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Hiking the West Coast Trail

This is a long one, but trust us friends, it’s worth the read. Back in September, a few members of the OYB team and their friends went on a RAINY and epic adventure along the West Coast Trail, so we asked them to share their story. Here it is…

Written by: Lucas Beddington

Day 1 – Port Renfrew – Thrasher Cove; ~6 km

We’ve only had 6 days of rain since May, so the trails are in the best condition they’ve ever been in.”  

Then she showed us the forecast.

___

It’s finally here.  The day we actually start hiking the West Coast Trail.  Although we would soon discover the word ‘trail’ means something else entirely on Vancouver Island.

Everyone has been packed for weeks already, slowly whittling away the contents of their packs. Discarding anything you don’t absolutely need.  Ounces becoming pounds.

We started our hike at the end, in Port Renfrew.  Our theory was to do the hardest part of the hike right away, when we were the freshest, our heaviest, and it turns out, the rainiest part of the trip.

During our orientation, our group of 10 sat down in a little, dry, presentation room.  We spent an hour or so going over the trail itself, what to expect, animal tracks, and what to do in the event of an injury or emergency.  Then she showed us the forecast for the next 7 days. We had all been constantly refreshing our weather apps, constantly since we arrived in Port Renfrew the night before, but there is something about seeing a 7-day string of rain drops projected onto an 8 ft wall that really hits home.  

Time to hike.

___

Around noon, our hike started with a 1-minute boat ride across the inlet, then the front ramp lowers and you storm the beaches of the West Coast Trail.  There’s no easing into the trail either as you begin your hike with a vertical ladder about 50 ft high. Again, we chose to start our hike at what is typically the end of the trail, so we can tackle the hardest terrain at our freshest*.

*heaviest

The first day was a grind.  There’s no other way to put it.  A series of ladders, log bridges, “trails”, root systems as high as you, and the constant soaking of the rain.  The trail itself is actually very technically difficult, balancing the 50 lb pack while navigating your way through roots, rocks, and mud.  The only solace we took is that the trail only gets better from here (we were wrong) and the weather is supposed to clear up in a couple days (wrong again), which made the slow slog at least bearable.

Our first day covered about 6 km’s to Thrasher Cove, none of which were easy, and took us about 5 or 6 hours to reach our campsite.  Setting up camp just means more work by setting up tents, tarps, ropes, filtering water, cooking dinner, and futilely drying out gear.  **Note:  Don’t even bother drying your gear, it will only get soaking wet again.  Seriously.

It’s around 8 pm, our group is in dry clothes and eating dinner on the beach, huddled under a tarp.  We all came to a consensus that this was way harder than any of us expected. The (incorrect) notion that tomorrow would be easier was encouraging as we sat around a camp light because of the pre-existing fire ban still in effect from “the driest summer they’ve ever seen”.  Of course.

Crammed in the tent with the pee-inducing sound of the ocean waves and the rain on the tent, our first day on the West Coast Trail is officially in the books.  It was a shockingly difficult, wet, and miserable day, but also incredible.

Tomorrow – more please.

Day 2 – Thrasher Cove to Campers Bay; ~8 km

Good news: It’s not raining first thing in the morning.  

Bad news:  It’s on its way.

Oatmeal for breakfast, tea for the cold, then it’s time to pack up.  

Everybody watched amazed as people were already hitting the trail just as we all came groaning out of our tents.  A 7AM departure on any kind of trip is ambitious, let alone a trip where you have to set up and take down your kitchen and house every day.

After everyone finished their first breakfast of the trip we all started to fold tarps and take down tents.  We were lucky as the rain started just as we were about to cinch up our shoulder straps on our backpacks, giving us the false hope of “we may just keep our gear dry after all”.  Wrong.

Thrasher Cove is breathtaking if it’s the first stop on your hike.  However, you’ll quickly realize that Thrasher Cove is a cruel, sadistic joke of a campsite compared to the others on the West Coast Trail.  It’s about 1 KM off of the main trail. That’s 1 KM – each way – not accounted for in the total 75 KM’s listed on all WCT documents. So, not only does Thrasher Cove add 2 KM’s to your trip, it’s actually ended up being 2 KM’s of some of the worst parts of the entire trail.  I may just be saying that because it was at the end and beginning of a very long day, but I promise you that it was by no means easy.

Today included some falls, rolled ankles, but nothing serious.  Definitely nothing worth sending a messenger off to find help (which is the only way to get rescued, FYI).  

At risk of sounding like a broken record, we endured more rain than once thought possible, more ladders than seemed necessary, and log “bridges”.  Lots of them. The inland trails are incredibly beautiful if you ever get a chance to look up from your feet. Roots and rocks and ankle-deep mud force you to be constantly watching your feet for 6 hours a day, but when the time comes to stop for a second to take in and appreciate exactly what it is that you are accomplishing, your 50 lb pack feels just a little bit lighter.  Your feet, a little drier.

