As Big As They Get, But Smaller Than You Think – This is Phillips Brewing & Malting Co.
There have been so many success stories in British Columbia craft beer in the past decade that it is difficult to pick just one to focus on. If you can think back to 2010 and your local pub and compare that to today, one brewery has made a major impact on the tap lines of BC. In 2010 the beer that you could get virtually everywhere was the Okanagan Springs Pale Ale, today that beer is the Phillips Blue Buck. Slowly but surely Matt Phillips’ little brewery that opened in 2001 has grown to be the largest craft brewery in the province.
Despite the fact that the brewery works tirelessly to keep up with the incessant demand one thing has stayed its course come hell or high water – small scale craft beer with flair.
As a brewery grows the most efficient way to grow capacity is to buy bigger fermentors. If your fermentors are bigger than your brew-house then you can brew several times to fill the tank and have more liquid to work with. This is where economies of scale can be found. Phillips has taken a different approach. With a farm of single-brew sized fermentors out back the brewery can brew a small amount of beer very often. This is how the brewery can release so many beers so frequently. The Snowcase is a result of this unique setup.
Touring through the brewery it is not the shiniest, the most impressive or the most practical but it shows the growth and the passion for craft around every corner. The building, which was once quite open is now packed with equipment that is bursting into the parking lot. Each and every corner is stuffed with tanks, packaging equipment, a centrifuge and even a couple of stills.
If beer isn’t enough, Phillips has dipped its toes into a few other areas as well. The “& Malting” in the name represents their venture into processing local grains for some of their brews. Phillips is the only brewery that has such a facility. In the building they also brew ginger ale and root beer for Phillips Soda Works plus have two stills that spawned the Fermentorium. The Stump Gin and Hop Drop come from a prohibition era a newer, secondary still.
One thing is clear with Phillips Brewing & Malting Co. Their growth has come organically and through passion. Each side project has been created out of excitement and intrigue as opposed to purely profit. There is no profit in malting local grains for instance – but to support local farmers and the goal to create truly BC product drives change for the Phillips team.
It does not matter if you are drinking the Blue Buck, The Amnesiac, or whatever crazy concoction the brewery comes out with next, it is made in the same small scale way with passion and dedication as the first ingredient that goes into the mash.