North Vancouver’s newest brewery is finally coming up on opening day. We recently took a tour around Shaketown Brewing (288 Esplanade) and chatted with the team about their brand, their beer and their plans for the brewery…
The Team: Ryan Scholz (Nicli, Nita Lake Lodge, Tacofino) and Rohan Karnick have been friends for 20 years (they’ve been buddies since they were 15) and Head Brewer, Dave Varga (33 Acres, Red Truck), has been working with beer for even longer. Together, the trio has applied their collective enthusiasm for beer, community and backstory to build a place that they hope will “become an anchor point for community connection in the neighbourhood and beyond.”
The Concept: Branding (by Very Polite creative agency) is strong. Scholz, who has a background in advertising (at Cossette) says that the advertising nerd in him is fascinated by alcohol’s portrayal in the media, and that he has always wanted to create a brand “from the ground up” – which is exactly what this team has done. By riffing on the name and idea of “Shaketown” (what Lynn Valley was called when it was a settler’s logging town, back in 1895) and combining that with a “Springfield” vibe (yes, The Simpsons also served as inspiration), the team landed with a multi-layered backstory, complete with characters and a sense of humour that gives the place a personality. Have a look at Shaketown’s IG feed for a better sense of the story here.
The Beer: While Shaketown’s branding is elaborate, their beer is straight forward. Which isn’t to say that it lacks the same amount of thought – very much the opposite. When coming up with the starter beer line up, Varga spent time considering what both pre-prohibition style beers and ales of the 60s and 70s would taste like; he then drew on his specialty for continental European ales and lagers, which are traditionally very low in alcohol, and his broader idea of beer as a “vehicle for social interaction.”
Of the initial six core beers, the highest ABV belongs to the Kveik IPA and is only 6%. The rest – a Leicht-bier Session Ale, Golden Ale, Prohibition Pilsner, “Itty Bitty” IPA and Kveik Wheat Beer – are all extremely drinkable at only 3-5% ABV. For beer lovers, this is what will set Shaketown apart from its well-established brewery district neighbours, each with their own strengths and niches. (To name a handful: Beere Brewing, House of Funk, La Cerveceria Astilleros and North Point Brewing are all within only a few minutes’ walking distance.) Eventually, the taps will be rounded out with their own rotating seasonal beer and a BC cider.
The Space: The space alone – approximately 4700 sqft of it, constructed by Harmony Pacific with an interior design by Ply Architecture – is also likely to draw in its own share of passersby. Previously, it was home to a storage facility before Shaketown acquired it in early 2020. Inside, the tasting room is airy but welcoming, thanks in large part to the exposed wood ceiling and communal seating. There are 60 seats in total, including a few booths, a bar, and a row of bar seating facing directly onto St. Andrews Avenue. Weather permitting, both walls of street-facing windows will be open, offering killer unobstructed harbour views. Some notable remaining details yet to come: a mirror with a branded vinyl wall decal frame featuring “The Story of Shaketown” (designed for photo ops), and the all-important beer board, waiting to be hung over the bar. The snack situation is also still being hammered out, although rumour is that the city will soon be helping out with that, by permitting food trucks to park out front.
The Timeline: Despite the fact that unforeseen obstacles delayed Shaketown’s opening longer than anticipated, the crew is in no rush to open their doors until everything is “perfect”. In the meantime, the papered windows are doing little to deter eager beer drinkers from popping their heads in. A good omen, no doubt, and unsurprising considering the positive reception that Shaketown has already garnered locally (including from the city mayor, Linda Buchanan, who apparently is a big fan…and, sometimes, a beer drinker.)
Shaketown Brewing aims to open early March 2022. Take a sneak peek inside…