Thrasher to Campers Bay was very similar to Day 1, however this trip ended with an old timey cable car that lands you right in the campsite.  Think the mine carts from Donkey Kong Country for the SNES, but suspended from the air instead of on tracks. Two people and gear zipline about halfway over what ends up being our source of freshwater, then one person has to pull the cart the rest of the way.  If you haven’t made enemies within your group at this point then you should have help pulling from either end of the cable car.  Luckily for us, we’re still fairly early on into our hike, so help was offered.

Campers Bay rests in between two sets of cliffs and beside a river snaking out into the ocean.  By the time we slog into camp there are already a few groups claiming what have to be the best spots – with fires burning! – so we set up camp and start the home-assembly all over again.  

The West Coast Trail has this rule that only allows you to make a fire with driftwood found on the beach.  The good news is there is plenty of driftwood to go around; bad news is the rain. BUT! We were determined to build a fire and feel real warmth for the first time since we left Port Renfrew.  

Hours.  We spent hours building and nursing a fire to life.  Flasks and makeshift portable containers of craft beer were passed around the fire in the spirit of fueling whoevers shift it was to tend to the fire.  The sun has long since abandoned us. The other groups all dissipate into the darkness to get ready for the next day. Not us. We made a fire and we’re going to enjoy it, damnit!

Soon the only light you see is from our fire, the odd headlamp floating out to get water, and the cruise ships seemingly soaring across the horizon.  At that moment, we start to reflect on the trip so far and you realize that as hard as it has been so far, it’s only supposed to get harder before it gets better.  This is our life now.

We finish the circulating flasks – only on day 2, I know, but we had more – and head to our tents.  We’re only two days in but already feel like hardened veterans, maybe it’s thanks to the courage-giving warmth of the fire but who cares.  

Bring on the ladders!  Bring on tomorrow.

Day 3 – Campers Bay to Walbran Creek; ~9 km

Today was the day.  Back in the warm confines of the Parks Canada office, the park ranger showed us the weather forecast, and Sunday (today) was the day of reckoning.  Flash flood, river-widening rain.

One would find it impossible to describe what one had walked through because everything will sound like hyperbole.  But one can try.

Today was the day that everybody universally changed the way they hiked.  Up until this point, we have been trying to avoid the worst of each muddy section by walking on roots or trying to go around and tip-toe along the edges.  But there comes a point in every West Coast Trailers’ adventure when you say to yourself, “Well, I can’t get any wetter.”

Around 11 AM, Sunday, September 9th, that was the time everybody decided to go full steam ahead through any kind of obstacle.  Flooded muddy section with knee deep water? March right through it. Cable car over a now rushing river? Link up arms and walk across.  There is something very liberating about no longer caring anymore. I can’t stress this enough for anybody planning on doing the West Coast Trail with rain in the forecast – start this from day 1.  It goes against every fibre of your being to throw walking caution to the wind but the sooner you accept your fate, the better off you’ll be for the rest of the trail.

After some close calls on log bridges, some dicey boardwalks giving out, and a multitude of ladders, we made it to lunch.  We stopped beside a river, set up a small shelter, and made some hot drinks while we huddled and forced lunch in our faces.  The rain bucketing down.

We stopped for lunch just after a group ahead of us did, who were set up closer to the river’s edge.  By the time that group left, they were under water. And by the time we left and made it across the river, we looked back and our lunch spot was completely under water.  The river widened by about 20 feet in maybe and hour!  This rain was incredible.  It was beyond anything I’ve seen before.  As Ron Burgundy would say, “I’m not even mad.  That’s amazing!”

___

Logan Creek – remember the name.  It was the one part that made us all reconsider what we were even doing on this trip.  We heard it before we saw it. You hike along a ridge and the trees start to thin out a bit, yet all you see is sky and more trees in the distance.  As you round to your left, with a surprise construction site on your right, you see it. Logan Creek suspension bridge. But first, ladders!

I want you to imagine standing on a cliff looking down at a raging river being spanned by a swinging single-passenger suspension bridge, and the only way down to that bridge is to use one of those tilty ladders from the carnival game where no matter how hard you try, you always end up flipped upside down.  That will give you an idea of what it was like descending this cliff face.

Again, I warned that everything about today would sound like hyperbole but I promise you, it’s not.

Now we’ve done many ladders up until this point but the main ladder going down to the bridge was the hands down winner of the “Pant Crappingly Scary” award.  It was tilted off to one side, meaning your 50 pound pack was pulling you over to your left as you white-knuckled down. Add a healthy portion of torrential downpour and remove all safety nets and you have a recipe for some racing hearts.  Right foot and left hand down a rung. Rest. Left food and right hand down. Rest. Repeat.

Then the bridge.  Ahhh, the bridge. It bounces, it swings, it freezes some in their tracks.  Everyone had their own way of crossing the bridge as most weren’t a fan of any part of it.  My favorite style was used one in our group, who admitted to keeping his eyes forward, pretending he wasn’t on a bridge and singing his way across.

After the swinging bridge, you face a series of very long ladders to get back to the top of the cliff ridge that Logan Creek had interrupted.  Not only has all of this rain widened rivers but it’s also created new waterfalls, with one said waterfall cascading straight down the last ladder and directly onto you as you try to climb to refuge.

