Beer is to après like cheese is to nachos or pow is to skiing— integral. The skiing in Whistler is exceptional right now and as the days get longer and the patios get sunnier, local businessman Joey Gibbons says he’s nearing completion of a two-year mission: to create the perfect Après Beer.
“It’s a lager,” Gibbons says. “We’ve been doing après-ski at the Longhorn since 1979 so we know what people want when they get down. The challenge was tweaking it to perfection.”
Built by Joey’s father back in the days when Whistler Village was nothing more than a back-filled garbage dump and a dream, The Longhorn Saloon sits on the literal first piece of flat land available where Whistler and Blackcomb mountains meet. And with 35+ years of après shenanigans under its belt there is no more suitable birthplace for an après beer.
“We’ve always known people want a lager,” Joey continues. “Craft beers are great but they are also often the star of the experience. When people finish a day of skiing they are the star. They want something they can sit down with and celebrate, share pictures and brag about the day. So the beer couldn’t be too dark or too bold or too anything. The people are the stars, it’s about celebration.”
Working with brewmasters at the North Vancouver-based Deep Cove Brewery since 2014, Joey explains that he and his staff have been tweaking with the taste of the new yet-to-be-officially-named beer, testing it and gathering feedback at the Longhorn and other Gibbons establishments. (Editor’s note: The official name? Gibbons Après Lager – solid choice.)
“The staff were a big part of it,” he says, “Telling us what works. This is the fourth batch and I think we’ve almost got it. When we first started selling it was the 5th most popular beer out of five taps, it was a really crafty lager. And then the second year it came in 4th, and now it is the number one seller at Longhorn, Tapley’s and The Firerock. I feel like if the diehard locals at Tapley’s like it and the ski and bike crowd at Longhorn like it and the people over in the Westin at the Firerock like it too, then we are getting pretty close.”
Joey, who took over his father’s business after university, says he has always loved throwing parties and running clubs but always felt limited due to capacity issues.
“The frustrating thing was I could make a party the best ever and everyone would have fun but there would also be a line-up of people outside that can’t get in and enjoy it. That stressed me out because a capacity limit means there are those people who couldn’t come have a good time.”
Joey decided that if he could just create a product that was as fun as the parties, no one would be left out. “It took a while to figure out the product,” he admits. “I had a shoe company for a bit, made energy drinks, imported bed linens…and then when the government granted more freedom for craft breweries I realized I could finally create a product that people can take with them, one that I already know all about.”
Once the final recipe is complete, the après beer will be available in bottles so anyone can crack into the taste of Whistler après wherever and whenever they want (within reason!!). Before that, though, anyone can go try Longhorn, or Tapleys or Firerock lager and weigh in with their own opinions about the perfect après beer. The days are getting longer, the patios sunnier and that unique Whistler après magic is in the air.
“It’s the same vibe and energy I remember from throwing parties in my parents’ garage,” Joey says. “Just a bunch of people together having a good time after a day of fresh air and adrenaline. So many people meet their husbands or wives or lifelong friends on a patio at après. You feel so healthy and good and there are 500 other people in the same place feeling just as pumped. For me that is the spirit of Whistler in action, every day. Après is one of the best things in world.”
There’s no shortage of places to après in Whistler, with a new patio for every day of the week and then some more. Find out everything you need to know the about the spring skiing season at Whistler.com.