Canada recently won big at the U.S. Open Beer Championship where its brewers snagged 24 medals including Bronze, Silver and Gold Honors. Eli Gershkovitch, who owns the Steamworks Group of Companies, all of which are related to the craft beer industry, was one of the favorites in the competition. Steamworks, which is one of Canada’s most successful craft beer companies, is perhaps Western Canada’s largest independent brewery that’s owned by a single person.
Eli Gershkovitch is happy that his fellow Canadian brewers did so well and is especially impressed with Ontario’s rapidly growing craft beer industry. Ontario brewers claimed 21 out of the 24 medals that Canadian won. Cameron’s Brewing of Ontario won recognition as one of the top10 breweries of 2017, and the brewery also won four other medals for its beers.
Although Steamworks operates primarily in Vancouver, its products are sold throughout Canada, the United States and in other countries throughout the world. Gershkovitch feels that the United States, which claimed most of the awards in the U.S. Open Beer Championship that it hosts, might be a few steps ahead in craft beer development in certain areas of the country, but that doesn’t mean it has a lock on young millennials who prefer locally brewed, independent beers. Canada has incredible resources for the farm-to-table crowd.
What The Canadians Are Up To
Canada is certainly catching up, and the country’s closely knit neighborhoods–where neighbors rely on each other heavily during bitter winters–are ideal venues for charming pubs and locally produced beers with a Canadian flair. Eli Gershkovitch wholeheartedly endorses Canada’s craft beer industry even though an increased number of microbreweries generates competition for his Steamworks products.
Many craft brewers feel that everyone benefits from the competition because more craft beer lovers mean that there are more aficionados who are anxious to sample different independent brewers’ products. The real competition is mass-produced global brands that seem to settle for the lowest common denominator in terms of flavor. Some critics of the big brands call them flavorless, weak and insipid.
Beers come in more than 100 styles and carry just as many flavor notes as fine wines. In the 2017 U.S. championship, more than 6,000 beers from commercial breweries and homebrewers competed for prizes, the best of which were awarded Bronze, Silver and Gold medals just like in the Olympics. The judges included representatives from the United States, Canada and Great Britain who were qualified either as a Master Brewer, knowledgeable editor of a beer-related publication or college professor who has taught the art of brewing. Representatives came from as far as Belgium, Vietnam, and Australia to compete in the event.
About Eli Gershkovitch
Eli Gershkovitch faced an early dilemma when trying to decide what type of career to pursue, and the dilemma wasn’t solved when he finally chose to become a lawyer. Most attorneys look forward to a lucrative career defending people or practicing corporate law. Eli Gershkovitch had oscillated between the law and becoming an agency creative advertising director. During a tour of Europe after graduation from law school at the University of Toronto, he was particularly impressed by the many varieties of Belgian beer. As his law career progressed, Eli Gershkovitch became increasingly uncomfortable with wearing suits, working for others instead of himself and not enjoying any creative freedom to develop a real-world product and nurture it.
That’s why Eli Gershkovitch made a life-changing decision that was a big risk back in 1995–he decided to start his own brewery. Steamworks Brew Pub opened in 1995 with 184 seats. Gershkovitch found an ideal location for his fledgling business in Gastown’s historic section. Although starting a brewery can be a complex undertaking with lots of bureaucratic red tape, his previous work for clients in obtaining liquor licenses and his knowledge of business law gave him a big advantage. The 100-year-old building that he chose featured a steam-powered heating system, which Gershkovitch serendipitously used for steam brewing.
The steam helped to give his company its name, Steamworks, and its marketing concept, steampunk, which is a science fiction sub-genre that often features steam-powered machinery in place of advanced technology. Usually set in the 1800s, steampunk fiction often includes anachronistic technology such as iPads in Victorian times. Eli Gershkovitch, who loves designing creative marketing campaigns, often uses steam-powered flying machines in his promotional art because he loves flying so much. His original pub produced only six beers, but as he expanded, his successful brewery began producing 15 to 17 beers annually.
For more information on Eli Gershkovitch, visit our other article at https://www.wingsjournal.com/hes-pilot-lawyer-ceo-steamworks-brewery-eli-gershkovitch
The U.S. Open Championship
In today’s Canadian beer market, government-owned liquor stores and private retailers now sell his pale ale and Pilsner beer. Eli Gershkovitch commented, “You grow to meet the demand, or demand shrinks to meet you.” He had no intention of letting his business become marginal, so he expanded his original facility, opened a neighboring pub/restaurant in the Waterfront Station and opened a full-scale taproom and brewery in Burnaby in 2013. The brewery enabled him to begin selling bottled beer to other provinces and countries. The Steamworks Group of Companies is the umbrella organization for many beer-related companies that Eli Gershkovitch developed.
Breweries from North America and around the globe competed in the U.S. Open Championship, and the major categories included lagers, ales, Pilsners, hybrids, barrel-aged beer and even non-alcoholic and gluten-free beer. Similar competitions are held annually throughout the world and include global, national, regional and local competitions.
Unfulfilled as a lawyer, Gershkovitch longed to work comfortably in jeans, plan creative marketing campaigns and control his own destiny. Opening a craft brewery seemed to hit all the marks, so he opened Steamworks Brew Pub in 1995. Craft beer, although gaining 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.
Eli Gershkovitch believes passionately in working in his business each day, getting his hands dirty and challenging the status quo. He advises aspiring entrepreneurs with these caveats: “Always question the conventional wisdom. Test your assumptions.” Gershkovitch traded his navy suits for jeans and steel-toed boots. Having grown up in a working-class family, he was never comfortable in suits and the usual corporate environments. “We’re the little brewery that grew,” Gershkovitch likes to say. During his spare time, he buys collectible cars of which he’s tremendously proud. He often drives one of his vintage cars when touring his businesses, attending beer competitions and marketing his craft beers at local festivals and events (BeerMeBC). Eli Gershkovitch also enjoys flying in one of his two planes and frequently uses aircraft terminology when talking about the craft beer industry. One of his favorite sayings is ” You can’t run out of runway if you’re the one building it.”