A lot has changed in Squamish in the last 25 years, and the Howe Sound Brewing Company has been around through it all.
July 23 to 26, the company is celebrating 25 years since opening its doors as one of B.C.’s first craft breweries.
The brewery opened in 1996 with the help of craft beer pioneer John Mitchell, who had previously opened a craft brewery in Horseshoe Bay.
“It is important to us that we honour our past, while also looking forward to the dynamic brewing industry of today. We wanted to use this opportunity to celebrate how we have grown with the brewery industry over the last 25 years and pay tribute to everyone, and all the beers that made Howe Sound Brewing Company the place that it is today,” said Peter Charles, the head brewer, in a news release.
Franco Corno has been with Howe Sound Brewing Company since its beginning and he's lived in Squamish since 2001.
"It has been fun. We got in at the right time, it was a burgeoning, exciting industry — it was a cottage industry, really and it just took right off," he said.
He currently works the brewery order desk, but has also had roles as head brewer, beer advocate, delivery driver, and representative.
He said microbreweries and brewpubs were becoming all the rage in the mid-1990s in B.C. as Howe Sound Brewing Company set up shop.
The trend had already been big in Oregon and California, but B.C. was just getting its feet wet in the industry.
At that time, it was only Corno in the Squamish brewery, brewing three times a week, he recalled.
"Fast forward to today, and there are about a dozen of us in the brewery, and our system allows us to brew twice a day, seven days a week."
They have 15 beers on tap and distribute lagers and ales across B.C. and Canada.
"The big change happened in the mid-90s and it was all exciting and it was all new. Everyone wanted to see the brewery and meet the brewer. Everyone wanted brewery tours," he recalled.
Today, Corno says in B.C., the industry is on par with its cousins to the south, boasting more than 170 breweries in the province.
Looking back, he said he likely wouldn't have guessed craft breweries would be as popular as they are today.
What made it possible was the technology, he said.
"Back then, you had to distribute. There was no way you could make it [otherwise], especially in a town like Squamish. Brewpubs at the time were in big cities where populations were about 100,000. This was like 10,000 to 15,000 people living in Squamish, so in the summertime, we were busy, but as soon as winter rolled around, revenues declined dramatically. So, we had to distribute," he added. "At the time, machines were very expensive, and they were for the big boys like Molson, Labatt, and so on. An Italian company jumped all over it and started making these smaller and more affordable systems and that is what allowed breweries like us and other brewers at the time to start doing a little distribution," he recalled.
Squamish back in the day
Corno said the politics in Squamish at the time Howe Sound Brew Pub was looking to locate here were somewhat anti-development.
"They said you can go to the south end of town where we will develop around you," he recalled, and so it was.
"As soon as they get the waterfront going, we will be in the middle of town, as opposed to the end of downtown," he said.
"I think the future is still bright."