Whistler Brewery beer is back on the shelves.
A partnership of B.C. businessmen has bought the rights to the Whistler Brewery brand and are now manufacturing and distributing the amber nectar in B.C.
They also plan to take the product and sell it internationally.
"What company has credentials to take a quality beer to the world?" said Bruce Dean, one of the owners of Whistler Brewery.
"We think the Whistler Brewing Company does."
And the timing couldn’t be better with the world turning its eyes on the town as the co-host of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Dean sees it as a strong symbiotic relationship with the brewery’s outstanding and already award-winning beer, selling the Whistler message overseas just as tourists are looking at the resort as a destination.
"We think there will be a good sympathetic relationship between the Whistler Brewing Company and the Whistler location because as we export product it actually says come visit us here," said Dean.
With the international export market in mind the beer has been developed and packaged along global standards.
The glass bottles, while recycled, are only used once. They are sold in an open basket carrier similar to the ones used for European beers.
The labels are unique in that they are made of pressed aluminum and not paper. This allows for a high definition design, which in Whistler Brewery’s case is a ‘Lilliput’ version of the resort.
"You can see the (Fairmont) Chateau, you can see the Delta (Village Suites), the golf course, Whistler and Blackcomb," said Dean.
"We went to a lot of trouble to capture the essence of Whistler in that label."
Two beers are being produced now: the Whistler Premium Export Lager is brewed in a classic Czech Pilsner style and will be the company’s main entry in foreign markets. A pale ale is also brewed and available locally.
"I know this all sounds like small details but we are really setting out to position Whistler Brewing Company at international standards," said Dean.
For now the beer is bring brewed in Kamloops. But, said Dean, by next spring it is hoped a brewery will be set up in the corridor.
"An important part of our strategy is to have a brewing presence here as well so we expect that… over the course of the summer we will be able to make an announcement to the Whistler community that… we will have a physical footprint in the corridor," said Dean.
But it is not enough that the beer will be brewed here to make it Whistler beer – it is also being brewed with Whistler glacier water.
"What better way to make the brand authentic than to acquire the most important ingredient from the Whistler Water Company. So we have an exclusive supplier arrangement for Whistler glacier water from the Whistler Water Company.
"Every drop of Whistler Beer is brewed with Whistler glacier water."
The water comes from the Place Glacier, not far from the Joffre Lakes, north of Pemberton.
The water melts off the glacier into five large ponds then filters down into a spring, where it is collected and transported to the Whistler Brewery plant.
Dean said the water is perfect for making outstanding beer because it has no iron or heavy metals common in water these days due to industrialization.
The glacier water, points out Dean, comes from rain that fell a thousand years ago, before so many of the pollutants in today’s urban water were around.
The beer has been developed by Brewmaster Jody Hammell, who worked as an apprentice for the old Whistler Brewing Company, which opened in Function Junction in 1989.
That company was bought out by Big Rock of Alberta as part of a marketing strategy, in the late 1990s. Production was moved to Kamloops for a few years and then discontinued.
After several tries Dean and his silent partners were finally able to buy the rights from Big Rock last October.
For Dean, seeing the first bottle of Whistler beer come off the production line was like a dream come true.
"When the first one came off the production line I was ecstatic," said Dean.
The beer was whisked off to the Okanagan Fest of Ale in Penticton in April where it beat out over 100 established brews to win best beer.
It has sold out at the liquor stores several times already but it is available in Whistler now, said Dean.
A canned version will be out in about three weeks time and the beer is available in draft in various restaurants.
It’s likely the big hotels will get on board with the beer as well.