The U.S. Open Bar Championship has long been an American affair, but Canadian breweries had a tremendous showing in 2017, winning a total of 24 medals. Twenty-one of these medals were awarded to Ontario breweries, including The Exchange Brewery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Cameron’s Brewing in Oakville, and Collective Arts Brewing in Hamilton, all of which took home the gold.
Medals were awarded for more than 100 categories including Bitter, Foreign Stout, English Pale Ale, Gluten-Free Beer, and even Non-Alcohol Beer, and Canadian breweries were successful in these and other major categories. One Ontario brewery was even recognized among the top 10 breweries of 2017.
The competition featured professional brewers and homebrewers from all across the world, and more than 6,000 beers were submitted. Canada had an especially strong showing, further establishing itself as a rising star in the global beer community. One of the brewmasters who made a splash at this year’s awards ceremony was Eli Gershkovitch, a rock star in the Canadian brewing scene who seeks to put Canadian beer on the map. He’s achieving this goal by putting exciting and innovative twists on time-honored brewing traditions.
Eli Gershkovitch is the CEO of Steamworks Group of Companies, based in Gastown, Vancouver. He lives by the motto, “You grow to meet demand, or demand will shrink to meet you,” It’s a simple sentiment, but it may just be the secret to his resounding success. His operation started in 1995 with the Steamworks Brew Pub, and his flagship brewery has gradually expanded from 184 seats to 754 seats. At nearby Waterfront Station, he also established the popular Rogue Kitchen and Wetbar, and he continues to expand his enterprise within the community. Most recently, he opened a new brewery and taproom in Burnaby.
A former attorney, Eli Gershkovitch originally fell in love with craft beers during a visit to Heidelberg, Germany. That’s where he visited his first microbrewery as a young law grad, and the experience sowed the seeds of what would ultimately become his life’s work.
So, what makes Eli Gershkovitch such an influential force in the Canadian brewing community? It’s all about that commitment to innovation (Beer Me). Gershkovitch was intrigued by the concept of steam brewing, but when he began his operation more than 20 years ago, there were no functioning steam breweries in Canada. He educated himself on the science of steam-powered brewing and experimented until he was able to develop a true one-of-a-kind experience. He opened Canada’s first and only steam-generated brewery, and the public immediately took notice, establishing the Steamworks Brew Pub as Vancouver’s premier hotspot for beer lovers around the world.
Eli Gershkovitch recognized the growing popularity of craft beer at a time when mass-market brewing was still considered the gold standard. Today, craft brewing is a worldwide phenomenon thanks in large part to discerning millennials, but this wasn’t always the case. Gershkovitch’s success may largely be attributed to his foresight and intuition in realizing the potential of craft beer at a time when Budweiser was still the dominant name at many local taverns. In fact, it’s estimated that craft beer will account for one-fifth of beer sales worldwide by 2020.
The unique approach to brewing isn’t the only factor that has put Gershkovitch and his brand on the map, however. Locals and travelers flock to Steamworks properties because the beverages are extremely high-quality. As the official Cascadia trademark holder, Steamworks is the only brewery that offers authentic Cascadia ales like the popular Golden Ale and Cream Ale. Other original beverages include their popular Flagship IPA, Jasmine IPA, and Killer Cucumber. The pale ale and pilsner are especially popular, garnering acclaim from visitors and critics alike.
Gershkovitch’s ingenuity as a brewer may be attributed to the skills he has honed throughout his adult life as an attorney. A good lawyer has to be shrewd, detail-oriented, and willing to take chances, and the success of Steamworks shows just how much Eli Gershkovitch exemplifies all of these qualities. Perhaps most importantly, Gershkovitch’s legal experience taught him how to navigate the enormous complexities of Canadian liquor licensing, and so he was able to establish a successful brewery business when many others had failed just to get through the red tape. His law experience also provided what he refers to as the three C’s: confidence, contacts, and credibility. Without these qualities, Steamworks might still be nothing more than a pipe dream.
Of course, one doesn’t build a thriving enterprise without an adventurous spirit, and Eli Gershkovitch knows a thing or two about that. In addition to being a brewmaster and former solicitor, he’s also a licensed pilot who has flown from Vancouver to Europe and back. He’s been flying since 1993, and he received his wings in 2009.
Perhaps Gershkovitch’s greatest accomplishment is the transformation of Gastown. When he opened his first brewpub in 1995, Gastown was a quiet neighborhood that appealed to history buffs. It was quaint and beautiful, but it wasn’t on many travel itineraries. Today, the town is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Vancouver, boasting a thriving nightlife, a youthful vibe, and a world-class beer scene.
This transformation may be attributed in part to the incredible craft beers that have become ubiquitous at Gershkovitch’s many properties, but there’s more to it than that. For the past two decades, Eli Gershkovitch has worked tirelessly to bring the community together, and he does it by sponsoring a variety of local events that appeal to people of all ages. Gershkovitch loves Gastown and has believed in its potential to be a cultural epicenter for more than three decades, As more and more people flock to his microbreweries, he’s just happy to be an active part of the town’s renaissance.
As the Canadian craft beer scene continues to grow richer and more competitive, Eli Gershkovitch looks forward to competing once again in the next U.S. Open Bar Championship. As a Canadian pioneer of the microbrew scene, he’s committed to constantly redefining what a quality ale can achieve.
More about Eli Gershkovtich at http://www.steamworks.com/brewery