The mighty Skeena is B.C.’s second longest river and home to one of the largest salmon runs in Canada, but this massive, pristine waterway is increasingly under threat from industrial development. Smithers Brewing and world-renowned First Nations artist Roy Henry Vickers are teaming up to celebrate the river and raise awareness about the risks it faces.
The Skeena Seasonal Series features four different beers—Cloudwaters Witbier (spring), Sunset Summer Ale (summer), Smoke on the Water Amber Ale (fall) and Old Man Winter Wee Heavy (winter)—each featuring Vickers’ artwork on the label reflecting the different seasons on the Skeena River.
Vickers, who lives in nearby Hazelton on the banks of the Skeena River—and full disclosure, also happens to be my uncle—recently released Voices from the Skeena: An Illustrated Oral History, with historian Lucky Budd. Vickers said he sees the beer collaboration as another way to bring attention to the environmental threats posed by unchecked industrial development in the watershed.
“The Skeena is the lifeblood of the land, it’s the namesake of the Gitxsan people,” he explained. “I will use any avenue of communication to the world to spread the message that we need to protect it.”
In addition to creating the artwork for the beer labels, Vickers also had input on the names and style of beers featured. Cloudwater, for example, is a reference to the traditional Gitxsan name for the river, Xsien, which means “water of the clouds.” Smoke on the Water was inspired by Vickers’ love for smoked beers, introduced to him by a particular beer-loving nephew.
Vickers said he hopes craft beer drinkers will appreciate the importance of protecting the sacred waters of the Skeena, since “any beer drinker knows that beautiful, pure water is the basis of beer.”
Smithers Brewing is kicking off the 2020 edition of the Skeena Seasonal Series with a launch event on Wednesday, Dec. 4 at the brewery, and Vickers will be in attendance to speak about the collab and why he loves and lives in the Skeena region, as well as sharing some stories about the artwork.
All four beers will be available in limited edition mixed four-packs for the night, along with cellared wax-dipped bottles of Old Man Winter aged from 2018. Vickers will also be autographing copies of the original artwork in poster form.