Everything afterwards was a series of boardwalks, old creek beds, and extreme mud-boggery ending in a ladder descending into Walbran Creek campground.  Walbran is a little tricky to get comfy in as most of the sites are tucked within the trees, but we didn’t come all this way to NOT sleep on the beach! Especially after the day we had – soaked, miserable, blistered.  Like when your fingers get pruney when wet, but everywhere.

We were the first to Walbran, so we picked the spot closest to the freshwater and furthest from the gang of seagulls patrolling the beach.  Camp was set up, fire was made, tarps were deployed. As night fell, our fire’s light attracted random hikers like moth to a flame. Most people seemed to be doing the trail in the opposite direction which gave us some insight into what’s ahead.

“It gets worse before it gets better.”  Great. Considering it took our group 7.5 hours to do 9 KM’s, and the second half of our group 9 hours, that was not what we wanted to hear.

All I kept thinking was, “It can’t get any wetter.”  Off to bed.

___

PS – around 3 AM I woke up to the sound of the ocean way too close to our tent – about 4 feet away.  Especially considering when we went to bed, we were about 50 feet from a river, not the ocean.  Turns out that as the tide came in, it started to overlap the river as well as eat away at the beach that everyone was camped on.  So much so, that it eroded the sand that someone in a different group was camping on, and started to sweep away his tent. I don’t think anybody was hurt, maybe a bit wetter.  It gives you an idea of just how rainy it was, though.

Day 4 – Walbran to Cribbs Creek; ~12 km

First of all, two things:

  1. Ho-ly is this 200% better when it’s not raining!
  2. To the group of ladies going the opposite direct telling us “It gets worse before it gets better”, they are in for a terrible awakening.  

Compared to what we just finished, this was a Sunday stroll along the Vedder River.  Except it’s along the Pacific Ocean.

___

Our day started out with the usual – rain.  However, it didn’t last all day which was a much needed change of pace.

Immediately out of Walbran campground, we had to cross the river that washed out the tent only a few hours before.  It was our first of several river crossings but it definitely the toughest. We lined up along the edge of the river, picked our path, and linked arms.  Ice cold, knee-deep water first thing in the morning definitely sets the tone for the rest of the day! We cross slowly and safely.

Most of today was spent walking along the beach across varying types of shoreline – soft sand, compact sand, loose rocks, big boulders, even some impressive coastal shelves that felt like you were walking on the edge of the earth.  With a few ladders to bypass the impassable parts of the beach, we covered a lot of ground today. Especially considering we were used to crawling along roots, mud, and miserableness, today was an Olympic spring comparatively.

Normally, today would be the day that we would stop for lunch at the famous Chez Monique’s – a little shanty hut “restaurant” propped up by driftwood and tarps right along the beach.  For most, it’s the first actual meal – and beer(!) – hikers have since starting the West Coast Trail. Not for us.

Monique Knighton sadly passed away on New Year’s Eve, 2017.  Her husband Peter, died a few months later in a freak boating accident.  Their children were operating Chez Monique’s during the summer, but had to shut down when their own children started school.  That left us giving a somber salute to Chez Monique’s as we hiked straight through. Tonight, we raised our flasks in their honour.

From Chez Monique’s, we made it to Pachena Point Lighthouse for an extended lunch break in the sun.  One of the lighthouse keepers came out to talk to us for a bit and gave us an update on trail and campground conditions.  The campground we’re planning on staying at for our last night just reopened because bear activity “returned to normal” (yay…).  Pachena Point Lighthouse is perched high up on the cliff side, while the lighthouse grounds themselves are bizarrely manicured. After hiking for 4 days in wild backcountry, seeing a nicely mowed lawn and pavement sidewalks made me feel like Robin Williams coming out of Jumanji after 25 years.

Re-energized after lunch and water bottles refilled, it was 45 minutes or so to Cribbs Creek campground.  We arrived before 4 PM! It gave us a ton of time to set up clothes lines, gather firewood, dry out, and relax.  Like I said before, today was a walk along the Vedder compared to the first few days. The trail is starting to look like what you think it would look like – beach for miles, beautiful rock formations, and lighthouses.  Beautiful.

Tomorrow, the Crab Shack!  And more leisurely beach walks.  Apparently.

Day 5 – Cribbs Creek to Tsusiat Falls; ~ 18 km

Up to this point, Cribbs Creek has been the nicest campsite.  That title now belongs to Tsusiat Falls. The big story of the day has to be the Crab Shack!

___

Our weird string of luck of packing up without the rain has continued because as soon as we were about to put the packs on our backs, it started to pour!  We must’ve had 30mm+ just in the first couple hours of our hike – torrential! Nothing we haven’t experienced already on our trip so maybe this is just regular life on the West Coast Trail?  

The AM hike was gorgeous, going through the usual forest, back to the beach, up and over big rocks, more of the edge-of-the-world rock shelves, the only crappy part was the rain.  Today was fairly uneventful as far as injuries or dicey situations – we’ll take it!

