P.E.I. brewery, web series team up to release new beer
Upstreet brewery and Just Passing Through launch Top Stamp Lager, actors offer tastings
As many Canadian stories do, this one all started over a few beers.
Actor Robbie Moses, who plays Parnell Gallant in the popular P.E.I. web series Just Passing Through was talking with Mikey Wasnidge, marketer-bartender at the newly-minted Upstreet craft brewery in Charlottetown, when the idea of a beer based on the series bubbled up — leading to the creation of Top Stamp Honey Brown Lager.
The very successful first season of JPT, released in November 2013, has been watched more than 600,000 times. The five-episode season two, out since January 2016, has been viewed 150,000 times and climbing daily.
In the world of craft beer, you're always looking to try something new and interesting.— Joey Seaman, Upstreet Craft Brewing
"I would have to take a wild guess and say we're probably the only web series in Canada that has a beer," laughs show co-creator, director and writer Jeremy Larter from his home in Toronto, noting Trailer Park Boys have a whiskey, but "it may just be us and Trailer Park Boys with a beverage with our characters' faces on it."
"For a web series to have a beer, you have to be doing something right!" Larter said.
In all seriousness, it's a rare and unique marketing opportunity for the show, Larter said. Information on where to find the show is printed right on the side of the bottle, which features artwork of Parnell Gallant and his brother Terry, played on the show by P.E.I. natives Robbie Moses and Dennis Trainor.
Top stamp or stamps is how JPT's Gallant brothers, waylaid by a car breakdown in Toronto on their way to work in Western Canada, refer to earning maximum employment insurance. You're likely earning "top stamps" if you've come back from working the Alberta oil patch.
"We really love the show and are huge fans," said Joey Seaman, one of Upstreet's co-owners. "We love to collaborate and find interesting ways to partner ... the Just Passing Through crew seemed like a perfect fit."
In JPT, Terry and Parnell poke fun at micro-brewed beer, enjoyed by their snobby cousin Owen, whose apartment they've crashed, calling it microwave beer as they tip back case after case of Alpine.
"That was Toronto micro-brew. Not close to this delicious Atlantic Canadian micro-brew," said Larter.
"In the world of craft beer, you're always looking to try something new and interesting," Seaman adds.
Taking care of business
The show and the brewery have an agreement to share profits, if there are any, but the partners agree Top Stamp is not really a money-making venture, unless the beer becomes wildly popular.
"Obviously the show has been successful so it's a great marketing opportunity," said Seaman, as well as being fun.
Upstreet has made triple the size of a normal first batch — that's several thousand bottles — in hopes the beer will sell quickly. The show's offbeat humour could encourage people to pick up a bottle of Top Stamp, said Seaman, "instead of — who knows — maybe the case of Alpine they would typically drink."
"Really I don't think anyone's going to get rich off the beer," said Larter. "It's more just kind of a fun thing for us to do with Upstreet and try to get the show out there."
He likens it to the music industry — artists have to sell a lot of albums to make a profit.
Future of JPT
The best-case scenario, said Seaman, is that JPT makes some money from the beer to help finance a third season.
Although Larter thinks that's unlikely, he said the crew is very interested in producing another season. He continues to hope a broadcaster may pick it up.
Canada's Independent Production Fund gave $50,000 the first season and $125,000 the second season of JPT, and Larter has another application in to IPF for $150,000 for season three. His hopes are not high, however — he said IPF rarely funds third seasons of anything, unless other financing has been secured. So for now, JPT is in funding limbo.
Top Stamp tastings
Terry and Parnell Gallant will be handing out samples of Top Stamp at P.E.I. liquor stores Friday, April 22, after a launch party at Upstreet Thursday night with JPT trivia and another at Hunter's Ale House Saturday, April 23.
Top Stamp will be available in Island liquor stores and establishments where Upstreet beer is sold. It retails for $4.10 per 500 ml bottle.