Adam Chatburn is originally from Blackburn, Lancashire and recently moved from Vancouver to Comox, BC. He is a former professional wrestler, past President of CAMRA Vancouver, and former owner of Real Cask at Callister Brewing in Vancouver. He now teaches the Craft Brewing and Malting Program at North Island College and at the MVP Brewpub in Campbell River, BC. This is the first in a series of profiles of some of Adam’s new “North Island Neighbours.”
As a recent transplant to the Comox Valley in the north of Vancouver Island, I have the opportunity to make new beer friends and reconnect with old ones. I’ll be profiling these wonderful brewing eccentrics about what makes their beer, breweries, and lives so uniquely North Island.
A genuine one-man show, Dave does it all: owner, brewer, server, sales, office manager, etc. If there’s a job to be done, Dave’s doing it himself. He took the leap from homebrewing in 2017 after moving to the Island from Whistler in 2005. A veteran bartender/server and natural performer, he famously lived in a tent while he built a 290-sqft shack for his family to live in while he built their full home nearby. This is the titular “LoveShack” which became the original libation location once the house was complete.
When Dave decided to open a nano-brewery, he rented a small, easy-to-miss industrial space on the Old Island Highway just north of Qualicum. Operating a very small brewhouse has more in common with a homebrew kit than a typical professional setup. It’s even smaller than most breweries’ test batch systems! Dave hand bottles and bottle conditions every beer he makes (more than 100,000 bottles and counting). The four core beers are supplemented by a large range of rotating seasonals and one-offs, so it’s always a different experience when you visit.
The batches Dave makes are so small he has the freedom to work on unusual historical and world styles like the Chosen Chicha, a purple corn and strawberry beer. I was lucky to get one of the last bottles of Jaihu Are You, a complex rice-based beer inspired by alcoholic drinks of ancient China, brewed with hawthorn berries, sweet orange peel, chrysanthemums, and hibiscus. It’s part of the “Raise Your Glass to the Past” project he has been collaborating on with Vancouver Island University Anthropology professor Marie Hopwood, in which he helps recreate ancient beers based on her archaeological research and evidence.
Dave won Bronze in the 2018 BC Beer Awards for his Post Ride Pilsner—a highly competitive category to be sure! When the name was read out at the awards, I remember the collective “Who the heck is LoveShack Libations?!” from the audience.
While Dave has avoided liquor store distribution (understandable given the size and margins) his beers are available at a few bars and restaurants including the must-go Q-Burger in Qualicum. The other part of the ‘nano’ equation was the tiny tasting room, which has closed temporarily due to COVID. Now, the only place to get his beer is to swing by the brewery in person. There’s curbside service between 1-5pm on Saturdays but Dave is considering a picnic endorsement area. This kind of small-scale, sustainable operation may seem to fly in the face of accepted brewery business logic but maintaining a business at a manageable level, preserving one’s work/life balance, and being able to stay afloat during these difficult times is admirable. He knows he won’t ever be rich, but he’s very happy doing what he loves.
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One of Dave’s most endearing qualities is his social media presence. While most men in their 50s should probably be kept as far away from social media as possible, Dave’s Instagram remains one of the funniest beer accounts you’ll find. Do yourself a favour and follow @loveshacklibations.
LoveShack Libations is one of the only breweries in BC that is a solo operation—as the only employee, is it actually possible to make a living at this scale?
It is possible. I’m living proof, but it’s very hard work! I’m lucky to have very low living costs and not a lot of other outgoings, which helps. I’ve found a good balance between work, money, and my home life.
As the only employee, you have to do all the jobs—which do you dislike the most?
Paperwork. My computer has been in the shop these last two weeks and I know I’ve got a mountain of work to do at home. Even cleaning and bottling is more fun! I hand bottle every single beer I sell, usually about 200 from each batch, and I love doing that far more than paperwork.
A number of breweries on Vancouver Island seem to be determined to stay small and manage their sustainability. Why do you think that is?
It’s not just breweries; small-scale artisan producers exist up and down the Island. Bakers, butchers, farmers, just like brewers, have a place supporting and in turn being supported by the community. Growing beyond what’s necessary to sustain the business is an option many take, but the lost family time and risk isn’t worth it to me.
What’s your best seller?
The Cream Ale. I use a fair bit of flaked corn in the mash, a bit of Vienna and Munich malt, and some pretty mild hops. Bittered with Centennial, but kept under 20 IBU. I call it the gateway beer—lots of people in the area (let’s face it, our population is a little older) hear “craft beer” and think hoppy IPAs when they’re used to Lucky and Kokanee, etc… When they try this Cream Ale they find out that a lighter style beer can actually have flavour and mouthfeel!
What’s coming up?
Just going to keep on keeping on. May apply for an on-site picnic endorsement with a licensed off-sales area where you can sit and have a beer. I’m releasing Odin’s Eye in the next few weeks: ancient-inspired Norse grog. Hopefully brewing a new ancient-inspired one soon, Egyptian with dates, pistachios and dukkah spices. Strawberry Shortcake IPA is in the fermenter. Dude hold my beer! Double IPA (one of my faves) coming out soon, then Advent calendars by the end of November!
What would you like people to think about when they hear the name “Loveshack Libations”?
Special beers made with love. We are different on many levels: very small batches, all hand-bottled, all bottle conditioned, and limited opening times.
Know before you go
When exploring the BC Ale Trail, make sure to look up important information about the area you’re visiting and check on cancellation policies. Practice safe and respectful travelling as you explore the communities in our wild backyard that are open to visitors and make sure to be a considerate craft beer consumer while you’re out and about.