Townsite Brewing opened in late March up in Powell River on the northern end of the Sunshine Coast. Auspiciously, it was the first really sunny day of the year up there, and I was lucky enough to be on hand for their eclectic Opening Day parade which featured, among other things, decorated goats (in the German spring bock tradition) and a bride and groom riding in a bicycle rickshaw carrying a keg of Townsite beer to a nearby pub. The most important part of the event came when the beer was poured for the crowd of 50 or so people squeezed into the pool room at the pub. And we were not disappointed. Those first sips of Zunga Golden Blonde Ale and Tin Hat IPA were met with smiles and praise all round.
Townsite’s initial marketing plan was mainly focused on getting locals interested in buying it on tap in their local pub or stopping by the brewery to fill up a growler (a reusable two-litre bottle they sell for $17.50 and then refill for $11.20 thereafter, with $1 from every fill going to a local charity), following the successful model adopted by Tofino Brewing when they opened last spring. But what Townsite didn’t bargain for was the interest in their beer down in Vancouver. Demand from the Big Smoke has been very strong, leaving the brewery scrambling to keep up. Brewery Manager Karen Skadsheim says they also have interest from private liquor stores and restaurants on Vancouver Island, but they won’t be able to respond to that until the fall at the earliest.
The secret to the new brewery’s popularity is simple: they brew good beer. And that goes back to the brewer they hired, Cédric Dauchot, a Belgian-born-and-trained brewmaster who took a roundabout route getting to Powell River. He first came to Canada as an employee of the French chain, Les Trois Brasseurs, setting up brewpubs in Montréal. There he met and married Chloe Smith, who is also a brewer, and they decided to move to her hometown of Saskatoon to open a brewpub there. Cédric worked at Paddock Wood, Saskatchewan’s only microbrewery, as they tried to get their own operation going, but after “chasing our own tail for a year and a half,” as he put it, they saw the ad for the Townsite job and applied.
Even though they also had a new-born baby to complicate things further, Cédric said they settled in to life in Powell River quickly. After all, “Saskatoon to Powell River is less far than Belgium to Canada.”
Although Townsite’s main line-up of beers does not include a Belgian style (they also offer Pow Town Porter and Sun Coast Pale Ale), Townsite will showcase Dauchot’s skills with Belgian styles through their seasonal brews, such as the Westview Wheat (a Belgian Wit), and specialty releases such as the Charleston Triple he brewed for the Belgian Showcase at BierCraft as part of Vancouver Craft Beer Week back in May. I tasted it there and quite enjoyed it, but I also tasted a dozen or more other beers that night so I had to get a bottle of it before I could do a proper review. By now, the bottles are mostly sold out, but you might still be able to try it on tap at the Alibi Room or St. Augustine’s. If not, consider trying some of Townsite’s main year-round brews, and look forward to their upcoming fall seasonal releases: Shiny Penny Belgian IPA (named after the brewpub Cédric and Chloe wanted to open in Saskatoon) and Time Warp Wet-Hopped IPA.
Beautiful: a deep amber, almost bronze colour, flecked with tiny champagne-like bubbles. Unfortunately, the head dissipates a bit too quickly, leaving none of the thick “Belgian lace” you’d expect in a Triple.
Spicy and fruity, I can note some apple and banana scents, but again this doesn’t last very long after the pour.
Spicy, even somewhat peppery at the back of my palate. Very nice. There are a lot of complex flavours swirling around above a well-rounded, slightly sweet malt base.
Quite creamy with a medium-light body and a dry finish. The effervescence works well to hide some of the alcohol sweetness.
Out of the gate, I’ve been very impressed with everything to do with Townsite Brewing: great beer, great people working for them, great marketing, great attitude. This beer is a good example of that all round. Even though they had barely opened they managed to brew and bottle a specialty beer for an event on short notice and they didn’t just throw it together, they nailed it. Congrats.
Total Score: 19/25
~ Joe Wiebe