THURSDAY SPOTLIGHT: Craft brewers tap into local need

Co-owners, from left, Dan Farrington, Matt Hill and Dave Woodward are preparing to open Arrowsmith Brewing Company in Parksville next month. - J.R. Rardon photo
Co-owners, from left, Dan Farrington, Matt Hill and Dave Woodward are preparing to open Arrowsmith Brewing Company in Parksville next month.
— image credit: J.R. Rardon photo

When asked why he wanted to open a commercial craft brewery in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region, co-owner Dan Farrington was momentarily stumped for a response.

"Why?" he asked. "For drinking good beer."

For the five young partners at Parksville's Arrowsmith Brewing Company, the answer is self-evident. The rest of the public can find out more about the business, which is set to begin dispensing frosty suds in March, at this year's Untapped event at Tigh-na-Mara Resort Feb. 23.

"We won't have any product to share, but we'll be introducing ourselves to the public," said Farrington. "Make sure everybody knows us, and get out there and say hi to everybody."

Farrington, who serves as the sales manager for the start-up brewery, is one of five partner-owners. Dave Woodward is the head brewer and has overseen construction of the massive, 20-hectalitre fermenting tanks and other equipment in the 1,600-square foot location in the Stanford Centre at 425 E. Stanford Ave. in Parksville.

Matt Hill is brewery manager and co-owner along with his brothers, the "silent partners" Rob Hill and Mike Hill.

All are local men who felt the time was right for craft brew to be created and distributed in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region.

"We felt like we needed to have something like this for our community," Matt Hill said. "It always felt like something was missing. What we feel is we're providing a community service; we're creating a place for gathering, like a neighbourhood pub."

In addition to the commercial brewing facility, which will produce bottles and kegs for retail and hospitality sales, Arrowsmith Brewing Company features a tasting room in the front, where patrons may come and sample its ales and seasonal brews, purchase take-out cans or bottles, or fill growlers to go.

The front room, which will feature a West Coast theme of wood accent walls and bar, was still under construction this week. But the actual brewery components have been installed and the partners were scheduled to an inspection by the Liquor Distribution Branch today.

From left, Dan Farrington, Matt Hill and Dave Woodward stand in the brewing room at Arrowsmith Brewing Company, which is scheduled to open in Parksville next month. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS

"If all goes well, this would give us approval for our manufacturing licence," said Hill. "When we get the manufacturing licence go-ahead, then we have the go-ahead to start producing beer in these tanks."

The partners have been working almost daily for months with local contractors to prepare the brewery for opening.

"The whole project, to get to this point, has been about two years," said Farrington. "There's been a lot of work."

The production facility has three 20-hectalitre fermenting tanks and three 40-hectalitre fermenting tanks, said Woodward, along with a cold storage unit and a small lab. Above is a loft with an office, storage for malted barley and the grinder sends the cracked barley into the mash tank.

"This system has been purpose-built for our brewery," said Woodward, who said the equipment is manufactured by Saanich-based Specific Mechanical Systems. "These guys have a talent for making a customs-built brewhouse, just the way I wanted."

The partners say they'll begin by brewing ales, and expect to offer three varieties as well as a seasonal brew that will change throughout the year.

Farrington said the five partners have each worked in aspects of the hospitality industry, so have some experience in both dispensing and imbibing beer. But the key was getting Woodward, who worked both in restaurants and a U-brew before training as a brewmaster.

"Dave helped start Tofino Brewing Company, and he's worked in several places in the province," said Farrington. "He was referred by a friend who said, 'Hey, you need a brewer.' And we were like, 'Yeah, we're going to need one of those.'"

Woodward jumped at the opportunity to return to Parksville Qualicum Beach while taking a stake in the area's first commercial craft brewery.

"All I've done is brew beer; it's all I'm qualified for," Woodward said. "That, and drinking it."

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