When Sooke residents Yari Nielsen, Anton Rabien and Carl Scott decided to open a craft brewery in Sooke, they knew pretty much nothing about the beer industry.
“We came up with the idea in about 2015, but none of us had any experience in the industry,” Nielsen said.
“The one thing we did know was that the craft beer industry was exploding and Sooke seemed to be about the only town of its size without its own craft brewery.”
The threesome brought on another partner, Trevor Wilson, who was a longtime friend, chemist and helicopter pilot.
The final partner added to the business was the company’s head brewer, John Adair, the only one of the partnership who knew how to brew the variety of beers that have now made a name for the company.
The five partners opened the doors to Sooke Brewing Company last November and have never looked back.
“At present, we don’t bottle and distribute our product,” explained Nielsen.
“We have a few contracts locally to distribute kegs, but more than 80 percent of our product is sold right here at the brewery in our tasting room or in over the counter sales on site,” said Nielsen.
Despite the limited production at Sooke Brewing Company and the lack of widespread distribution, the small brewery has made a name for itself.
At the recent ninth annual B.C. Beer Awards, the partners made claim to the title of B.C.’s Best Tasting Room and Rookie of the Year for the best new craft brewery in the province.
They also won three silver awards (German Pilsner, German Pils; Vienna Lager, Amber German Beer; Belgian Blond, Strong Belgian Ale) and a bronze award for their Barleywine Strong Ale.
The awards left Adair feeling humbled.
“I’ll be the first to admit that competitions like this are highly subjective and that, on another day, the results might have been different,” he said.
“I also know that we have produced some fantastic beers here and that we’re always improving and that people really seem to appreciate the work we’re doing here.”
Following their success and the recognition of their peers in the beer industry, Nielsen said that the company may, at some point, look to a broader distribution of its product.
“Right now we have a small plant where we can produce 15 hecta-litres at a time and at any given time we have seven or eight types of beer on tap at our tasting room. In order to get into a broader distribution we’d have to expand that capacity,” said Nielsen.
“At the moment we’re concentrating on continuing to produce the best beer we can for the people of Sooke.”
The tasting room at the Sooke Brewing Company is open daily and on Thursday night it features live entertainment at an increasingly popular open mike night.
As for Adair, he promised to to experiment with different product lines for the people of Sooke.
“I’m convinced that beer is the world’s greatest beverage, and I want to make it even better.”