The 2017 U.S. Open Beer Championship just wrapped up in July, and the results proved that the event is no longer strictly an American affair. The judges hailed from the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain, and craft beers were submitted from countries across the world. Though American breweries took home the majority of awards, there were a number of surprising wins by nations such as Belize (Bronze for Best Foreign Stout), Italy (Silver for Best Herb and Spice Beer), and Vietnam (Bronze for Best Chocolate/Cocoa Beer).
Perhaps the most impressive victory, however, was Canada. Not only did Canadian breweries make an impressive showing at the event, but they took home a total of 24 awards, including 10 gold medals. Canadian breweries took the top spots for categories including American-Style Fruit Beer, Vegetable Beer, and Berliner-Style Weisse, and one Ontario brewery even made the top 10 breweries of 2017. Aside from Canada, no non-U.S. brewery has ever taken home this number of awards at the U.S. Open Beer Championship.
Many people still don’t think of Canada when they think of craft beer, but that’s slowly changing thanks to the country’s growing influence in the international beer community. Talented brewmasters are gradually putting the Great White North on the map by reinventing how beer gets made and developing exciting new ales, pilsners, and lagers that can’t be found anywhere else.
One such pioneer is Eli Gershkovitch, founder, and CEO of Steamworks Group of Companies. Recognized as a top contender at the recent Open Beer Championship, Gershkovitch put Canadian craft beer on the map. He’s been cooking up original brews in the historic Gastown neighborhood since 1995, back when craft beer was the furthest thing from most people’s minds. While today’s taverns are filled with young, hip millennials forever in search of the newest independent brew, this wasn’t the case in the mid-’90s. At that time, mega-breweries like Coors and Budweiser still owned the day, and casual imbibers seldom sampled anything more exotic than Guinness.
Still, craft beer was gradually taking shape elsewhere in the world, and Eli Gershkovitch took notice (http://inspirery.com/eli-gershkovitch/). Several years prior, he had traveled through Europe and observed the shifting landscape as it pertained to drinking. In Heidelberg, Germany, he visited his first microbrewery and sampled concoctions that were a far cry from the familiar flavors typically found on draft in Canada. Though he didn’t immediately abandon his legal aspirations in favor of brewing, he never forgot about his experiences in Europe. Those experiences would later influence his rise as one of Canada’s most influential and pioneering brewmasters.
When Eli Gershkovitch finally opened his first brewpub in Gastown in 1995, it was Canada’s first and only establishment that incorporated steam-powered brewing. The lack of Canadian steam brewing may have been partly due to the fact that steam brewing hadn’t yet taken off in the region, but it was likely also due to the legal complexities of establishing such a business in Canada. As an attorney, Eli Gershkovitch was able to navigate those complexities and also patent his original brews.
Once the public took notice, the Steamworks Brew Pub quickly became a central Vancouver hotspot for locals and visitors alike. The pub was so successful, in fact, that it enabled Gershkovitch to expand his enterprise with several other local businesses, all of which offer Steamworks beverages. First he established the Transcontinental Restaurant, which later became the Rogue Kitchen and Wetbar. His flagship brewpub has gradually expanded from 184 seats to 754 seats, and in 2013, it expanded into a full-fledged brewery.
Today, visitors can enjoy a wide range of Steamworks concoctions including Lion’s Gate Lager, Steamworks Pale Ale, and the company’s new Flagship IPA. Steamworks brews are now sold throughout Canada and in 14 U.S. states, and they have received numerous awards and accolades. For instance, the company’s extremely popular pilsner was awarded Best BC Craft Beer by BC Craft Beer Awards two years in a row, and the company’s pumpkin ale received a gold medal at the 2013 Canadian Brewing Awards.
All of the attention and success is well-deserved, as Eli Gershkovitch spends years perfecting each brew before presenting it to the public. Take the Flagship IPA, for instance. This steam-brewed favorite was in production for four years before finally making its debut at the Steamworks Brew Pub and Brewery, and many discriminating connoisseurs agree that it was worth the wait. This unfiltered IPA combines three Southern-Hemisphere hops—Citra, Galaxy, and Mosaic—and has a uniquely tropical flavor that starts off sweet and gives way to just the right amount of bitterness.
Even with great beer, though, it takes a unique talent to build a successful empire. Eli Gershkovitch has succeeded in this respect because he loves to take risks and explore uncharted terrain. This passion extends to every area of his life, as evidenced by his love of aviation. Gershkovitch owns two planes—in addition to an impressive collection of classic cars—and, in 2009, completed a round-trip flight from Vancouver to Europe in his single-engine Cessna 182. As both an entrepreneur and adventurer, he might be compared in some ways to Virgin founder Richard Branson, albeit with a much tastier enterprise.
When he’s not expanding his flagship brewpub or pursuing new business expansions, you’ll find Eli Gershkovitch sponsoring local events in the Gastown area (Westender). Gastown is Vancouver’s oldest downtown district and one of its most unique historic neighborhoods, and Gershkovitch has played a major part in its recent resurgence as a social hub. As a longtime resident and lover of this bustling and picturesque neighborhood, Gershkovitch is passionate about bringing the community together.
Whether he’s taking to the skies in a single-engine plane or experimenting with the latest combination of bitters, Eli Gershkovitch is constantly on the move. He lives by the motto, “You grow to meet demand, or demand will shrink to meet you,” and it’s easy to see how that drive has helped him to become one of Canada’s most successful and innovative brewers.
More about Eli Gershkovitch at https://www.crunchbase.com/person/eli-gershkovitch#/entity