August 22, 2015

Cumberland Brewing Company

The village of Cumberland, slightly south of Courtenay, has a reputation for being on the fringes. From the late 1800s through to the middle of the 1900s, Cumberland was a coal town, and at its peak, coal employed over 600 and supported a town of 3000. At one time Cumberland boasted the second largest Chinatown on the west coast of North America. There are still a number of old company houses and structures in Cumberland, including parts of the Chinatown, and some of the best hiking and mountain biking trails in BC, but... that's not why we're here.

Today's Cumberland, still on the fringes, features one of the new craft breweries springing up around the province and this one is definitely worth a look.

On the main street of the village it's not hard to miss, though the door that fronts the street actually looks in on the brew master and all his equipment. The proper entry is around the side and it boasts a large, mostly-covered patio for the summer-time crowd and indoor seating as well.

Mike Tymchuk is the brew master and his story is one of a passion for beer. While attending university and working at Canada's first in-house brew pub, Spinnakers in Victoria, in the 1980s, Mike was offered an opportunity to make beer, and one thing led to another.

A few years ago, Mike and his life-partner Caroline, found themselves in Cumberland. On the fringes. They opened Riders Pizza to blazing success, and in December 2014, together with another partner, opened the Cumberland Brewing Company.

There are flights of beer to be had, "and, why not?" said Jeem. Flights offer five different brews, though Cumberland Brewing Co. currently offers six, ranging from a delicious bitter to a wonderful oatmeal stout. The brews change with the season and available ingredients. All are worth tasting of course, though the English Bitter caught Jeem's favour.

Impressive as all this beer is, there's something else going on here too, and it's just as impressive. Caroline and Mike Tymchuk, through their two business ventures, have created twenty jobs in Cumberland, jobs that didn't exist before Riders Pizza and Cumberland Brewing. It's an example of how to grow jobs across our country. We don't need big corporations to produce beer, and we don't need to truck in beer from centralised breweries, let alone from Mexico or Belgium.

Beer can be produced in small batches, often with local ingredients, in every town and neighbourhood across the land. It's the way the industry began and it can happen again, giving us uniquely local brews with different flavours and tastes. Local breweries would be good for all of us. Mike and Caroline Tymchuk are doing something good for Cumberland, and other craft brewers are doing the same for their communities.

Globalization is the past. Localization is the future.

Cumberland Brewing Co. is a fun place with great people, beer and pizza. While the village might be on the fringes, the brewery provides all of us with a great reason to visit.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

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