Dog Mountain Brewing owners Andy Richards and Robin Miles, from left, and Twin City Brewing owner Aaron Colyn show off their awards (gold and bronze, respectively) from the Canadian Brewing Awards in Quebec City in September. (PHOTO COURTESY DOG MOUNTAIN BREWING)

Dog Mountain Brewing owners Andy Richards and Robin Miles, from left, and Twin City Brewing owner Aaron Colyn show off their awards (gold and bronze, respectively) from the Canadian Brewing Awards in Quebec City in September. (PHOTO COURTESY DOG MOUNTAIN BREWING)

Port Alberni brewers win big at national brewing competition

Brewers also noticed at annual Growlies, voted on by public

It’s one thing to brew a beer at home and know you’ve got a special recipe on your hands. It’s quite another to enter that beer in the Canadian Brewing Awards—and come home with a gold medal.

That’s exactly what happened for brewmaster Robin Miles and her partner Andy Richards of Dog Mountain Brewing in Port Alberni.

Their specialty brew Bees! Belgian Blonde Ale with Honey earned gold in the national Belgian Style Abbey Ale/ Pale Ale category at the Canadian Brewing Awards in Quebec City in September.

“It was one of the first beers we brewed at home,” said Richards. The pair started working on their core beers with their home brewery in 2017. Bees! also won a home brew competition before Dog Mountain Brewing became a storefront reality. “It was a beer we were planning on releasing at the brewery from day one.”

Bees! was supposed to be a seasonal beer when they put it on tap in spring 2020, but it proved to be so popular with Dog Mountain customers and even other restaurants that serve Dog Mountain beer that it quickly became a year-round mainstay on the menu. “It became our most popular beer.”

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The Canadian Brewing Awards are the country’s national competition for judging the quality of Canadian beer made in breweries of all sizes. A Canadian Brewing Award medal is considered a sign of brewing excellence.

Miles and Richards knew they had a great beer when they entered it into the 2021 national competition—one of nine selections they entered. “We were pretty over the moon that it won gold,” Richards said. “We knew we had a really good product.”

It is also an accomplishment for a small brewery to win gold against some of the larger competitors, Miles and Richards explained. Dog Mountain has only been open for a year and a half, having opened their doors a few months before the coronavirus pandemic hit. They invested in a small canning machine to can their beers and sell their product in local liquor stores, which helped broaden their clientele and reputation.

“It’s exciting. It’s been crazy, just trying to get our feet back under us at the brewery,” Richards said. He and Miles hope to be able to translate their big win into an increase in business. “It’s a little nerve-wracking because we’re still very small. We know (Bees!) is going to become very popular.”

Twin City Brewing, another Port Alberni craft brewer, won a pair of bronze awards, for traditional German style with its Dissimulator and Wheat Beer-North American Style for Swedish Gymnast. They are the first national “podium pints” for owner Aaron Colyn and his team.

Port Alberni’s beer masters are in good company: British Columbia brewers walked away with 40 awards and swept two categories.

RELATED: Port Alberni’s Twin City wins coveted BC Ale Trail Best Brewery Experience Award

Port Alberni’s three brew pubs were also noticed provincially in The Growler’s 2021 Craft Beer & Cider Readers’ Choice Awards. The Growlies are voted on by the public who frequent B.C.’s craft breweries and cideries. The Growler is the province’s craft beer and cider guide.

Twin City Brewing earned a gold Growlie for unsung hero for the second year in a row (Growler awards weren’t presented in 2020) and Dog Mountain Brewing tied for second in best new brewery category. Although the Valley’s newest brewery, Alberni Brewing, didn’t win any awards they garnered “a lot of votes,” according to one Growler judge.

Other Growlies Twin City can add to their growing trophy shelf include silver for best tasting room (a three-way tie with CAMP Beer Co. and Four Winds Brewing) , bronze for best sour (Late Bloomer Strawberry Hibiscus, which has also won accolades at the BC. Beer Awards), bronze for brewery of the year and bronze for best food program.

Winning the unsung hero award for a second time means everything, says Colyn, especially in a mid-pandemic business environment. Twin City had to make some quick adjustments when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020 so the business could stay afloat. “We made a really quick switch into canning our beer, which we never did before COVID,” he said.

“The whole realm of that was new to us.”

A mobile canner comes up-Island every few weeks from Victoria and cans beer for Twin City. “That has allowed us to focus more about how our product is shelf-stable,” Colyn said. “We want to be proud of the beer we’re making.”

Twin City was already set up to deliver kegs of beer to restaurants using a van; they re-purposed the van for beer and food deliveries to bring their winning “best brew experience” to people’s doorsteps.

“We want people to have a good time, we want to have meaningful conversations with the community about good beer and good food.”

Alberni ValleyBC Craft beerCraft BreweriesPort Alberni

 

Aaron Colyn of Twin City Brewing holds the pair of bronze awards the Port Alberni brewery earned at the 2021 Canadian Brewing Awards in September. Twin City won bronze in the North American Wheat Beer category for its Swedish Gymnast and bronze in Traditional German Bock category for its Dissimulator. (PHOTO COURTESY TWIN CITY BREWING)

Aaron Colyn of Twin City Brewing holds the pair of bronze awards the Port Alberni brewery earned at the 2021 Canadian Brewing Awards in September. Twin City won bronze in the North American Wheat Beer category for its Swedish Gymnast and bronze in Traditional German Bock category for its Dissimulator. (PHOTO COURTESY TWIN CITY BREWING)

Andy Richards and Robin Miles of Dog Mountain Brewing always thought their Bees! beer was a winner. The judges at the 2021 Canadian Brewing Awards thought so too, awarding the Port Alberni brewery a gold award. (PHOTO COURTESY DOG MOUNTAIN BREWING)

Andy Richards and Robin Miles of Dog Mountain Brewing always thought their Bees! beer was a winner. The judges at the 2021 Canadian Brewing Awards thought so too, awarding the Port Alberni brewery a gold award. (PHOTO COURTESY DOG MOUNTAIN BREWING)

Aaron Colyn and his team at Twin City Brewing earned the Unsung Hero award at the 2021 Growlies to pair it with their 2019 win. (PHOTO COURTESY TWIN CITY BREWING)

Aaron Colyn and his team at Twin City Brewing earned the Unsung Hero award at the 2021 Growlies to pair it with their 2019 win. (PHOTO COURTESY TWIN CITY BREWING)