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Gibsons brewery is brewing and innovating with a purpose

Persephone is Canada’s only farm-based Certified B-Corp brewery and it strives to embody only the highest social, environmental and ethical standards
The Pollinator Pilsner.

In addition to being the name of the famous boat from The Beachcombers, ‘Persephone’ is also the Greek goddess who personified spring and new growth, particularly grain crops. And while Gibsons’ Persephone Brewing Company took its name from the heroic vessel of CBC fame, there is an obvious correlation to its mythological namesake. 

“We want people to feel a connection to the land when they drink our beer. You achieve that by knowing where it comes from, how it’s made,” explains Brian Smith, owner and CEO of Persephone Brewing Company, when asked about his passion for brewing. “That’s what consumers want. But until recently, it was difficult to achieve.”

Persephone is Canada’s only farm-based Certified B-Corp brewery, meaning it strives to embody only the highest social, environmental, and ethical standards. This past summer, it released Canada’s most sustainable and traceable beer, the Pollinator Pilsner, in partnership with TELUS. A testament to the company’s commitment to transparency, Persephone customers can now follow every stage of the Canadian-grown malt barley from the time seeds are sown in the field to the moment the ice-cold pilsner is poured into their glass. In addition to the traceable malt, Pollinator uses only Certified Organic hops and locally-sourced honey.

To make the Pollinator Pilsner Persephone’s most sustainable beer to date, TELUS worked with Persephone’s farming partners to integrate tools like Decisive Farming, a farm management application that helps boost productivity, and Muddy Boots, an application that provides farm-to-food traceability application.

Sustainable agriculture favours farming methods that ensure the land will continue to provide for future generations, while reducing harm suffered by ecosystems. “No farms, no beer!” says Smith. Regenerative agriculture is a key area in the fight against climate change and Canadian companies like Persephone are helping to lead the way. Recently, Smith and the Persephone team were happy to announce that, from now on, all of their pilsners and lagers will use traceable malt.  

“TELUS made it possible by providing us with the right tools and technology, but also by connecting us to farmers using their technology. We wouldn’t be able to source traceable malt without it,” explains Smith. “Our partnership with TELUS allowed us to scale up our business model–one that is both innovative and sustainable.”

TELUS Agriculture uses technology and data to enable a better flow of information across the agriculture and food industry. It delivers healthier and higher-quality food for consumers, while enabling collaboration across the industry, with new ideas that drive efficiencies and profit for actors up and down the supply-chain, from farmers and ranchers, to manufacturers and retail businesses.

Profit with a purpose

Persephone is a social venture, committed to being socially and ecologically responsible. The brewery is located on 11 acres of agricultural land in the unceded territory of the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation). Independently owned and operated, Persephone is dedicated to a vision of making world-class beer, building healthy local food systems, and strengthening community.

Having a positive social impact has always been at the heart of Persephone’s mission. Smith holds a master’s degree from UBC’s planning school and worked at Building Opportunities with Business, a non-profit in Vancouver neighbourhoods like the Downtown Eastside and Strathcona. On top of that, the Sunshine Coast Association for Community Living (SCACL)–a charitable organization that provides community-based programs and services to support adults with developmental disabilities–is a shareholder and an important farming partner of Persephone Brewing.

The company’s track record and commitment to social and environmental change made it the perfect partner for the TELUS Pollinator Fund for Good, a social impact investing fund to help start-ups make the world a better place. Indeed, the partnership between Persephone Brewing and TELUS is bearing fruit, resulting in a successful and innovative business providing year-round employment, in a region that has historically had a seasonal, resource-based economy of fishing, forestry and, famously, log salvaging.

Persephone was the name of the tugboat used by the character Nick in the iconic 1970s Canadian TV series, The Beachcombers. One of the longest running shows in English Canadian TV history, it put Gibsons and the Sunshine Coast on the map, showing off the region’s incredible natural beauty and warm-hearted residents.

“We set out to make world-class beer. It may sound frivolous, but if you’re not putting out a good product, you’re not furthering the cause,” says Smith. “The point is to show people that there is a more sustainable way of doing business, and that still allows us to enjoy the things we love. In our case, it’s beer. But, it’s true for anything.”

Smith has ambitions and isn’t afraid to dream big: “We like to tell people that Persephone is just your humble local brewery, out to change the world. We want to be a model for other businesses.” His optimism isn’t misplaced.

In its prime, The Beachcombers drew over 1 million viewers per episode. More importantly, it set the stage for the development of British Columbia’s now burgeoning film production industry.

With the help of TELUS, Persephone Brewery may yet do the same for the world of sustainable and traceable brewing.