There’s been a couple of really interesting things going on at Granville Island Brewing that have really piqued my interest lately. First of all they became the first Bullfrog Powered brewery in British Columbia, which is a great showcase of leadership that I respect greatly as they are investing in cleaner energy solutions. Second, they have partnered with Huka who run the Pemberton Music Festival and have collaborated on a small batch brewed Campground Common beer to celebrate the festival. Not only are they simply brewing a beer however, they are also taking it a step further by planting 320 Cascade Hop plants that will line the walkway down the middle of the campground at the festival. These were two really cool stories that I wanted to dive into a little further and thankfully, Granville Island Brewing Beer Merchant Michael Sharpham (with an assist from Brionne Holland) agreed to a short interview with me to answer a few questions I had about their efforts in sustainability and local community events.
Now, before we get into the interview I’d like to give a little background on each of these. The Pemberton Music Festival has been running since 2014 and spans over a 4 day period in mid July (this year July 14th-17th) that features a pretty great lineup of musicians. It takes place in a massive outdoor area near Mt Currie in Pemberton and attracts some 100,000+ people from all over. There are multiple camp sites, comedy acts, music acts, and likely all kinds of summer shenanigans of the kind that you’d expect and a large outdoor concert venue in BC. I haven’t been before, but feel free to check out the video below to get an idea of what to expect as it looks like a giant four day summer party.
Bullfrog Power is a Canadian green energy retailer who specializes in supporting the launch of green energy projects across the country and anyone who purchases green energy from them helps support a cleaner environment. Effectively what they do is pump the equivalent amount of purchase green energy into the local grid from EcoLogo certified sources, matching the amount of electricity or gas you utilize and agree to purchase while using the premium they charge to run, maintain and develop those cleaner energy facilities. Working with a company like BullFrog is a very positive way to support and purchase alternative energy as each kilowatt hour or gigajoule of green energy generated supplants the need for the same amount of energy from more traditional and less clean sources. The video below gives a nice overview of how it all works.
I was able to chat with Michael and Brionne over the phone while taking notes during the interview, so the words I’ve used are my paraphrased versions of their answers, which have been reviewed for accuracy in advance of posting this article.
Pemberton Music Festival and Campground Common
Q – This is a unique approach to partnering with a festival, what attracted you to the Pemberton Music Festival specifically?
A – Everything from it being a community event, working with a local partner in Huka Entertainment, to it being an outdoor festival that showcased some of the amazing beauty of British Columbia was what really made the Pemberton Music Festival the right fit for this collaboration effort. We were looking for a festival where we could leave a legacy behind, specifically the hop plants which showcase how great our Province is as a hop growing region, which historically was a popular crop in BC and is quickly becoming a growing industry again.
Q – What’s the plan for the hops and who’s taking care of them as they grow?
A – Since they are planted on the festival site, as the Cascade hops grow up the poles the grounds keeper Sebastien (who also maintains the land) will watch over them. Hops Connect, a local hops grower in the region is also lending a hand and finally there is a good water table and pond nearby to supply all of the hop plant water needs. By the time of the festival, they should be about 10-12 feet tall and will harvest about 20 lbs of dry hops in by late September. Next year, they should fully harvest about 160 lbs of dry hops at the end of the second season which will be used in a future collaboration beer and finally in the third season they will double in production to produce 320 lbs of dry hops by the third season (about 1 lb per plant) and beyond.
Q – How was the beer style chosen?
A – Campground Common is an approachable beer that has a wide appeal , the style has a great history on the West Coast, it was brewed with local hops , and has always been linked with the outdoors and works just wonderfully with the name we chose.
For interest, also known as a California Common or Steam Beer, this style dates back historically to the mid 19th century in West Coast North America when lager yeasts were sometimes fermented at higher than normal temperatures without the use of controlled refrigeration, often out of necessity. It was traditionally air cooled near the ocean utilizing the cooler air in open rooftop containers which would release lots of steam into the air when the hot boiled wort reached the colder outside temperature, hence the nickname “steam beer”.
Q – Will the beer be available at the Festival?
A – Since Campground Common was a small batch beer brewed in advance of the festival and was made at the smaller, original Granville Island Brewery itself, we weren’t able to brew enough to supply it to the full festival. We’ll have a limited amount in the VIP areas as well as other Granville Island Brewing beers available throughout the fest.
Q – Where can we get the beer today?
A – At the Granville Island Brewery Store, select Private Liquor Stores and some Provincial Liquor Stores
Q – Can we expect to see more local connections to other festivals, local ingredients and unique partnerships like this one in the future from Granville Island Brewing?
A – We hope to have the opportunity to participate in more local connections like this one, to stay in touch with community and continue to be an integral part of it.
On Being British Columbia’s First BullFrog Powered Brewery
Q – In regards to clean energy, what made you choose BullFrog power over all of the different options out there?
A – BullFrog offered us the quickest solution to get into renewable power and move towards a more sustainable approach to brewing, without having to replace good working equipment, without retrofitting everything and without major delays. It was a good, viable, clean option.
Q – Are you using them for both renewable electricity and renewable natural gas?
A – Yes, we are purchasing both environmentally friendly electricity and natural gas from Bullfrog.
For interest, the electricity is supplied by a mix of low environmental impact hydro, wind and solar while the gas is sourced from decaying material at landfills which is captured, cleaned and put into the pipeline (sourced from bullfrogpower.com).
Q – Does this cover just the energy used at the smaller Granville Island Brewery or the energy used to make all Granville Island Brewing products?
A – It covers all Granville Island Brewing operations, which will displace over 429 tonnes of CO2 annually. This is the equivalent of removing 90 cars from the road or the same amount of CO2 that would require 142 hectares of forest to fully sequester the pollutants each year (over 10,000 mature trees).
Q – What are some of the other ways Granville Island contributes towards are cleaner and more positive environment today or potentially in the future?
A – We re-used existing materials in our renovations, have energy efficient hand dryers, use local producers and suppliers whenever possible and like many breweries our spent grains help feed local BC livestock. Lately, the nearby Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts has even dabbled in some spent grain recipes from time to time. We’ll continue to look for future opportunities as they arise.
I wanted to thank both Michael and Brionne for their time and answers to these questions. I admire that they are taking a leadership position in green power and encourage Granville Island Brewing to continue along this path throughout the future and help Vancouver reach its environmental goals of being the greenest city in the world. I’ll leave you with this product shot from their Instagram Page while I go track down this beer that I will totally take with me on my next camping trip.