Very few people get to study craft beer under one of the pioneers of the North American microbrewery movement. Frank Appleton taught me what it means to make fantastic beer, and I am truly grateful for that. While my understanding of the craft has matured over the years, Frank gave me the foundation I needed. I strive to create interesting and thoroughly enjoyable beer — beer that looks good in the glass, feels good in the mouth, and lifts the spirit — and for that, I am proud.
"Make great beer", Frank told me. "The rest will follow."
Frank Appleton worked at one of Canada’s big three breweries, Carling O’Keefe, as a microbiologist in their quality control assurance laboratories. Having grown up in the UK, Frank quickly grows disenchanted with the blandness of the beers and the corporate culture. He moves to the West Kootenays where, while homesteading, he brews his own beer in small batches and writes articles for publication.
A pub owner by the name of John Mitchel reads Frank’s article and decides to track him down with an idea. This was pre-Google, pre-internet, pre-everything. After some substantial detective work, John finally arrives on Frank’s doorstep in a remote community in the interior, introduces himself and shares his idea of building a microbrewery attached to Trollers Pub in Horseshoe Bay. And thus began the craft beer industry in British Columbia.
Sean is introduced to home-brewing by friends in Thunder Bay. A seed had been planted!
Sean moves to Montreal with his brothers and starts brewing beer in small batches at home. While this newfound hobby certainly appeals to a starving student, it quickly grows into a deepening appreciation for the quality and variety of beers possible. Backed by a science degree, Sean begins his lifelong pursuit of understanding the science and craft of brewing.
Sean moves to Victoria to do his Masters degree in English Literature and brew more beer in his kitchen.
A Fateful Walk. Sean and Chantal, hand in hand, walk past a building under construction at the corner of Pandora and Store street. On the window is a sign that says ‘Future home of a brewpub.’ Chantal, well aware of Sean’s other passion, encourages him (gently) to apply for the job of brewer.
With a resume in one hand and a selection of his homemade beer in the other, Sean arrives at an interview with Brewmaster Frank Appleton for the brewers job at what would become Swans Brewpub / Buckerfields Brewery. Frank, pointing at the beer, says “well, what have you got there?” followed quickly by, “there’s no time like the present.”
Sean, visibly nervous, offers to show Frank the recipes for the beers he’s brought. Beer is poured and the conversation drifts to their shared love of literature. A friendship begins. Out of 30 applicants, Frank gives Sean the opportunity of a lifetime as brewer at Buckerfields.
Sean Apprentices Under Frank Appleton. Together They Build Buckerfields Brewery And Open Swans Brewpub.
After months of mentorship and Frank imparting his knowledge and wisdom, Frank moves on to other projects and Sean begins his professional career as brewmaster.
Canoe opens in 1998, and as sole operator of the brewery, Sean spends the next 13 years brewing award-winning batches of great beer. It is during this time that Sean focuses on the subtle art of brewing fine lagers. Very few craft breweries at the time are making lagers, but Sean has always believed that a well made lager exemplified the brewers craft at its highest level.
After two decades as a brewmaster, and while still working at Canoe Brewpub, Sean, along with Chantal’s encouragement, feels ready to pursue his lifelong dream of opening up his own brewery. He begins developing a business plan.
Banks Are Approached, Leases Are Signed And Sean And Chantal’s Project, Hoyne Brewing Co, Begins.
Sean makes a deal with Grant Olsen, co-owner of the Strathcona Hotel, to lease the brewing equipment from former brewpub Hugo’s. This small eight hectolitre system comes with five fermentors and a handful of conditioning tanks, but it is enough for a start. Brewing begins in November with the very first batches of Down Easy Pale Ale, Dark Matter, Hoyne Pilsner and Devils Dream IPA.
22 oz glass bottles (bombers) are introduced and Hoyne beer appears in local private liquor stores. Many of Victoria’s favourite watering holes gladly bring on a selection of Hoyne beers for their patrons.
After three strong years, we outgrow our original system (more on that later) and commission the design and manufacture of a 35 hectolitre Specific Mechanical brew system, constructed in Saanichton, BC.
Frank and his lovely wife Jean grace us with their presence at a staff Thanksgiving celebration, where we present him a plaque and the first bottle of Appleton’s. Frank mesmerizes us with the retelling of how he and John Mitchel came to start BC’s first craft brewery. You could hear a pin drop.
Our original brew system is now sitting unused in a warehouse, collecting dust. Rather than putting it up for sale, we want to find a good home for it. A long time friend and co-worker from Sean's days at Canoe Brewpub, Ram McAllister, has recently completed his brewing degree. In a leap of faith, we decide to pay it forward: the entire Hugo’s brew system is packed onto two trucks and shipped to Hamilton, Ontario, where Ram starts up his own brewery, Fairweather Brewing Co.
With the help of a state of the art Italian made bottle filling machine, we expand our retail offering and enter into six-packs of bottles.