Cameron James knew for long time he wanted to one day own a brewery, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to quit his jobs as a high school teacher and brewer in Prince Rupert to open a brewery in Smithers with Blaine Estby and Adin Bennett.
James and Estby had bounced around the idea a few times whenever Estby visited Prince Rupert for work. The three men met for lunch in Terrace in early 2016 to formally discuss the proposal.
“It took me about 45 seconds to be like I would be stupid not to [partner with them],” James said. “I really like teaching, it offers a few things, job security and stuff, that opening your own business doesn’t — it was tough to give that up … but at the same time I couldn’t be happy unless I gave this a god honest try.”
Two years and many government applications later, the dream born at that lunch meeting is about to become a reality.
Smithers Brewing Company, owned by Bennett, James and Estby, is expected to open on Canada day long weekend.
The brewery will be located at 3832 Third Avenue. Hours have not been decided as of yet.
The brewery won’t serve meals but will offer snacks. Customers can bring in their own food and enjoy use of the patio when the weather’s nice, Bennett said.
They will have eight different styles of beer such as sour beer, brown ale and strawberry rhubarb on tap during the launch, James said.
“We want to offer a classic range for people who are adventurous but doesn’t necessarily like the super weird stuff,” James said. “We [also] want to offer some really, really, cool one-off offerings of the weirder stuff.”
While some might see the opening of another brewery (Bulkley Valley Brewery) in March as a challenge, James has different perspective.
“I don’t see other micro breweries as competition so much as we’re all on the same team,” James said. “The big guys [mass market brands] are the ones we have to focus on.”
Each member of the ownership group brings their own skill set to the table. James will be the brewmaster, Estby is in charge of marketing and Bennett handles operations.
“I got to see the benefits a micro brewery has on a little community working at Wheelhouse,” James said. ” It really did become one of the cultural hubs of Prince Rupert and I’d love to have that here.”