Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Meet Matt Phillips: Founder of Phillips Brewing Co.

Meet Matt Phillips, the founder/brewer of Victoria's popular Phillips Brewing Co., named BC's Brewery of the Year three years running.

It hasn't always been easy for Matt Phillips. In 2001 the man put everything on the line to ensure his artisnal brewery survived, doing so without the help of bank loans, instead using numerous credit cards to purchase his equipment. The location of the first brewery was also the place Matt lived, rolling up his bed in the morning and showering at the local gym. Over the years Phillips has outgrown two locations and continues to grow at a healthy rate. It's an incredible success story, one that shows you can succeed if you put your mind to it. And Canadian beer drinkers, who are able to get their hands on Phillips beer, are no doubt pleased that Matt stuck to his guns and persevered.

Where is the Phillips Brewery and what beers do you currently produce?
We moved to Downtown Victoria in the spring of 2008 from our former home on the other side of the bridge….it means that we can get coffee (it takes a lot of coffee to make good beer), and gives us space for a tasting room. We do eight beers on a year round basis – IPA, Amnesiac Double IPA, Black Toque India Dark, Blue Buck, Slipstream Cream, Phoenix Gold Lager, Longboat Double Chocolate, Surly Blonde Triple, plus at least one seasonal every month.

Describe the history behind the brewery.
I started the Brewery in the Summer of 2001 – I was unfinanced, and so chose VISA and Mastercard as my patrons of the brewed arts. I got some used gear, built a small bottling machine, and worked and lived in a small warehouse, bottling in the mornings, delivering in the afternoons, and brewing at night. Since then we have assembled a great crew, with a wide variety of backgrounds that are key in bringing out the new beers.

What is your best selling beer?
Our Blue buck is number one – it is a relatively malty pale ale – one that had another name originally, but due to a trademark dispute changed names….

What's new at the brewery?
Well everything is always changing around here, always tweaking equipment, or adding new toys, always working on the next new beer. We love the winter because it allows us to do some seasonals that are a bit beefier – Barley wines, Dopplebocks, and Imperial stouts are in tank right now. Awardwise, we just picked up the northwest brewing awards best BC brewery for the 3rd year running – for us this is a big one, because it is a readers choice award.

Why did you get into the brewing industry and describe your passion for it.
Well I grew up on the East coast at a time when there were craft beers in New England, but none locally. I got pretty excited by these, and so started homebrewing because I couldn’t get them at home. After university I ended up on the west coast, and was fortunate enough to get a job at a brewpub in Canmore – the Grizzly Paw, which allowed me to hang out in the brewhouse a bit, as long as I had some sort of cleaning apparatus in hand. I was hooked – loved the experimentation with flavours, the subtleties, the process, and most importantly having a beer at the end of the day.

What is the best aspect of working in the Canadian craft brewery industry?
Well, it is such a big country, and we don’t have any national brewing events where all brewers congregate, so I feel like I work in the BC craft industry. That said, brewers are brewers, and no matter where you go, the best part of the beer industry is that people are passionate, fun and open with sharing ideas for beer, problems, or (griping about taxes).

Where can someone find your products?
We are just in BC – mostly in Victoria and Vancouver areas, though there are some pockets of craft beer culture all over this province.

Tell us something about Phillips that not a lot of people know about.
Hmmm…we don’t have a lot of secrets….maybe that the dopplebock we make – the Instigator – is named for the 3rd (and least successful) bottling machine that I built. We called it the instigator because it was the start of all problems in the brewery. I wish we still had it, for memory sake, but I gave it to Ron (our head bottler) with a sledge hammer and a grinder for his birthday, after we bought our first machine.

What advantages do smaller breweries have over the big guys?
Marketing budgets! Actually in a way, I believe this is true. For us our marketing is largely based on the beers that we make. The fact that we can be flexible and innovative with our beers allow us to create a market instead of an image based marketing campaign.

Best time for a pint?
Toss up between a pint after work or a pint with dinner –very different experiences.

What is the highlight of your brewing career?
Well I guess having my own brewery. What could be better as a brewer than having autonomy over the types of beers that you make? There have been a lot of cool milestones along the way, but they all add up to improving our ability to make good beer.

Cold clean lager, big hoppy pale ale, or a nicely roasted stout?
Big hoppy IPA. No question.

Name your favourite non Phillips produced beer.
Hopworks Urban Brewery IPA

How successful have the seasonals been? And what has been your favourite?
The seasonals have been great. We don’t do big runs of them, because we want to make sure that they sell out, so the economics of them don’t really pan out, but they are the reason for having a brewery in many ways. I think that if we only did one beer all the time we would have a very different staff here. It is in some ways the driving force of the brewery.

We did a double barreled Scottish ale last year that blew me away – Kentucky bourbon followed by Okanagan Cab Sav barrel. Big flavours, but very smooth and mellow at the same time.

Phillips Brewing Company
2010 Government Street
Victoria, BC V8T 4P1


Rob said...

That double barreled scotch was damn fine.

Lager Bore said...

Great questions, a good read.

Web Analytics

Winter Ale