The guiding light for everyone today was the prospect of the Crab Shack, a little hut on a Nitinat Dock.  Our first real meal in 5 days!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m very food motivated.  So when we hit the trail coming off the beach and back inland, we knew it was a fairly-flat home stretch to a hot lunch.  Groomed trail and boardwalks were all that stood between me and cold beer and hot, buttery dungeness crab. I – admittedly, selfishly – almost ran.  I got to the Crab Shack about 20 minutes before everybody else, but waited for everyone else to order the food because I’m a gentleman.

Note: Nitinat/Crab Shack is the halfway point of the trail, distance wise.  You can take a boat up the river that takes you to town if you decide you can’t take it anymore.  It definitely crossed my mind! We asked the guy in charge of keeping the fire stocked up and he said that 20 people opted out and took the boat into town yesterday alone!  And all of the “luxury cabins” by the Crab Shack were full, which means those people were leaving the following day. There’s a part of me that thinks they’re quitters, but there’s another part that doesn’t blame them at all.  

It was pouring as we all huddled around the wood stove under the little shack, everyone desperately trying to dry out and warm up while waiting for our food.  The plus side of having a seafood “restaurant” right on the ocean is the food is fresh. Real fresh! They literally pulled up a crab trap out of the water and onto the dock and there was your lunch.  The downside is that because it is the only place for a hot meal on the whole trail, they can charge you whatever they want. I ordered a beer (…they didn’t have any Old Yale beers!!), a whole crab, and a plain baked potato that totalled $50!  While it seems expensive, I wouldn’t hesitate to pay that again. I tore into that crab like a bear fresh out of hibernation! My only regret is that I didn’t have enough cash for seconds! Others in our group had BBQ’d salmon, halibut, fancy baked potatoes with all the fixings.  It’s ridiculous how delicious such simple meals are at this point.

After we stuffed our faces and bought some more beer for the trail, we took a boat across the inlet to continue our hike.  Traversing some more muddy sections that led us to a cliffside trail with views of whale spouts off in the distance. Now THIS is what the West Coast Trail is supposed to be!

Most of the afternoon was spent on the beach basking in the sun.  It felt like taking that ferry across the river landed us in a different country – from the rainforest to a tropical beach in a matter of minutes!

A few hours of incredible(!) beach trekking got us to Tsusiat Falls around 6 PM.  A little later than we would have liked but with just enough daylight to get everything set up.  Tsusiat is the Instagram location of the entire West Coast Trail.  Considering its popularity, the campsite was fairly quiet with only a few other groups set up.  About 50(?) feet high, Tsusiat Falls is dramatically wide and curtainesque. A perfect cherry on top of an unforgettable day of hiking.  Today has made the first rainy few days of the trip feel like a different trip entirely!

Tomorrow, the skies are supposed to be dry and the trail flat, as we head to Darling Creek for our last night on the WCT.  For now, I’ll just enjoy this beer. By this fire. On the beach. By a waterfall! I mean, come on.

Day 6 – Tsusiat Falls to Darling Creek; ~12 km

If I had to relive one day of the hike over and over again for the rest of my life, it would be today.  That might be because of the sunshine, though.

___

Leaving Tsusiat Falls was bitter sweet.  I felt like we didn’t spend enough time on what is the most stunning campsite on the trail.  That kind of natural beauty deserves to be admired for a little longer than usual.

To get out of Tsusiat, it is immediately a series of ladders to take you to the cliffs edge and you work your way back inland a bit.  By now, we are seasoned veteran backwoods men and women. It’s actually weird how routine things started to feel by this point in the trip.  Like a nomadic tribe that doesn’t know any other way of life. Instead of waking up and going to work, you wake up, pack up all of your worldly belongings, throw them on your back, and walk.

Weather-wise, today was the best day of hiking we’ve had.  Not a single drop of rain fell from that infinite source of misery we call a sky.  Sunshine all day, baby! The actual hike itself was gorgeous as it took us on a journey of equal parts relaxing beach walking and fairly easy inland trails.  A few steep parts here and there but nothing we West Coast Trail pros couldn’t handle!

We arrived at Darling Creek – the campsite that was closed because of bear activity less than 48 hours ago – around 3:30.  Considering we left Tsusiat Falls just before 10 this morning, that’s still a pretty full day of hiking. Granted, it was fairly leisurely terrain, but 12 km’s is 12 km’s.  It was a good measuring stick for our hike tomorrow because we have to cover 14 km’s before lunch in order to catch the one-and-only bus back to our vehicles in Port Renfrew.  A little daunting.

Darling Creek campsite is…meh.  I mean, they are all incredible places to stay and we’re lucky to be able to sleep safely on a shoreline that looks over the infinite Pacific Ocean.  BUT. To spend the night at Tsusiat Falls the night before, compared to Darling, is a difference of a few stars on the ol’ Yelp review. However, the sun was shining, we were set up early, and had time to break out the hammocks and camp chairs and sip on our specialty drinks we’ve been saving for such an occasion.  Fancy rum cocktails, the remnants of whiskey flasks, and the prized possession – beer. OYB’s West Coast IPA, as it seemed the most fitting of our circumstances. Sun, drinks, and naps. As far as I’m concerned, that’s paradise.

