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Commemorative brew for craft beer pioneer John Mitchell poured in Squamish

This month marks 40 years since Mitchell opened Canada’s first microbrewery in Horseshoe Bay.
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Left to right: Andrew Sawyer, Brewmaster, A-Frame Brewing; Steve Shard, local businessman; Jeff Oldenborger, A-Frame co-owner; P.J. Richards, Friend & beer enthusiast at the inaugural tapping of the commemorative John Mitchell brew cask on July 7.

The brew town that Squamish is can be traced back to the efforts of the late John Mitchell, who pushed hard to reform prohibition-era regulations in B.C.

In July of 1982, he opened Horseshoe Bay Brewing — the country’s first microbrewery. 

He later came up the corridor with Squamish's Steve Shard, who joined with then-partners Dave Fenn and Colleen Fenn to start Howe Sound Brewing in 1996.

Shard credits Mitchell as an inspiration. 

"The man [is] credited — and rightly so — as the ‘'Godfather' of the modern-day craft brewing revival of first B.C, then all of Canada — i.e. not just the Sea to Sky Corridor. And in fact, along with a few like-minded visionaries in the USA — primarily on the West Coast — right across North America, and beyond," Shard told The Squamish Chief in an email. 

There are now more than 1,000 breweries in the Canadian craft beer industry. 

"All, thanks to one generous, dedicated, hard-working, disciplined, passionate man named John A. Mitchell, who passed away in 2019,” added Shard. 

In honour of this anniversary, Russell Brewing and alumni from the brewing school at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) partnered to produce the John Mitchell Tribute Ale, which launched last week. 

Squamish's A-Frame Brewing celebrated with an official pouring of the brew — a Cascadian dark ale crafted using Mitchell’s original brew sheets — with Shard. 

Proceeds from the sale of the beer will be donated to the John Mitchell Legacy Scholarship at KPU, which will help cover students’ expenses at the school.

The scholarship was created to further the aspiring careers of up-and-coming brewmasters who will serve craft beer-loving enthusiasts for literally decades to come. "And thus, carry on and 'pay forward' a true artisan craft that was nearly lost completely in Canada," Shard said. 

According to a news release, the project was initiated by, and with the approval of, Mitchell’s longtime associate John Ohler.

"Before Mitchell’s passing in 2019, Ohler was formally entrusted to act as steward of Mitchell’s craft beer legacy."

Find out more at the Russell Brewing website.

~With files from Nick Laba/North Shore News

**Please note, this story has been modified since it was first posted to include mention of Ohler, who initiated the project.


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