When Howe Sound Brewing’s Marketing Manager Meg Visaggio recently pulled out the brewery’s original plans, what she read sounded familiar. “The plans were talking about how the brewery should feel at home in the Pacific Northwest. How it should connect local people. How it should feature fresh and natural food and drink. I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s pretty much how we operate to this day.’”
The plans for what is now one of BC’s most iconic craft breweries were drafted 25 years ago. At the time, the Fenn family, Howe Sounds’ original owners, were collaborating with John Mitchell, the “grandfather of micro-brewing”. John had already founded Horseshoe Bay Brewing, Canada’s first microbrewery, and Spinnakers, its oldest brewpub, in the early eighties. John and the Fenn’s had a vision for a brewery that would perfectly suit its stunning location in Squamish, BC, in the heart of Sea to Sky country.
“John helped the Fenn’s develop their original recipes, the Rail Ale, Diamondhead, and a bitter. There was nothing like Howe Sound Brewing in BC in the mid-nineties. Everything was in kegs then. Pretty much every day they’d just sell out.”
Despite its impressive pedigree, developing the brewery into the staple of craft culture that it now is took time and tenacity. “Squamish used to be a much smaller place, and the culture was different as well. It was a more conservative logging town, and there was some resistance to the brewery from local people. But when the Sea to Sky highway was renovated and more people began visiting Squamish, things really took off.”
Before long, Howe Sound started making its mark at the Canadian Brewing Awards, North American Brewer’s Awards, and BC Beer Awards. “This year we got a Canadian Brewing Award for our Belgian Pale Ale, which was cool because it’s a new recipe. Whenever that happens for a new recipe, it feels really good.”
Naturally, in twenty-five years of operation, Squamish’s favourite hangout has seen many changes. There were many expansions to accommodate increasingly larger numbers of craft beer lovers popping in for a burger and a brew. And most recently the brewery made the switch from its classic 1-litre swing top bottles to cans.
“We made the change partly because of customer demand and partly because glass bottles are much more expensive to ship and store. Squamish is a major lifestyle community, so cans are much more practical for people on the go. People loved the glass bottles, but overall customers have been very supportive.”
To help reformat the brands for tall cans, Howe Sound worked with Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC) to produce their labels. “It’s been so good to work with GLBC. Their team is always focused on solving problems and delivering good value. For example, they’ll get us the best order sizes for saving money. And as our volume has increased and we’re releasing a lot of products—sometimes one or two a month—we really appreciate that GLBC always helps us to meet deadlines and meet our Liquor Distribution Branch commitments. That’s essential!”
Today, with the strictures of COVID-19 beginning to ease, the team at Howe Sound is excited to be rolling out events again. And while they do, they’ll also be sharing their first barrel releases, including Woolly Bugger that’s been aged in bourbon barrels for 9 months. “We really look forward to opening up our event spaces and hosting people again. We’ve got a tap takeover event coming up, patio parties, live music, so much good stuff.”
As Howe Sound Brewing returns to its original purpose—connecting people—we’re proud to be supporting them. If you get a chance, enjoy their new barrel releases and celebrate life in beautiful BC.