If the recent opening of Persephone Brewing Com-pany in Gibsons is any indication, the Sunshine Coast is ready to support a locally grown brand of suds.
“It was amazing,” said co-owner Brian Smith. “We actually had a small line-up at the gate and had 500 people on opening day.”
Located at 1053 Stewart Road, at the intersection of North Road, the self-described beer farm is marketing two products — Goddess Golden Ale and Rum Runner Red Ale. Both are sold in “growlers” — refillable one-litre and 1.89-litre glass jugs.
The public response to the Aug. 22 opening was so unexpected, Smith said, that the company ran out of small growlers on the second day. On the third day it ran out of the large jugs, closing down briefly until replacements could be picked up in a rush order from Townsite Brewing in Powell River.
“It was phenomenal,” Smith said. “Considering we had no media and no advertising, it’s a good sign. It shows people are excited about craft beer on the Sunshine Coast.”
Smith, whose “day job” is executive director of Community Futures Sunshine Coast, and Vancouver businessman Mark Brand are Persephone’s majority owners. They bought the 11.5-acre (4.6-hectare) farm in May, planted the hop yard immediately with the help of a small army of volunteers, and started installing the brewery in July. Partnering with the Sunshine Coast Association for Community Living (SCACL), the operation employs five full-time and five part-time workers.
“It’s more than I anticipated because we got busy fast,” Smith said.
The Gibsons-grown brew is being sold at Brand’s Gastown restaurants and Portside Pub, as well as Blackfish Pub in Gibsons, Grasshopper Pub in Pender Harbour and Troller Pub in Horseshoe Bay. It will also be available at Gramma’s Pub in Gibsons “any day now,” Smith said.
Customers can buy their growlers at the Stewart Road farm, where a tasting room is set up to allow visitors to sample the product or imbibe a single glass.
“Eventually we may go and get a lounge licence,” Smith said, “but there’s a whole process. Realistically it’s at least a year out. And for now we’re just happy having a tasting room. None of us got into this to open another pub.”
Dion Whyte, Persephone’s general manager, said the beer farm was conceived as “a model of sustainability,” and also as a place to have fun.
“We’re growing our own hops in order to produce a high-quality craft beer, which is ultimately what the customer wants from us, and managing our waste products responsibly, and so on and so forth,” said Whyte, the former manager of sustainability services for the Sunshine Coast Regional District.
“But really,” Whyte added, “what we’re trying to do is create an awesome experience for our employees, for the customer who comes in and can’t wait to come back, and also for the community.”
Future plans include clearing the treed half of the former Petal Flower Farm property to plant more hops, stocking a trout pond for children to catch and release, and hosting weddings and concerts.
“This site will become an event venue as well as an operating, working farm,” Smith said.
As for the name, Smith pointed out that Persephone is not only a tribute to the steel tugboat of Beachcombers fame, but is also the Greek goddess of vegetation.
“It’s a nice connection between the farm and beer,” he said. “It’s a perfect fit.”