The one downside to the sun coming out is that it started to dry out our boots and socks, and as any hiker knows, damp socks means blisters.  For some reason, having our boots filled with water didn’t give anybody problems, but damp socks gave everyone blisters almost immediately. Almost made it the entire trip blisterless.  So close…

Aside from the bubbling feet and puffy knees, we made it this far in fairly good shape.  The rest of our evening was spent making sure we were ready for our early departure and race to the finish line.  Our biggest concern was leaving early enough. If today was almost 6 hours to cover 12 km’s, we have to plan accordingly to finish the remaining 14 km’s tomorrow morning.  There is a 1:15 bus that we have to catch, so early morning it is!

Tomorrow, civilization and real food.

Day 7 – Darling Creek to Bamfield; ~14 km

5:30.  That’s when we were awoken to our tent shaking as the one keener in our group started yelling at us to get up.

We packed as much as we could the night before to expedite our morning a little bit, but it still took us 90 minutes to eat, pack, and hit the trail.  I don’t know how anybody else can do it any faster than that, and if you claim that you can, I demand proof.

We were officially underway by 7:05 AM and we could practically taste the burger and beer waiting for us in Bamfield.  The trail was a literal walk in the park. More like a sprint in the park. We flew through the first 8 km’s!  The blisters eventually took their toll on our pace as we stopped for a brunch of whatever food we had left.  Momentum is a very real thing on the trail, once you start, stopping seems like a terrible idea only because you have to get going again.

However, we were making such good time we figured we could add a couple of stops on our last day of the trail.  One of which, included the Pachena Point Lighthouse, the last remaining wooden lighthouse in Canada/North America/the entire West Coast.  Don’t fact check that. It was while touring the grounds of the lighthouse that conversation of ‘end of the world’ scenarios started.

“What if we get to Bamfield and there was a zombie apocalypse and we didn’t know about it?”

“Well, we ate all of our food already, we’d have to take over the lighthouse.”

Things only got darker from there.  It was time to go.

The rest of the trail was groomed, flat, and leisurely.  Filled with hikers who were only a few kilometers into their 75 km trek.  Some looked like they’ve done it before, while some looked like they would be in some real trouble, as they were already huffing and puffing after only 4 km’s of sidewalk like trail.  If I weren’t so close to the finish line, I might have been more concerned. My blisters were screaming, my knees were throbbing, it was time to go home.

The last 0.5 km or so was along the beach – we skipped the last ladder because of low tide – and the entire walk was apparently spent following a bear and wolf duo.  Bear and wolf tracks were all over the sand leading into the Parks Canada office just past the treeline. That would be such a cruel way to go, so close to the finish line…

We made it to the little A-frame office around 11:30, just over 4 hours!  Ahead of schedule yet it couldn’t have come sooner. We did it.

The packs, boots, and gators came off of everybody as if they were blown off in an explosion.  Some articles found their way into the garbage immediately. Victims of the West Coast Trail.

With the taxi van on it’s way, we were all weighing our bags on the scale suspended from the A-frame.  Everyone’s packs were 10-12 lbs lighter than when we started, and incredibly, everyone’s body was about 10-12 lbs lighter as well!  So if you’re ever looking for a fast weight loss program, just hike 75 or so kilometers with 50 lbs on your pack over a week. Simple.

The Ford Econoline van arrives, we load in our gear, and we pile in.  

“You’re going to have to roll down the windows, you guys stink.”

Yes, Mrs. Taxi Van Driver, we do stink.  Bad.

___

A quick drive to the town of Bamfield and we grab some burgers and beers at a/the only restaurant in town.  Good lord that was delicious! We finished our lunch just as the bus to Port Renfrew pulls up and we pile in again, this time for about 4 hours.

From Bamfield to Port Renfrew is all backroads and mostly gravel.  All I remember is the sound of deafening and constant rattling before I woke up and we were stopped at a little gas station for snacks and bathroom breaks in a town called Youbou.  Look it up.

Turns out most of us slept for a few hours, despite the noise and jostling.  From Youbou, which looked to have an elk-to-human ratio of 2-to-1, to Port Renfrew was just under an hour.  There, we’ll hop in the truck and drive to Sooke, where we’re staying for a night of civilized comfort. Note:  turns out we were too exhausted to go out and celebrate once in Sooke, so we ordered pizza and were in bed by 9.  Party animals, I know.

Am I glad that I hiked the West Coast Trail?  Of course. It has been a bucket list hike since the day I heard about it.  Would I hike it again? No way. Portions of it, maybe. But I’m happy to say that I’ve done it and have the pictures to prove it.  The WCT is a hike to remember and will be the talking point of many other get togethers with the same group we hiked with. I’m proud and impressed of everyone that hiked it, and even more impressed that we came out of that hike even better friends than when we started, because too often it can go the other way and everybody needs a little break.

Do the West Coast Trail.  You might get a little pruney, you might get some blisters, you might even end up regretting doing it, but I guarantee that you will definitely regret not at least trying.

Guest Blog: Designing a beer label…

Friends! Have you ever wondered what all goes into the design of a beer label?? Well, you’re in luck.

