain Brewing's Kevin Winter said the Czech brew should get more respect than its current status as a primetime punchline. He's hoping the Double Dry Hopped Pilsner, a collaboration between his brewery, Squamish's Backcountry Brewing and North Vancouver's Beere Brewing Company in honour of Vancouver Craft Beer Week (VCBW), will help change the conversation.

"Lager beer and pilsner beer is some of the hardest beer to brew. There's nothing to hide behind," he said at an event celebrating the three breweries' teamwork at Backcountry on April 6. "With all these IPAs and stouts, you can hide imperfections behind hops, behind cacao, the chocolate, the richness of a stout.

"We're showcasing how good the brewers are here. We're showing that we can brew a damn good beer here, because we don't have to hide behind anything."

Winter said whenever he heads to try a new brewery, the pilsner or lager offered is the first on his list to try.

In addition to taking on the challenge of releasing a "put up or shut up" beer, Winter said pilsners are a style the craft-beer industry has recently started to embrace again and would be especially appreciated during VCBW from May 25 to June 3.

"We thought, 'What a fun idea it would be, with a beer launching in June, to do a nice, drinkable, sessionable pilsner but amp up the alcohol, amp up the body of the beer, give it a ton of hops,'" he said. "We're big, hoppy breweries, the three of us. There's some synergy there."

Though lagers can be derided as being basic beers, and commonly the domain of bigger, corporate beer behemoths, Winter feels his Treeline Lager, which is actually a pilsner, holds up well, as does Backcountry's Ridgerunner Pilsner.

Winter said the mutual respect made the collaboration fairly simple.

"There was a lot of beer drinking and not a lot of stress," Winter said with a chuckle. "We just really enjoy each other's beers."

The aptly named Matthew Beere, head brewer at his eponymous outfit, said it didn't take long for the trio to figure out something they could all agree on.

"We wanted to find a twist, so we went with the pilsner approach. It was pretty easy. We decided in about five minutes," he said. "It was a really fun and smooth collaboration."

Added Winter: "We were told the highest strength we could do was seven per cent. So we immediately went for seven per cent."

Backcountry brewer John Follinsbee was initially approached by VCBW's tall foreheads about creating its 2018 collaboration, and he jumped at the opportunity to work with a couple respected neighbours.

Follinsbee wanted to create a beer that allowed the hops to shine on a less-traditional stage, and a pilsner seemed like a perfect time to do just that.

"We've got a bunch of really cool hops from (Vancouver-based) Hops Connect and we're going to hop the shit out of this pilsner," he said.

Beere said the Backcountry team reached out to him to team up early in their own history—they'd only been open near Lonsdale Quay for a few weeks upon receiving the offer.

"It's good publicity and since we're brand new, not everybody knows about us," he said. "We're still meeting people today that have never heard of our brewery.

"It is a little challenge to set ourselves apart. We're in our own market on the North Shore, so we're something a little different. I think it would be a little harder to set up in East Van ... We have a little breathing room right now."

With representatives from roughly 50 breweries expected to attend the collaboration day, it was easy to see the spirit of camaraderie between all the different craftspeople in the trade.

VCBW co-founder Leah Heneghan said while the big city remains the focus of the festival, it's important to engage industry leaders from nearby areas as well.

"We've wanted to do a Sea to Sky collaboration for a couple years and this just ended up being the year that worked the best," she said. "We wanted to bring our collaboration to places that weren't just in Vancouver. With Coast Mountain opening in Whistler, Backcountry opening here and Beere opening in North Van, they're all three new breweries and that seemed to be a good connection there."

The pilsner is anticipated to be available in mid-May.For more information, visit vancouvercraftbeerweek.com.

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