As Vancouver’s only organic craft brewery, Dogwood Brewing has already set itself apart.
Dogwood Brewing is still fairly new in the growing craft beer scene in Vancouver, having opened on March 19th, 2015. As she was conceptualizing the business, brewmaster and owner, Claire Wilson decided that Dogwood would make beer that reflected her values and what was important to her in life. For Claire this meant using organic ingredients, supporting local businesses, and minimizing the brewery’s environmental impact.
Claire believes that the brewer’s values can be instilled into the product itself. “It’s important for us to take a stand on what we believe in as brewers. That passion”, she says, “comes through in what we make.” When the head brewer is also the owner that dedication becomes more apparent as well. From consulting with Rebecca and Brian of Crannog Ales for advice on going completely organic, to deciding to ship their beer in aluminium cans which have a lessened environmental impact over glass, it’s clear that every choice is deliberate.
Claire is one of those rare people that found something she loved early and stuck with it. In her teens her Irish parents moved the family to Munich where she further developed an interest in beer. She loved Biology in university which led her to the Brewing and Distilling Program at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. Following graduation she worked at, and later on ran, her own breweries in southern England. After a close friend encouraged her to visit, Claire moved to Vancouver where she now owns her own brewery that reflects her own values and passion.
On the surface it’s easy to see what makes Dogwood unique among our ever growing number of breweries in BC. The brewery having organic certification, independently audited annually, and sourcing its ingredients from local organic businesses are the obvious. But these features are not the only things that set Dogwood apart. Claire is one of a small but growing number of women brewers in BC. This is something that is slowly changing in the brewing industry as a whole, and something that Claire is encouraging through participation in projects such as the collaboration Gose that Dogwood will be making along with other BC Women of Brewing in March of this year. As the brewery grows, Claire’s passion and dedication are stamped upon it.
Supporting local businesses and sharing the importance of making sustainable choices is something that Claire and Dogwood want to share with their customers. To illustrate, they’ve taken what Claire calls “the Cereal Box Approach” to their packaging: trying to answer all a consumer’s questions right there on the box. They get a lot of questions from customers regarding their organic certification, their sourcing of local ingredients, and the story behind their brews. It is these questions that they’re hoping to answer on every six-pack they ship.
The brewery offers four mainstays: a crisp and light Honey Lager, a malt-forward and balanced IPA, a sessionable Stout, and their Fest Ale based on a German Märzen recipe celebrating the 300th anniversary of Oktoberfest. In the tasting room you’ll also find at least one rotating seasonal tap, though in some cases there may be more on offer. The brewery has partnered with Rocky Mountain Flatbread to offer delicious pizza in the tasting room so patrons can enjoy some hot food, prepared on-site.
The tasting room at Dogwood features a number of long tables and bench seating typical of a Munich beer hall, though on a much more humble scale. There is some bar seating and a few bar stools tucked in the corner around a weathered oak barrel if you aren’t into the communal feel. Seating shouldn’t be a problem except on the busiest nights, and during the day the tasting room is bright and welcoming. Opposite the entrance, are a number of large windows that offer a glimpse into Dogwood’s production facility, currently stacked high with cans that are filled and ready to ship.
The brewery certainly has room to grow in their space as well. While the location is far from the trendy areas of Brewery Creek or Yeast Van, there is still a healthy amount of traffic that comes by to visit. And for those who are unable to head over for a visit in person, there are an ever-growing number of stores to find their beers. Legacy, Brewery Creek, and Toby’s are just a few locations where you can buy six-pack boxes of Dogwood’s brew, with another 15 private stores angling to get their hands on some as well. With 12 BC Liquor locations that are able to stock cans of Dogwood, growth for Claire’s brewery is happening steadily and surely.
Dogwood Brewing will be celebrating their first anniversary this year on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 2016 with food and seasonal beer. It’s bound to be busy downtown so why not head over to Dogwood to help celebrate their first year brewing organic beer in Vancouver.