We are the Northern, a local creative studio helped us create The Valley, a Fraser Valley Collaboration beer, made with our friends from Foamer’s Folly, Trading Post, Ravens and Field House. Here’s a little about their process…

 

Written by We are the Northern

Originally posted here:  http://wearethenorthern.com/  

 

Have you ever been asked to design the label for the first ever Fraser Valley beer made by 5 award winning breweries? Well, we have! OH, THE PRESSURE.

In this blog we’ll take you on the emotional roller coaster (slight exaggeration) that lead to the creation of this label. And, at the end of it, we hope that you’ll walk away with some valuable intel that’ll help step up your design game – not only from a designer perspective, but also from a client perspective.

IT’S ALL IN THE BRIEF
Alright, here’s where it starts to get important. As a client, you need to have a good idea of what you want, and what you view as a successful project outcome. It’s always best practice to deliver a brief that outlines who your target audience is, your aesthetic goals for the project, your high level ideas and design goals. Without this, you’re leading your designer on a wild goose chase and it’ll likely end in disappointment for the both of you.

As a designer, you should ensure your client brief covers everything you need to know about the design project so your billable hours are used to their full potential. If you don’t have confidence in what your client is after, ask more questions.

In the case of The Valley, we received a GREAT brief – complete with sketches, a mood board, and a solid briefing conversation to boot (thanks, friends!).

  

TRANSLATING THE BRIEF INTO A FIRST DRAFT
Ok designers, this is your moment to shine.

After receiving a solid brief, you’re going to need to translate that brief into a tangible, creative, aesthetically pleasing first draft (YOU GOT THIS).

Our reco? Doodle, sketch, vector image your brains out. At this point, there are no bad ideas. You’re a creative genius, a true aesthetic wizard.

When we designed our first drafts for The Valley, we went through so many different emotional states.

“Oh. This will be easy.”
“Does this look weird to you?”
“Well, this isn’t working is it.”
“What is the actual meaning of life?”
“Wait. Maybe that’ll work.”
“Oh, it’s coming together.”
“We got this.”

At the end of the day, fellow designers, trust the process. It’ll lead you somewhere beautiful (but may be a long, terrifying journey).

DESIGN
Once briefed, we discovered one major issue with what was requested for The Valley – the colours.

We were originally asked to utilize colours from each brewery to make up the colour palette of the label. They wanted a bright pastel vibe – but, when we sat down and actually applied what they were asking… it looked like a mashup of the Italian and German flag – nicht gut!

(Don’t get us wrong – we love Italy and Germany. But, in the case of this project, it really wasn’t the right vibe.)

The solution to avoiding designing an ItalGerman (we’re making up words now) Fraser Valley beer label, you ask? We pushed back with a visual element in our presentation that clearly articulated the issue, and our proposed solution.

So, a lesson for designers – push back when you feel your client is asking for something that won’t work well – but give them a solid solution when you do, so you don’t leave them empty handed.

CLIENT REVIEW
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. You’ve prepped your design presentation, sent it off to the client, and have permanently hid under your covers until you hear the friendly ping of your email reply.

At this point, you’ve got to trust that you’ve done what you can to deliver on brief. If your client supplied you a solid brief that was true to what they want, and you delivered on that brief with your own, unique spin on it, you should be fine. But, don’t fret if your client comes back with a new evolution of ideas that may spin off their original thought. Your role as a designer is to accept and understand their ideas, but also push back from a design perspective when you feel your client may be in left field or taking the design in a way that doesn’t match their original strategy. Channel your inner Beyonce and communicate your clear, concise thoughts on their push backs. Your job here is to hear them out, but also utilize your hard earned expertise to keep them on the right track.

Thankfully, in the case of The Valley, the brief we received was true to what our client wanted. With a few revisions and tests, we were off to the races.

SO, WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
Well, for starters, high pressure projects are great, but also terrifying. Don’t take them on unless you’re ready, and when you’re ready, take them on with vigour. It has taken us 7 years of industry experience to truly feel comfortable taking on a project like this. Although the design came out simple, clean and straight forward, the pressure was real. Dealing with 5 separate companies, knowing this was the first label of it’s kind… you know we were a little nervous.

Thankfully, when you base your work in strategy, you gain more confidence in your design. In the case of The Valley – strategy was what kept us out of left field. There could have been SO many directions this could have gone, but we chose to stick to our guns, to our client’s initial thoughts, and it lead us to one beautiful label if we do say so ourselves.

Each part of this design represented something of meaning.

The colours? Representative of the ingredients and Earth elements that go into making hand-crafted beer.

The V? Representative of the beer name, and it’s sizeable significance of craft beer influence in the region (BIG, right?).

The order of logos? Representative of driving west to east.

Nothing in this label was random, it all was fueled by strategy. When strategy guides you both as a client and as a designer, you can’t lose. Sure, you may never feel totally settled on a design (the possibilities are endless!), but at the end of the day, you need to pull the trigger, trust your gut, and enjoy the wild ride that your creation is going to take you on.

You got this.

