Matt Phillips started his brewery in the most inadvisable way you can: by accumulating a huge amount of credit card debt. He had been working for a number of years for other beer companies and wanted to start out on his own, but the banks wouldn’t lend him the money.
“We seem to do everything the hard way,” he laughs when talking about his company’s history. “We even moved to our Government Street location in the middle of summer, prime-time for brewing.”
Despite it all, Phillips’ brewery has become a massive success. From starting out in a windowless storage compartment where he was working like crazy on his own, to winning national awards for his beers, expanding to over 80 full-time staff, and a brewery and store front that take up almost an entire city block.
“We’ve been really lucky over the years,” said Phillips. “We started with about half of the building when we first moved into this location, then slowly expanded and made use of the outdoor space. You can brew beer outside in Victoria eight months of the year.”
It isn’t just brewing beer either. Phillips has an all-natural soda company, a distillery and their own malting facility too. In fact, they are the only brewing company in Canada that secures its barley straight from farmers and processes it themselves.
Known for their creative labels, and flavours of beer, Phillips wanted to incorporate that creativity into more aspects of his business. So he had his loading dock redesigned to double as a sound stage and regularly hosts concerts.
“We host the ‘Backyard Weekender’ in our parking lot, an annual outdoor music festival that goes for three days,” said Phillips. “And there is also ‘Brewery and the Beast’ where we partner with Two Rivers Specialty Meats and serve a ton of food with six or eight different types of beers on tap.”
Phillips’ has a very personable attitude, and really enjoys building personal relationships with business partners. “The first graphic designer I worked with became a close friend and regularly darkens the door of the brewery,” he said. “We also partner up with Camosun College and we love those guys!”
“They designed our growler filler for us. And right now they’re working on some R&D to advance the quality control of our yeast.”
And although he wouldn’t recommend anyone start a brewery the way he did, he would be more than happy to help any newcomers to the market.
“Brewing is an open and collaborative business,” he said. “Anyone who wants to be involved in it should expect that.”