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Persephone Brewing Company celebrates a decade

Gibsons' diverse brewery seizes role as cultural hub
Members of the bluegrass band The Contingency perform during tenth anniversary celebrations of the Persephone Brewing Company.

A pioneering Gibsons craft brewery celebrated its 10th anniversary last weekend with an event that redoubled its commitment to growing culture.

On Aug. 19, the Persephone Brewing Company welcomed visitors to a celebration featuring a lineup of five musical ensembles — and a powerfully-fermented stout specially issued to commemorate its decade in business. 

“We just find that part of the language of community is the arts,” said Zarah Gale, Persephone’s community coordinator. “Whatever medium of arts that is, cultural events pull people together as a kind of glue for community.”

Ten continuous hours of live music were delivered from an impromptu stage outside the brewery’s main complex, featuring a blend of local and Vancouver-based artists: Stephan Lacasse, Contingency, the Go Duo house band, the Poppa Greg Band, and dance band Monty Montego and the Rocksteady Crew.

Lacasse, a singer-songwriter based in Roberts Creek, admitted that he favoured one of the brewery’s products for months before joining its regular musical roster. “The Pollinator Pilsner is priced like a value brand at retail, but drinks like a craft beer,” he said. “It’s honestly a very special brew.”

The brewing company — which has since expanded to encompass a full farm, including a chicken coop and apiary — was founded in May 2013 by converting 11 acres of agricultural land. The site was formerly home to a flower farm and retail store. Its sole original structure and a pair of greenhouses have blossomed into a sprawling complex with towering tanks, a quality control laboratory, and refrigerated warehouse facilities.

Persephone, one of the intoxicating destinations that now make up the Sunshine Coast’s “ale trail” of breweries and cideries, was a determinedly family-friendly gathering place since its inception. This year, its management leaned in to foment the arts even more enthusiastically.

“The performing arts have just been so big for us,” said Gale. “This year, we’ve really focused on bringing in live music and people have been really enjoying that.”

On April 22, the brewery opened a bookshop on its second level. The Upstart Upstairs boutique is a satellite of Vancouver’s Upstart & Crow storefront. Brian Smith, Persephone’s founder and CEO, saw synergy between suds and softcovers during a visit to the nonprofit bookseller’s Granville Island headquarters.

Books are carefully-curated, with a sizeable selection of local titles. Upstart & Crow maintains a partnership with the Thistalalh Library, a community lender in Bella Bella, and regularly donates books for readers in Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk) territory.

“It’s an unusual pairing, a bookstore with a brewery, but it’s turned out that people really appreciate it,” added Gale. “If you are a book person, it’s a magnetic draw.”

The brewery has also maintained a unique partnership with the Sunshine Coast Association for Community Living. The association, which supports people with disabilities and develops employment skills, is one of Persephone’s 423 shareholders. Several of its clients are currently employed as chicken caregivers while others package farm eggs for sale.

Persephone is readying upgrades to improve accessibility for people with mobility challenges, as well as plans for a different kind of accessibility: expansion to new locations in B.C. while increasing its equity partners through a crowdfunding portal.

Additional arts events — including an all-ages games and magic night scheduled for this weekend — will be hosted through the remainder of the summer.