Squamish is brewing, roasting, fermenting and distilling its way into our hearts
There’s got to be something in the water.
Squamish has an insatiable appetite for a lot of things: climbing mountains, jumping off of mountains, and riding mountains— whether it’s on skis, snowboards, bikes or sleds. We also like our water sports, from stand-up paddleboards to kites, canoes to kayaks, and everything in between.
There’s no question this town is active— literally from sea to sky. But that’s not the only thing Squamish is recognized for, and Kelly Ann Woods is adamant the rest of the world know exactly where one goes to fuel up before an epic Squamish extravaganza, to quench one’s thirst post-workout, or simply in lieu of one.
“Tourism Squamish’s big pitch at the San Francisco trade event this year was all about our craft beverage industry. People need things to talk about. GQ is asking, Vogue is asking: ‘So, what’s new in Squamish this year?’ and you can’t keep going back to the mountains and the trees and outdoor recreation,” said Woods, the co-owner of Gillespie’s Fine Spirits and Boozewitch Shrubs.
“People are still going to go and do the things they are going to do, use the trails, go out on the thing with the sail that is dangerous,” she jokes, “But now there are more, new reasons to come up to Squamish.
“We are hardwired for adventure, but we’re also thirsty,” she said emphatically.
Woods said that it was in conversations with the District of Squamish’s economic development officer and Tourism Squamish she realized the necessity of having a unified voice to make some of the shifts she saw as essential to the success of not only her businesses but those of other craft beverage producers in the region.
Emily Lehnen, co-owner of Counterpart Coffee, jumped on board immediately as she said she recognized a need for it in the community.
“Kelly came up with the idea and sent an email around to a whole bunch of people. She was always thinking of the bigger picture of craft beverages. We thought, ‘Of course we want to be a part of this! Let’s see where it can go.’
“We’ve been in business for three and a half years, and the best results for marketing and networking have really come from working with other small businesses in town. Whether it’s working together on collaborative projects or working with other cafés and bakeries that want to sell our coffee and us selling their cookies, that sort of mutually beneficial relationship. I think they have helped grow our business more than anything,” Lehnen said.
The group has formally banded together as the Squamish Craft Beverage Association with Woods at the helm. The group has representation from producers including: Mountain Squeeze fresh juices, Frostbites fruit syrups, Spark Kombucha & Craft Soda, Squamish Water Kefir Co., Namasthé Tea, Boozewitch Shrubs; coffee from both Counterpart Coffee and Galileo Coffee Company; beer from A-Frame Brewing Co, Backcountry Brewery and Howe Sound Brewing; Northyard, Geo, and Cliffside cideries; and Gillespie’s Fine Spirits.
Associate memberships will be offered shortly.
The first order of business is a celebratory introduction on Saturday, May 19 from 1 to 6 p.m. at The Joinery (Squamish Town Hub).
“The event is super exciting,” said association member and Backcountry Brewing taproom manager Nicole Forest-Smith.
“I see it as a festival — and it’s not often that you get to go to a festival and get to try so many different things. We are going to have fresh pressed juice, water kefir, coffee, lots of different beers, spirits, and hopefully cider if they are ready by then – but they might just be handing out apples,” she laughed. “I’ve never been to anything like this before — the way that we are setting it up so that everybody can sample everything, then also have the ability to have a full drink. It’s really cool.”
Forest-Smith describes the family-friendly tasting event as being set up similar to a farmers market with DJ Just Sheila spinning tunes and a tasty fare on the menu inside the restaurant.
As of May 11, Tourism Squamish will also be offering a passport and tear-away map featuring all the participating craft beverage destinations, perfect for hopping on a bike and heading out for a day of tasting. The passport will be punched and once full it can be redeemed for branded merchandise, according to Woods.
“One of the questions is how do we support members that don’t have a bricks and mortar location; how do we support members that are alcohol versus non-alcoholic? We are setting up this event so its win-win-win for everybody, even those who may not yet have a product ready for the event.
“Frostbites doesn’t have a brick and mortar location so Gillespie’s sells Frostbites and uses it in our cocktails. Spark doesn’t have a brick and mortar location, so A-Frame has Spark on tap. We are finding different ways all the time of connecting people together to grow everyone’s different brands,” Woods explained.
The association also knows the benefit of having one voice.
“Advocacy is an important component. If we want to go before the council or do something bigger in the community, then having multiple voices working together is a lot more effective,” said Forest-Smith.
It also means that no one has to reinvent the wheel.
“When new industry comes to any town or industry starts to expand, there’s always one person who has to really do all the hard work to make things happen. Working on things like that individually can be quite challenging. There’s a body of knowledge and a body of work and a body effort that has already been put into something that can help them.”
Lehnen adds that she hopes the tasting event can be annual.
“We want the event to be yearly, but we will see how that evolves over time. Hopefully every year there will be new members, and we can introduce a few businesses.”
Limited tickets for the Squamish Craft Beverage Association tasting event at The Joinery will be available in advance starting May 11 at The Joinery, Sea to Sky Hotel Cold Beer and Wine Store, Gillespie’s Fine Spirits, A-Frame Brewery, Howe Sound Brewing, Backcountry Brewing, Counterpart Coffee and Galileo Coffee Company.
Each ticket includes a limited edition branded tasting glass and tasting privileges at all the member vendors at the event. Guests are welcome to bring growlers to be filled by Spark Kombucha and Squamish Water Kefir.
Children are welcome for free at this family-friendly event. Parking is recommended at the Sea To Sky Hotel or guests are encouraged to use the on-site bike valet.
For more information, follow the Squamish Craft Beverage Association on Facebook .
• This story was originally published by our sister publication, The Squamish Chief.