Canada’s Burgeoning Craft Beer Industry Owes a lot to Trailblazers Like Eli Gershkovitch


A recent article highlighted the success of Canadian brewers at the U.S. Open Beer Championship. The competition, which is held in the United States, features North American craft beers made by both professional and home brewers. Canada won 24 medals, and Ontario’s brewers claimed the biggest share by earning 21 medals. An Ontario brewer, Cameron’s Brewing of Oakville, was named as one of the top ten brewers of 2017. The United States won a majority of the awards, but Canada is rapidly making its craft beer industry a major force in artisanal beverages. Eli Gershkovitch is one of several pioneers in the industry who had the courage and skills to make microbreweries a success.


Eli Gershkovitch trained as a lawyer but wasn’t happy with the suit-and-tie regimen and the strict controls imposed by the courts that all lawyers face, so he transferred his skills to his own entrepreneurial enterprise–opening a brewpub specializing in steam brewed beer. Eli Gershkovitch had long been fascinated by the creative side of marketing and had considered training to become an ad agency creative director. While touring Europe, he discovered small-batch brews throughout the continent and was impressed by how craft beer brewers could control the entire process from supplying farm ingredients to selling the finished beers directly to consumers.


Unfulfilled as a lawyer, Gershkovitch longed to work comfortably in jeans, plan creative marketing campaigns and control his own destiny (Twitter). Opening a craft brewery seemed to hit all the marks, so he opened Steamworks Brew Pub in 1995. Craft beer, although gaining in popularity at that time, was still relatively new and risky as a business enterprise. Eli Gershkovitch had always maintained a positive attitude, so he dived into the process wholeheartedly, quickly expanded the business and creatively linked the idea of steampunk with steam brewed beer. His business enterprises grew into one of Western Canada’s largest craft beer operations and inspired hundreds of beer aficionados to create their own microbreweries.



Canada Brewers Show Their Creative Skills

Just a few decades ago, there was no craft beer industry. Canada’s brewpubs now offer dozens of small-batch beers on draft. In some places, thirsty customers could visit every day for a year and never drink the same beer twice. Marketing studies show that craft beers now make up at least 17 percent of all beers served in Canada’s casual dining establishments.


Most successful small-batch brewers embrace the farm-to-table trend that’s so popular in today’s restaurants. Using local, natural ingredients has a great appeal for consumers, and creative brewers can produce their craft beers in small batches without using preservatives. Many restaurant/pub operations also adopt popular food strategies such as curing their own meats, serving game and getting produce and herbs from on-premises gardens. Local game and locally brewed beer generate a natural attraction for Canadians.



Bragging Rights Are Big Business for Canadian Brewers

Eli Gershkovitch could rest on his accomplishments, broker a multimillion-dollar investment deal and retire from working actively, but he refuses to take this approach. He likes to be in control to guide his brewery in a certain direction, and many other Canadian brewers feel the same. Some like to control their own businesses, but many brewers enter the field as a labor of love. These brewmasters love creatively made beers and the brewing art; many can’t imagine giving up the day-to-day challenges and successes.

Winemakers don’t enjoy the same level of creative freedom–they’re limited to using grapes and a few other fruits–but beer brewers can experiment with almost any ingredient. Mixologists combine beer with exotic spices and ingredients to create beer cocktails, and restaurant chefs now recommend beer and food pairings to their guests.

The BC Craft Brewers Guild brags that it’s the true origin of craft beer in Canada. The guild now includes more than 100 breweries. Ontario’s recent success in the U.S. Open Beer Championship was an impressive accomplishment that will give the province bragging rights for years to come. Nova Scotia’s Craft Brewers Association has double-digit memberships, and Quebec has one of the largest craft beer industries in Canada and won two awards in the recent beer competition. Toronto’s Festival of Beer attracts beer lovers from around the world.

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About Eli Gershkovitch

Eli Gershkovitch started Steamworks Beer Pub in 1995 with fewer than 200 seats. The craft beer trend was just beginning to attract consumer and media attention, and Gershkovitch was able to capitalize on the movement. The pub quickly expanded to almost 800 seats, and Eli Gershkovitch opened a restaurant/pub under the Steamworks name at the nearby Waterfront Station.


Eli Gershkovitch combined a passion for craft beer with strong legal, business and marketing skills to build his Steamworks Group of Companies. The organization includes multiple beer-related businesses and a beer-distribution network that has brought bottled beers to other provinces in Canada and to the United States. Steamworks beers have also expanded to 14 countries, and the company is rapidly growing into a global craft beer brand.


Eli Gershkovitch commented on his company’s growth, “…you either stay very small, or you grow big. The middle ground is very treacherous.” Many of Canada’s craft beer entrepreneurs seem to share this philosophy because small breweries abound that target locals exclusively while some breweries earn international reputations. Unlike other brewers, however, Eli Gershkovitch refuses to recruit investors or take his company public because he insists on retaining creative and business control over his group of companies.

Some Canadian brewers like to retain control of their operations so that they can infuse their beers with the highest quality ingredients, interact with local customers and experiment creatively without needing to meet corporate guidelines and strict profit-and-loss benchmarks. The creative freedom to brew beer the way that each brewer prefers is one of the major attractions of craft beers to consumers. In his spare time, Eli Gershkovitch enjoys flying his two airplanes, collecting classic cars and attending craft beer festivals and competitions throughout the world.


Eli Gershkovitch was one of the favorites at the 2017 competition–and every year–but Gershkovitch was happy that other Canadian breweries received recognition in 2017. Eli Gershkovitch enjoys one of the best reputations among worldwide brewers, and his Steamworks-brewed beers are among the world’s most successful commercial craft beers. Gershkovitch never needs to travel far to find a fan of his beers, brand and marketing skills. He recently launched his bottled beers by giving out free press passes, and the guests raved about his bottle designs and labels. Steampunk–which is a genre of science fiction that features advanced technology run by steam–beautifully matches steam-brewed craft beers, and Eli Gershkovitch always incorporates flying machines into his bottle designs because of his love of flying.

More about Eli Gershkovitch on Crunchbase


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