Pacific Western Brewing
British Columbia’s longest established independent brewery is having a big year. Prince George-based Pacific Western Brewing (PWB) is celebrating its 20th anniversary of consistent and successful ownership by investing back into the local community.
PWB is a gem of beautiful Prince George. Established in 1957, the company went through six previous owners before being purchased in 1991 by Japanese-Canadian entrepreneur Kazuko Komatsu, now President and CEO of Pacific Western Brewery, whose attention to quality has guided the brewery to many significant milestones, including being the first Canadian gold medal winner at the Industry International Awards in Munich, the first dry beer brewed in Canada, the first certified organic beer, and two International Organization for Standards (ISO) designations.
Komatsu is quick to share the credit with her team, saying, “Our success is based on working together with all our employees to continuously improve our quality and on identifying and delivering innovative ideas.”
Quality starts right here
PWB’s location is its greatest natural advantage. The brewery is situated above a pure spring artesian source, with unlimited Northern B.C. spring water. And as any brew master will tell you, water is the most important ingredient. “We use the purest mountain water you will find anywhere—every ingredient is the best you can find,” says Komatsu. “I want to produce the best beers and functional drinks in the world. We are doing exactly that.”
PWB offers 18 brews, including malts, pilsners, lagers and 100 per cent certified organic beers distributed primarily to the B.C. and Alberta markets…for now. “We are always looking for opportunities to bring profitable products to profitable markets,” says Komatsu. “We would like to export to Japan but, as a regional brewery, we have a production capacity of 150,000 hectolitres at our current taxation rate. We are near that capacity now, so this limits our ability to expand our markets, employment and investment. We have the infrastructure and capability to produce enough beer for export, but if we did it would put us over our tax cap.”
The brewery’s latest success is its Cariboo family of beers, a brand that existed at the brewery years ago and was discovered and relaunched. The Cariboo brand, which includes Genuine Draft, Honey Lager, Pale Ale and Cream Ale, are infused with “the spirit of the north” and anchored by a tree-planting program.
“Pacific Western Brewery creates internationally certified, consistently high quality beer at affordable prices,” says Komatsu. “All of our products, including our organic soft drinks and energy drinks, focus on quality and are created with our unique pure Cariboo spring water from the artesian source below our brewery.”
The brand identifies closely with the region that makes the brand unique, and to honour that relationship, PWB has committed to planting 150,000 trees in the Cariboo to replace those lost to fire and the pine beetle infestation. In a region so heavily dependent on forestry for economy, it is a meaningful gesture of support for the local economy and environment.
“Two years ago, when we launched Cariboo Genuine Draft, we committed to find a way to support our environment,” Komatsu said. “This partnership and planting seemed like a perfect way to celebrate Cariboo Genuine Draft’s success. Trees are part of the lifeblood of the Cariboo and a key resource for British Columbia.”
On hand for the partnership was Honourable Pat Bell, then B.C. Minister of Forests and Range who acknowledged that PWB’s work “makes our communities better places to live in.”
As to the effort put back into the community, Komatsu says, “We believe it’s important to give something back to our community, our customers and the province. We thank Minister Bell, and the Forests for Tomorrow program for all their support and help in making our goal and commitment a reality. We look forward to making this program even bigger and better in the coming years.”
Komatsu’s unwavering dedication to brewing consistently high quality beers is matched by her dedication to the community that has supported PWB and shared stewardship of the environment and resources upon which Prince George is built.
“I am very proud of the ongoing consistent quality of our beer and the passion and loyalty of our team,” says Komatsu. “British Columbians have been very enthusiastic about our beers and we would also like to thank all our customers and partners for their support and loyalty.”
What makes PWB unique? The fact its products are made with pure, real artesian spring water by a solid team of passionate experts. “Our success is based on working together with all our employees to continuously improve our quality and on identifying and delivering innovative ideas,” says Komatsu.
Komatsu is “very proud” that Pacific Western Brewery has maintained its independence as a B.C. brewery that supports the local and broader community and its employees. “It’s not easy to run a brewery for such a long time; it requires a constant eye on quality improvement and innovation,” she says.
Not content to rest on her laurels, Komatsu continues to “improve our quality and to seek and bring to life innovative idea—and to contribute more to our community and society.” For the people, of the people, PWB is very proudly the longest established regional brewery in B.C., and clearly a favourite of the locals and numerous visitors to the region.