NEW BREW: Himalayan Salted Caramel Porter

Who remembers this unbelievable Trailblazer Series beer from last Winter?? Well, we loved it so much, that we had to bring it back. And this time, it’s available in 473ml, 4-packs

ABV: 6.0%

Hops: Magnum

Malt: ESB, chocolate, crystal

Our Himalayan Salted Caramel Porter is brewed with a variety of specialty malts, which lends a smoothness and depth to its body. Additions of Himalayan salt, lactose and vanilla add a sweet caramel finish leading to a lingering saltiness on the palate – rich, dark & delicious.

Joining our Trailblazer Series, bold new flavors and ingredients, combined to craft truly one-of-a kind beers for your drinking pleasure, you can pick up a 473ml 4-pack of this tasty beer NOW in the Old Yale Tasting Room and in your local BC Liquor Stores. And keep an eye out for it in Private Liquor Stores and on tap in your favourite restaurants and bars…

Cheers friends!

 

NEW COLLAB: The Valley

Can we all just agree that Fresh Hop season is the best season??

We’re so excited to finally release our debut Fraser Valley Collaboration beer, The Valley – a Double Fresh Hop Farmhouse!

Celebrating the beautiful Valley we all call home, we got together with our friends at Foamers Folly Brewing, Trading Post Brewing, Ravens Brewing and Field House Brewing to create the first ever Fraser Valley Collaboration Beer, a Double Fresh Hop Farmhouse Ale.

ABV: 7.5%

Hops: Fresh Sasquatch

Malt: Pilsen, Wheat, Oats, Dextrapils

Brewed with a Belgian Saison yeast, Chilliwack River Valley Honey and double dry-hopped with the first harvest of the Abbotsford-grown and Canadian-design Sasquatch Hops, our Collab Farmhouse Ale is floral with a hint of spice and a delicate finish.

This Fresh Hop brew is available NOW in the Old Yale Tasting Room and in Private Liquor Stores. This brew is a limited release so make sure you don’t miss it! Cheers!

 

NEW: Craft Cooler & River Valley Amber

We’ve finally accepted that it’s time to embrace the Fall/Winter season at Old Yale Brewing… so with that, it’s out with the Summer Craft Cooler mix and in with the NEW Winter variety pack!! That’s right, we’ve refreshed our Craft Cooler 12-pack mix with some new and existing tasty brews.

Here’s the new line-up:

+ NEW River Valley Amber (5.0%) – a deep, rich colour accompanied by notes of toasted malt & caramel, and a smooth, refreshing finish. A rare blend of both balance and complexity.

+ Sasquatch Stout (5.0%) – our award-winning Stout, smooth with notes of mocha, coffee and roasted barley. And for the first time, in 355ml cans in a mix-pack

+ West Coast IPA (6.0%) – packed with over 50lbs of the much sought after Citra and Galaxy Hops, boasting huge hop flavor, but also a balanced drinkability.

+ Knotty Blonde Ale (5.0%) – Old world hops meet new, carefully crafted to have a subtle grapefruit flavor with a frothy, creamy head. Clean and crisp, rounding out this perfect adventure mix-pack!

Our Craft Cooler 12-pack is available NOW in the Old Yale Tasting Room and will be hitting your local BC and Private Liquor Store shelves in next few weeks. And stay tuned for the River Valley Amber, this new brew will be on tap soon in your favourite restaurants, bars and the Tasting Room soon! 

With the addition of our new River Valley Amber, we sadly, had to retire one of our all-season brews. As much as we all LOVE our trusty, Old Paddle Pilsner, it’s time for it to go on ‘sabbatical’. If you see a 6-pack of this tasty brew with it’s distinctive malt, traditional, pick it up as it won’t be around for much longer! Cheers to all the adventures we had with our Old Paddle Pilsner, and the new ones to come!

NEW BREW: Weekend Warrior Double IPA

Weekend Warriors unite!! It’s back, its finally back…

Back in March of this year, we released a super limited, keg-only brew, the Weekend Warrior Double IPA, and it didn’t last long! After receiving tons of requests, our most hop-forward beer to date is back in action. And this time, it’s available in 473ml tall cans!

ABV: 8.0%

Hops: Chinook, Simcoe, Centennial, Columbus

Malt: ESB, Crystal

The Weekend Warrior Double IPA is a flurry of flavour. Chinook, Simcoe, Centennial and Columbus deliver that classic West Coast Hop Punch. Pine and resin are supported by a hint of tropical citrus, with a pinch of dank goodness rounding it out. Hop forward all the way, with a bit of malt to make this a true Weekend Warrior’s treat.

Joining our Trailblazer Series; a single batch limited release line that is here today, gone forever, the brew is limited (not as limited as the first round) but make sure you get it while it lasts. You can pick up a 473ml 4-pack in the Old Yale Tasting Room, Private Liquor Stores and you can try it on tap in your local restaurants and bars!

Cheers friends!

 

We’re hiring! Senior Brewer

The Senior Brewer will work with the Brewmaster and will complete all functions of a production brewery. Much of the job is manual labor which includes physical lifting, moving, and carrying of equipment. The Senior Brewer will also assist with recipe formulation, creative input and operations. They will need to be self-motivated and directed but also be willing to take direction the Brewmaster and General Manager. Attention to detail and procedures is of the upmost importance while maintaining safe and health regulatory compliance. The Senior Brewer is an integral member of the Brewery team and will assist with a multitude of functions from brewer production to assisting with end customer interaction.

