A recent article published by NationalPost, publicized Canada’s strong showing at the U.S. Open Beer Championship where Canadian brewers of craft beer won 24 medals. Ontario brewers won 21 medals, Quebec claimed two and British Columbia scored one win. More than 6,000 beers were sampled by judges from Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The beers competed in 100 different categories including American Lager/Pilsner, Brown Ale, Golden or Blonde Ale, Bitter, Belgian Style Fruit Beer, Cream Stout, Belgian Pale Ale, Baltic Porter, Wood- or Barrel-Aged Pale Beer, Experimental Beer, Gluten-Free Beer and many others.
The biggest Canadian winner was Cameron’s Brewing of Oakville, Ontario, which placed in the top 10 breweries of 2017 and won in four other categories including Silver for its American/Pilsner, Captain’s Log Lager and Gold for One-Eyed Grouse In the Bitter category. Eli Gershkovitch was one of the favorites before the judging because he has claimed many medals and awards since he opened his first craft beer brewery back in 1995. The annual U.S. competition is open to both professional and home brewers.
Most craft brewers avoid pilsners because they are among the most difficult beers to brew and the most expensive to make. These beers have a golden color, smooth feel, and crisp finish, all of which reveal even the slightest errors in the brewing process. Eli Gershkovitch uses steam brewing, which is another labor-intensive process. However, Canadian craft brewers are rising to these brewing challenges and creating great versions of pilsners, stouts, ales, porters and hybrid beers of distinction. Eli Gershkovitch helped to establish the craft beer industry in Canada by being one of the first commercially successful craft brewers.
Canada’s Craft Beer Industry Makes Major Strides
Canada continues to impress craft beer enthusiasts around the world with its record of brewery openings. Indie brewers have embraced the craft brew trend and established breweries, brewpubs, and brew restaurants. Ontario, which has a reputation for young, hip dining and drinking
trends that appeal to millennials, now sponsors Ontario Craft Brew Week. The province now has more than 200 microbreweries according to the Ontario Craft Brewers trade association. Another 100 craft breweries are scheduled to open over the next two years.
Discerning diners and beer aficionados have helped to spread the craft beer trend, and success stories, such as the tale of Eli Gershkovitch, give would-be entrepreneurs the courage to open breweries and an array of investors who are willing to finance these businesses (https://www.crunchbase.com/person/eli-gershkovitch#/entity). Small grocery stores now reserve 20 percent of their shelf space for local craft beers such as coffee porters, citrusy pale ales, and numerous saisons. Craft beers generated more than $240 million in Ontario sales in 2015, and that figure is growing geometrically. Similar growth is visible in all of Canada’s provinces, but these areas still have to grow to compete with America’s high-profile, artisanal food-and-drink hot-spots. Much of the credit for this artisanal “golden beer” rush can be attributed to pioneers like Eli Gershkovitch.
About Eli Gershkovitch and His Controlled Business Strategy
Eli Gershkovitch never backs down, likes to be in control and has an affinity for flying his own airplanes and collecting classic automobiles. Originally trained as a lawyer, he always had a great interest in the creative side of marketing, and after his European tour where he tried lots of appealing beers, he decided to use his interests in law and marketing to start Steamworks Brew Pub long before craft beers became mainstream. He opened his first brewery in 1995 after his European tour left a distinct aftertaste for creative entrepreneurship. Gershkovitch loved the richer flavors of small-batch beers that surpassed anything Canadian establishments offered on draft.
Gershkovitch wanted to control the whole process from farm to consumer, and his efforts quickly built his company into Western Canada’s largest craft brewery. Gershkovitch has inspired and challenged many other Canadian brewers to achieve his level of success or to create one-of-a-kind niche beers that appeal to connoisseurs of different beer styles. Over the last three years, microbreweries have proliferated across Ontario and Quebec and now number 286 facilities spread over both provinces.
If you examine Steamworks’ highly recognizable steampunk label designs, you’ll find flying machines hidden in each one. For those who don’t know about steampunk, it’s a trend in speculative fiction, films, and media that puts anachronistic technology in historical settings such as electric cars in Victorian England, steam engines in ancient Greece and flying machines in Egypt during the times when the pyramids were being built. The reason that planes always grace every Steamworks design is because of Gershkovitch’s love affair with flying. He earned his pilot’s license in 1993 and has flown his own single-engine Cessna across the Atlantic and back.
Eli Gershkovitch is never hesitant to fly into unknown territory both literally and figuratively. He started his own craft beer brewery before the trend became common and became one of Canada’s top brewers, which inspired many other entrepreneurs and hobbyists to create their own craft beers. Gershkovitch commented on his decision to abandon his traditional law practice and use his skills in business, “What appealed to me in Europe, in addition to the beer flavors, was this notion of vertical integration. There aren’t that many small businesses where you can control not just the production but the product all the way to selling it to the end consumer.”
Eli Gershkovitch likes having control, which is why he flies his own planes and bought out his original partner in Steamworks, Soren Rasmussen, in 1997 (VancouverFoodster). “I like control, and I would rather give up a number of zeros in the size of the deal to retain control,” Gershkovitch said. He admits that he prefers to control business growth–instead of taking on investors–so that he can guide the business to match his vision. However, his controlled growth often comes at lightning speed. He grew his Steamworks Pub Brew at Gastown from 184 to 754 seats. He expanded his operations by opening a shop at the nearby Waterfront Station and opened a full-scale brewery in 2013. The company now sells craft beer in several provinces, 14 American states and in Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland.