The award-winning Four Winds Brewing Co. is a company that would have never existed if the Mills family weren’t such intensely passionate hobbyists. In fact, the beloved Delta, BC-based brewery was originally conceived of in a shop intended for boat-building.
“In 2006, Dad [co-founder Greg Mills] and his family had just sold Mills Paint, which had been the family business since 1930, and he decided to go into boat-building school,” says Adam Mills, Four Winds Sales & Marketing Director/Co-Founder. “My brothers Brent and Sean and I helped him set up shop in Steveston. But after a while, we realized how labour-intensive the business was, and how hard it would be to make any money. So, we ended up brewing beer in the shop. Greg had one rule in the shop, no operating power tools with beer in the mix, so natural the beer took over.”
Fortunately, the Mills family had started obsessing over homebrewing right before Greg’s boat-building adventure. It was often the topic of conversation at family dinners. Brent had even learned the ins and outs of the commercial brewing business by working a stint at R&B Brewing. Greg and Brent travelled to a brewer’s conference in San Diego in 2012 and scoped out different craft breweries in the area and along the coast on their drive.
“After that, they were super inspired and felt like, ‘We can do this!’ I jumped on board, helped with the concept and planning and we were off.”
Boating, although it hadn’t translated into a business, it did inform the brand—a brand for which Four Winds is deservedly famous.
“We grew up on the ocean. Grandpa always had boats. We’d always sail back and forth between the mainland and Vancouver Island. And the whole nautical theme worked well for our brand and the way we think about beer. The four winds come from all directions, and we like to craft beer that’s inspired by all corners of the world.”
As it happened, when Four Winds Brewing launched in 2013, they caught the start of the craft beer craze in the region. As the first craft brewery in Delta, their opening phase was “smooth. We grew really fast. Demand was huge and it overwhelmed us at times. Soon, we were replacing our 5,000-litre tanks for the next size up. And we repeated that process every six months for the next while.”
The Mills family experienced the typical brewery start-up challenges. They navigated dealing with the BC Liquor Board. They learned to manage cash flow. They build systems and structures to accommodate their rapid growth. They found solid partners to work with—Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC) included.
“GLBC makes our corrugated beer trays and packs, folding carton packs, and labels. There are a bunch of companies who do what they do, but none with the level of customer service that GLBC delivers. The quality is also super-high. When we want features like embossing or sharp print, they always make it look fantastic and at a good price point.”
While Four Winds Brewing runs no risk of losing fans of their Old World and West Coast style beers, the Mills family maintains a “continuous improvement attitude”. And they’re looking forward to sharing their new project with the community that made them what they are: a new brewery/restaurant in Tsawwassen’s Southlands.
“The Southlands is going to be a unique place, a really agriculturally rooted neighbourhood. It’s on 500 acres of farmland along the ocean; we’ll be on the 100 acres that have been portioned off for development.”
It’s an exciting new chapter in the Mills’ family’s colourful story. As they continue to make the best beer they can make as their “hometown’s brewery”, we’re so happy to be on board.