After a long absence, the scent of roasting hops and brewing beer will return to Function Junction.
The Whistler Brewing Company confirmed plans this week to move most domestic brewing and bottling operations back to town, after the previous owner made a decision to move operations to Kamloops.
"From the outset when we redeveloped and relaunched the brand (three years ago) our intention has been to have the brewery back in town, where it was before it was purchased by an out-of-province company and closed down in 2001," said Whistler Brewing president Bruce Dean.
They have already signed a lease on the Whistler Transit facility on Millar Creek Road, as Whistler Transit prepares to move to a new facility. The two organizations will share the facility for the next few months, as Whistler Brewing brings in equipment and Whistler Transit moves out. There is a building permit for some minor changes, but for the most part the building will look the same.
In other words, says Dean, it's perfect.
"I guess it is the old transit building, but in truth the building is not that old and one of the things we really like about it is that the entire front is glass. Once we set up inside, people will literally be able to press their noses against the glass and watch the beer being made," he said.
"Function Junction obviously has its cost advantages, as well as its close proximity to the village and Creekside for our delivery trucks. But also, in my personal opinion, this is a part of town where locals spend some time for various shopping needs and it fits into the Whistler Brewing Company philosophy to integrate into the local community.
"It will be an interesting attraction. We've bought a beautiful copper brewhouse, which will have a visual appeal while also supplying beer to the market. It's a fun thing for us to have the community see what's going on."
There is no pub component to the brewery, but their licence does allow for tours and beer tasting for small groups. Dean emphasized that, first and foremost, it will be a working brewery. From the start, they plan to brew two batches a day, five days a week, with roughly 2,400 litres per batch.
They will start with a staff of 10, and could double that within a few years by adding shifts and going seven days a week.
"We are there to brew beer, to supply restaurants and bars, and we hope to supply draft beer from Pemberton to Vancouver," said Dean. "We also have a canning and bottling operation, so it's a full operation brewery."
Whistler Brewing has expanded its market significantly under new ownership, with markets in Japan, China, and the Pacific Northwest. Recently they also obtained a listing with the Liquor Licencing Board of Ontario, which is one of the largest alcohol purchasers in the world - one of only two B.C.-brewed beers to be listed there.
Whistler Brewing currently produces four brands, Black Tusk Ale, Classic Pale Ale, Premium Export Lager and Weissibier wheat beer.
The brewery will continue to brew out of Kamloops to meet demand, trucking in Whistler Glacier Water to make the product authentic. But Whistler will be the base operation.
Dean expects the first equipment to start arriving in June, and expects most of the construction to take place July and August. The goal is to start operations in November, a few weeks before the official start of the ski season.
"We'd start tomorrow if we could," said Dean.