The featured attractions at this year’s Vancouver Craft Beer Week three-day festival at the PNE don’t stop with live music, food trucks, and a small army of on-site brewers pouring more than 400 different varietals.
“We’ve always had a partnership with Vancouver Craft Beer Week—ever since its inception,” says Donnelly Group director of marketing Damon Holowchak, speaking to the Straight via phone. “Last year we got a little crazy and decided to do a pop-up pub for the festival. We brought in some pinball machines and ping-pong tables, had Skee-Ball brought in, and did bocce in a grassed area.
“Essentially, we had a pop-up Lamplighter in the middle of the festival, and people lost their minds. They absolutely loved it. So we decided to kind of up the ante this year.”
The Donnelly Group will be staging pop-up versions of three of its popular Gastown enterprises—the men’s grooming shop Barber and Co., the Lamplighter pub, and the cocktail-centric Clough Club—at the festival.
“We’re bringing in some of the DJs that work throughout our company and then surrounding ourselves with some of our favourite beer partners,” Holowchak says. “So that section of the festival will feature a lot of the local craft breweries that we work with really closely.”
He notes that Vancouver’s craft-beer revolution has changed the way that the Donnelly Group’s bars do business, with the emphasis having shifted from macrobrands to local artisanal breweries. Today, for example, the Lamplighter has 50 mostly local beers on tap.
Hanging with the micros that have proven popular at the Donnelly Group’s various ventures isn’t all that Holowchak is looking forward to at the VCBW festival. What he loves about the event is that although it’s theoretically about beer, it’s also about having fun.
“We’re selling not just beer but also the ability to loosen up,” he says. “That’s kind of in our DNA as a company. Craft beer is all about being creative and having fun—which is funny, because that’s how craft beer started. It was never a business model. It was a movement started by people who were really passionate about beer.”