Read more

Guest Blog: How to spend a rainy day in Chilliwack

Written by We are the Northern, originally posted here: http://wearethenorthern.com/chilliwackbc/

 

Alright, here’s the thing. Chilliwack is freakin’ cool and you guys need to visit soon. Hop on the greyhound (while you can… RIP greyhound) and get your butts here. We’ve got an adventure packed day planned for you that really can’t be missed. If you’re bored in August, check out our 1-day itinerary for a rainy day in Chilliwack, BC.

FIRST STOP: Cookies Grill (www.cookiesgrill.ca)

Okay so, I want to give Cookie’s Grill ALL of the love. But I also kinda want to keep it a secret… because it really is a hidden gem and I don’t want my favourite breakfast spot overcrowding. But, here goes nothing – because the world needs more love, and more pancakes – am I right?

Cookies Grill is one of those places every breakfast lover dreams of. Affordable prices, big portions, and endless amounts of shredded (or cubed, if that’s how you roll) hashbrowns. A must visit if you’re looking for some tasty eats to kick your day off.

 

SECOND STOP: Chilliwack Sunflower Festival (www.chilliwacksunflowerfest.com)

First of all, the Sunflower Festival is the new Tulip Festival. Just wanted to clear that up.

Second of all – sunflowers can get BIG. Like… blooms the size of your head, leaves the size of two of your heads, big. Oh, and at least 8 feet tall. Nature, you’re pretty neat.

Third, and most important of all: posing for the gram is HARD. Why do people make it look so easy? It’s really not. Where are you supposed to put your hands? And don’t even get me started on figuring out where you’re supposed to look. You REALLY need to practice your poses before you get here, because let me tell you, the photo ops are endless.

Regardless of the level of difficulty, head to the Sunflower Fest. for the gram, a breath of fresh air, a connection to mother nature, and also pick up some fresh cut sunflowers at $1.50 a pop. You won’t regret it, and neither will your Insta followers.


THIRD STOP: Old Yale Brewing (www.oldyalebrewing.com)

Okay. Okay. So, we’re a little biased because OYB is one of our (amazing) clients (we take pics for them, mostly!). But, Old Yale really is a must-visit if you’re ever passing through Chilliwack. Their tasting room was recently renovated, they’ve got (seriously good) hand-crafted beer on tap, and have something cool going on pretty much every day of the week. Like music? Open mic night, Sundays. Like casks? “Blast from the cask”, every Wednesday. Like cool people? Well, every day of the week.

Be sure to fill a growler and take it home with you so the fun can continue after your adventure-packed day.


And, that concludes one of the (many) awesome days you could have in beautiful Chilliwack, BC. Stop by for a visit, and tell us if you did by tagging us in your Instagram photos – @wearethenorthern.

Beer Cocktail: Pina Colada

If you like Pina Coaldas and getting caught in the rain, then our newest beer cocktail is perfect for you! It’s our Pina Colada Hazy ISA amplified with Coconut Rum and Pineaplle Juice. Topped with fresh Pineapple and a little umbrella, this one will transport you to a tropical paradise. Make it home with easy peasy recipe below…

Ingredients:

• Old Yale Brewing Pina Colada Hazy ISA – 5=4.5%
• Malibu Coconut Rum
• Pineapple Juice
• Fresh Pineapple
• Little Umbrella (just for fun!)

Step 1:
In your 12 oz. Old Yale Brewing glass, add 1 oz. Malibu Coconut Rum

Step 2:
Add 3oz. of Pineapple Juice

Step 3:
Fill the remainder of your glass with our Trailblazer Series Pina Colada Hazy ISA and garnish with a fresh Pineapple chunk and a little umbrella

It’s that easy! Cheers, friends!

Serves 1

Recipe by Joanna, Old Yale Brewing Tasting Room Manager.

 

NEW BREW: Head Shaker Honey Lager

We’re so excited to announce our newest collaboration beer, Head Shaker Honey Lager. We made this Summer and outdoor-inspired brew with former Vancouver Canuck, Brendan Morrison and his team at Reel West Coast, an exciting new cinematic lifestyle fishing show. With our mutual love for fishing and the outdoors, together, we’ve created a refreshing Lager made with local Chilliwack Honey, that tastes best outside, especially near water!

Hops: Hersbrucker, Magnum

Malt: Pale, Vienna, Honey

A collaboration with Reel West Coast, this Honey Lager is crafted for an outdoor lifestyle. Local honey adds a touch of sweetness that pairs perfectly with the clean, crisp Lager finish; A truly can’t miss West Coast experience.

To celebrate the launch of the Head Shaker Honey Lager, we’re throwing a party in our parking lot on Saturday, July 21, join us for ‘Tight Lines and Good Times’, you can grab the full details here.

This tasty NEW brew is AVAILABLE NOW in 355ml 6-packs in the Old Yale Tasting Room and Private Liquor Stores. This is a limited release, so make sure you get it while it lasts!