A few months ago, the owners of Arrowsmith Brewing Company were celebrating opening their doors as B.C. newest craft brewery.
Last weekend in Vancouver, they were celebrated as its best.
At last week’s British Columbia Beer Awards at the Croatian Cultural Centre in Vancouver, Arrowsmith Brewing received one gold and one silver award for two of its beer varieties, then wrapped up the night by walking off with the top prize — the Brewery of the Year plaque.
“There was a bit of astonishment, to be honest,” head brewer and co-owner Dave Woodward said. “It was unexpected, to say the least.”
“Our throats are just getting back to normal after all the yelling and screaming,” added co-founder and owner Dan Farrington. “We’d never been a part of anything like that before. And to be there with all our peers and all the other breweries, it was pretty surreal.”
Arrowsmith Brewery opened its doors, at 109-425 Stanford Ave. East, in April of this year. Entries into the 2017 B.C. Beer Awards had to be submitted in August, said Woodward.
The brewery was awarded top prize for its Arrowsmith Blonde Ale and earned second place for its Sea Run Saison, a seasonal summer brew.
“We could talk all day about the Brewery of the Year Award,” co-owner Matt Hill said. “But to win two major awards in two different beer styles… I don’t think Dave has quit grinning since Saturday night.”
The awards promptly raised the profile of Arrowsmith Brewing Company in the growing and competitive field of craft brewing in B.C.
“This definitely put us on the map,” said Farrington, who said he has already fielded calls from businesses on the Lower Mainland interested in selling the brewery’s products. “We’ve only been open for six or seven months now. For a brewery to do that is pretty special, really.”
Hill, Woodward, and Farrington were joined at the awards ceremony by assistant brewer Adam Starkey, Hill’s wife Amanda and Farrington’s wife Dawn. They had two extra tickets to share, and invited Blaine Sepos, head of Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism, and his wife Lisa.
“Blaine sees the opportunity, from his standpoint, for tourism in this area,” said Hill. “Beer tourism is starting to be a really big thing, and to be able to promote the fact you’ve got an award-winning brewery, and the Brewery of the Year for 2017, right here in Parksville, is pretty awesome from a tourism standpoint.”
The 2017 B.C. Beer Awards culminate what has been a whirlwind half-year for the young brewery and its young, locally raised owners.
Originally opened as an 80-hectalitre production facility with a tap room selling draft and bottled beer, Arrowsmith Brewing now distributes its beverages in 80 Vancouver Island liquor stores and nearly 70 pubs and restaurants, said Farrington.
At its opening, the brewery was able to offer each visitor just one sleeve or tasting flight of beers. In September it was awarded a lounge endorsement, and now can offer pints and multiple drinks. Food trucks are typically on site each Friday and occasionally on Saturdays, and patrons may order food for delivery from menus in the tap room, or even bring their own food, said Hill.
Farrington said he expects distribution to expand to the Lower Mainland within weeks, and Hill added the brewery does have plans to expand in the future.
“From day one, the plan was to build a brewery and be able to provide great beer for the local community,” said Hill. “And I think we’ve achieved that at this point. Our hope is to build on it and build the local support even more.”
“The community support here has been overwhelming, really,” said Farrington, who with Hill grew up in Parksville. “Now that we’ve won these big awards, it’s been pretty cool to get all the messages and congratulations. It feels pretty good.”
Woodward grew up in Qualicum Beach before going off to the U.K. to get his education in brewing. Upon returning to B.C., he served as head brewer at breweries in Whistler, Tofino and Langford before returning home to invest in an ownership share in the new, hometown craft brewery.
“I am just humbled,” he said of the awards and the response of the brewing community. “I’m glad everyone loves our beer. I look forward to making more for Parksville Qualicum Beach, and Nanaimo, and Vancouver and the entire province. First the province, then the country!”
Arrowsmith Brewing Company is open seven days a week, from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. To learn more and to check out the availability of food trucks, visit their page at www.facebook.com/MABrewing.