KPU and Russell Brewing release collaborative beer honouring Canadian craft beer pioneer

Proceeds from the new beer will be put towards a scholarship for KPU brewing students

Funds from the John Mitchell Signature Cascadian Dark ale beer will go towards a scholarship for KPU brewing students. (Abby Luciano)

Funds from the John Mitchell Signature Cascadian Dark ale beer will go towards a scholarship for KPU brewing students. (Abby Luciano)

Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s brewery and brewing operations program and Russell Brewing collaborated to produce a beer to celebrate the life and legacy of John Mitchell, the founder of Canada’s first craft brewery which happened to be in British Columbia. 

Mitchell made a huge impact in the industry when he opened Horseshoe Bay Brewing in Vancouver on July 6, 1982. After opening that location, the Canadian craft beer industry grew to what it is today with over 1,000 breweries across the country. 

KPU students, alumni, and instructors brewed the John Mitchell Signature Cascadian Dark ale beer at Russell Brewing on June 8 with the brewery team. 

The beer was released on July 6 at the brewery, marking 40 years since Horseshoe Bay Brewery and the first beer were launched. 

At the celebration, a toast was made to commemorate Mitchell, congratulate those who created the beer, and celebrate the local community meeting together. Guest speakers included people from the industry who knew Mitchell, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, and KPU administration members. 

Mark McBride, research and development brewer at Russell Brewing and a graduate of the brewing program at KPU, took inspiration from two of Mitchell’s original recipes to design the beer. 

He experimented with the two recipes to find a style that worked well and then added some personal touches to make it unique. 

“I tried to make a beer that would please as many people as possible, rather than something that’s way too flavourful in one category, and some people don’t like it,” McBride says. 

It took two months to create the beer, which is a quick turnaround, he says. Out of the whole process of designing and brewing the beer, McBride says it was interesting not only to see Mitchell’s recipes but rewarding to see people enjoy the beer. 

“I felt super lucky to be able to work on this,” he says. “I had a lot of stress following it through its process and hoping that it turns out nice. It’s really cool to be able to do something like this.” 

John Ohler, the executive director for the John Mitchell Foundation reached out to the KPU brewing department to see if they would be interested in doing a collaborative beer with a brewery. Since Russell Brewing has three KPU alums and one student working there, they thought it would be the perfect fit. 

McBride says students got involved through DeAnn Bremner, the communications coordinator for KPU’s faculty of science and horticulture, and had a meeting about the project to spread the word about the brew day. 

Proceeds from the beer will go to the John Mitchell Legacy Endowed Scholarship, which gives $1,000 to a KPU brewing student to support future generations of brewers in the industry. Bremner says their goal is to raise $20,000 towards the scholarship. 

KPU brewing instructor Emily Kokonas also helped brew the beer, and says the scholarship will help students fund their education and focus more on their studies. 

“The brewing program is one of the pricier programs at KPU,” Kokonas says. “So it can help students afford their stuff so that they don’t have to work as much during the semester and they can put more of their energy and efforts into their learning.” 

The beer is available at the Russell Brewing in Surrey, or can be searched online at to see where other breweries and liquor stores have it. 

“For myself, it’s just awesome to be able to celebrate craft beer in Canada,” Kokonas says. 

“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work in view as a result of what John Mitchell was able to do. It feels great to be able to make a commemorative beer for him and kind of as a thank you and celebration.”