When Creston’s Tom Taylor visited Granville Island Brewing recently, he didn’t expect to find a new brew called Vintage 1984. Even more surprising was to see his image on the beer case that holds 12 bottles.
Taylor was in Vancouver for a “mini-reunion” with two of his brothers, including Mitch Taylor, who was one of the original founding partners of Granville Island Brewing, Canada’s first microbrewery.
“Mitch asked if there was anything I wanted to do and I said I’d like to visit the brewery to see Vern Lambourne, the brewmaster,” said Taylor. “When we walked into the brewery I saw that old photo of me from 1984 on the cases — I had no idea!”
The photo depicts Taylor loading beer cases onto a vintage truck.
Taylor had worked at Columbia Brewery for 13 years when he got a call from his brother in 1983. Mitch and partner Bill Harvey were starting a microbrewery and would he come out to Vancouver to work for them?
“I knew the brewery business pretty well. I started out on the bottling line and did a lot of jobs. I didn’t actually brew here but I did work in the cellars and I was always watching and asking questions. All they were doing was what I was doing later — following a recipe,” he laughed.
Equipment at the new brewery ranged from a used bottle washer to a state-of-the-art filler, brought in and installed by a company from Milwaukee.
“I worked long hours,” he said. “Early in the morning, at about 6 a.m., I started brewing, making 200-gallon batches.
The company’s first trained brewmaster, a new university graduate from Germany, arrived soon after, but Taylor continued brewing, supervising employees and even making deliveries, all while his brother was off working on other development projects.
He made those deliveries in a truck that continues to have a life and story of its own, a 1936 Ford Model B pickup.
Taylor first saw the truck in 1975 when he was driving to Sandpoint, Idaho, to take flying lessons.
“It was love at first sight,” he said.
But it took him months to muster up the courage to stop and talk to the owner of the property where the truck was parked. Eventually, at the prompting of his son, Larry, Taylor knocked on the door. Assuring the owner that he wanted to restore it, and not turn it into a hot rod, an agreement was struck and he paid US$375 for the vintage vehicle.
“Are you out of your mind? You paid what for that that old piece of junk?” was his wife Edna’s reaction.
It took two years and a lot of help from friends to restore the truck and he was thrilled to drive it in the 1978 Blossom Festival parade. In 1979, though, the family moved to a property on Crusher Road and they needed to come up with money to drill a new water well. Taylor sold the Model B to Mitch and it became Granville Island Brewing’s mascot years later.
“It’s still at the brewery,” Taylor said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
The old treasure is now owned by Lambourne, who asked Tom if he wanted to go for a ride in it.
“We drove out to Jericho Beach and he asked if I wanted to drive it back to the brewery, where it is still stored. Vern was surprised when I got into the driver’s seat and put my foot on the clutch. ‘You still know how to do that?’ ” he laughed.
In addition to his many duties in those early days at the new microbrewery, Taylor became a familiar sight around Granville Island and downtown Vancouver, delivering cases of beer to pubs and stores. Wood signboards mounted on the truck box sides advertised the brewery’s name.
His career in the microbrewing lasted only three years, a combination of burnout and Edna’s unhappiness with city life.
One day, the brewmaster breezed into the shop for an hour or two (“I never knew where he was most of the time.”) and then headed for the door, announcing, “I’m going skiing for three weeks.”
“What? When do I get a day off?” Taylor asked.
“Well, you’ll have to talk to your brother,” the brewmaster said.
“I said, ‘I think I will. Have a good trip,’ ” said Taylor. “But I quit.”
Mitch went over to Tom and Edna’s condo on False Creek and asked what was wrong.
“ ‘I’m just tired, physically and mentally —I can only take so much of this,’ ” Taylor replied. “He spent a couple of hours trying to talk me out of it. The next day I had a U-Haul truck loaded and we drove back to Creston.”
Taylor chuckled as he looked at his image on the Granville Island Brewing case of Vintage 1984.
“ ‘You should get royalties for that,’ my brothers joked when we first saw it at the brewery,” he laughed. “But I told them I’m not a model!”
Asked to describe the bottles’ contents, he said the beer was “not as dark as we used to make it, and they’ve reduced the alcohol to five per cent — ours was eight per cent!
“But when it’s ice cold, I really enjoy it.”