BC's Whistle Buoy Brewing releases "Canada’s first crypto beer"

Is it a beer or a piece of digital art? Yes.

Victoria’s Whistle Buoy Brewing released NFT IPA last week, what they’re calling a crypto beer, potentially the first of its kind in Canada and the world.

There are two parts to their innovation. There’s a piece of digital art, created by Victoria multimedia artist Ryan Steele, which lives on the blockchain and is available for auction on OpenSea—and then there’s an actual IPA beer hopped with Nelson, Flex, and Trident hops. (See what they did there?)

It is a limited-release beer of which they’ve made only 250 cans. Each 32 oz can is numbered by hand, so buyers know which one they collected, just like any other collectable.

The winning bid for the NFT artwork will receive the first-ever can (#1 of 250), in addition to the single 1 of 1 digital art piece (below) to go along with it.

NFT IPA is the brainchild of Isaiah Archer and Matt West-Patrick, both partners at Whistle Buoy Brewing, as well as Steele, the artist. The group had been watching the NFT (non-fungible token) space closely since NBA Top Shot brought it to the mainstream earlier this year, Archer told me.

“We've kind of been dabbling in some of the crypto stuff over the last few months,” Archer said. “There's just like lots going on with DeFi coins and just an explosion of growth. It's something that we were kind of casually getting involved in and learning about on a daily basis.”

While fun is a key ingredient in the brewery’s plans, Archer said they’re looking at this experience primarily as an experiment and hope to build on their learnings for the future.

“The idea was hopefully we can put this out there, learn a bunch, and see what we want to do differently next time or what we can do better,” Archer explained. 

Archer said he hopes that in the future, the art has the potential to generate significant revenues for artists like Steele. “But that's kind of a ways off yet,” he acknowledged. “So we don't want to get too ahead of ourselves there.”

So are people embracing the product? Archer said sales are going well, and the most interesting part of the process for his team has been embracing the ‘collectables’ aspect of the beer. Whistle is a craft brewer with a small taproom serving unique beers. Their beer has always been sold in a very limited number of cans. “But we've never actually numbered them because it didn't occur to me that people would care about that,” Archer admitted. “But the more I've been getting into the NFT stuff—you start to think about all those trading cards, hockey cards, baseball cards, and basketball cards as a kid. And then obviously, things like Pokemon and Pogs and all those things that people used to trade and collect and still do.”

He realized beer could be treated the same way. “So with all that being said, I would say this beer is selling better than the average one that would be a similar product,” he shared.

“I think it's just sort of changing the frame of it a little bit. Plus, we also put it in gold cans,” he laughed. “I think people like shiny things.”