Queens of the Cask
by Chris Dias
It’s difficult to ignore the obvious observation that most of the staff at Barkerville Brewing are female. This includes the general manager, front host, and brew master, not to emphasize some attempted adorable yet ultimately condescending statement about accomplishment, but rather an interesting side-point to be mentioned once and never again, as this article focuses on the true substance of Barkerville Brewing.
But yes, a group of women running a brewery is probably the coolest thing I’ll write about all month. But, as mentioned previously, I will speak of it no more.
The easily accessible brewery was built out of a forgotten nightclub, the fermentation tanks sitting like forsaken eligible companions on the floor waiting for someone to dance with. Their dining area is rustic and simple, dominated by a single large table often filled with potential friends. Barkerville Brewing is pushing on four years; back then, craft brewing was not as big. It’s a tribute to the perseverance of Barkerville Brewing that its brand is cultivated to the extent it is now, in some places more recognized than the historic town it is named after, again paying credit to the hands behind the operation.
And what an irony that a business producing content catering by a majority to men would be run by women…which is something I would say if that mattered, but like I said, it doesn’t.
“The struggle was real,” explained Justine Pelletier, the General Manager. “Education about craft beer quickly became our full-time job. While there are many craft lovers in the North, there are even more loyal customers to the big brands. I would compare it much like McDonald’s versus your locally owned sandwich shop. It’s not just supporting a local company, local jobs, and keeping your money in your community. It’s about the quality of the ingredients you are consuming. I find once people start drinking craft beer, it’s hard to go back to what they drank before. They find the taste, the quality, and the overall experience more enjoyable.”
That I can attest to. I would further that point by stressing that when you get to talking about beer with a brew master, you end with the feeling that someone is talking about their child. And that zeal for quality was rewarded when Barkerville Brewing won a Silver medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards in their first months of operation. The passion of brew masters is certainly compelling, and Barkerville is no exception. Erin, the brew master, insists on showing off her work with little encouragement. When offering samples, the glasses were tall and overflowing, though she was quick to correct my assumption.
“The title brew-master is usually reserved for braumeister,” Erin clarified, “graduates who go to school in Germany. I got my start here at Barkerville Brewing, I think mostly by having a great cover letter. I had worked for years in the bush primarily as a tree planter, and filling in the winters with other odd jobs. I also drank a lot of beer. When I heard that a brewery was opening in Quesnel, I was determined to work there. I followed Troy (our former brewer) around for three years, and he taught me lots of things.”
Barkerville Brewing is quickly becoming one of the most recognized brands in the region, and its reach is growing across Canada, quite the accomplishment considering the cutthroat competition, especially from large parent companies.
And the idea of a group of women triumphing in what would be assumed a male-dominated industry is the type of shot in the arm this industry needs. Right, last time.
As for the growing local competition, they love it.
“Half our job is educating people,” Justine said, “so we love places like Crossroads, in that they’re helping spread the concept of craft brewing across the north.”
This is not a Spice Girls allegory, as that would be insulting. Barkerville Brewing’s success is natural, as is the line-up of its current staff.
And as I’m an 80’s child, the parable I would bring up is… ohh… Bananarama. Hey, don’t knock it, they were and still are huge. It’s not about competing in a field and receiving a pat on the head; it’s about dominating a field and creating a legacy of admirers will talk about decades from now.
185 Davie street | Quesnel BC tF: 1.855.922.7537 barkervillebeer.com