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Behind Bars: creative Phillips brewing up community and fun

Founder Matt Phillips focuses on good product, team involvement, and offering an inclusive space.
Phillips bartender Harvey serves up a cold beer. (John Atkinson)

By John Atkinson

Matt Phillips founded the Phillips Brewing & Malting Co. in 2001 believing you can make great craft beer with creative flair.

Fast-forward 22 years and Phillips is thriving on that principle, serving most of the bars and restaurants in Victoria and growing its brand.

Phillips produces twenty core beers at its brewery on Government Street, plus special/limited editions, such as the strawberry-rhubarb Leosaurus Dinosour in a recent collaboration with Leopold’s Tavern. It also makes non-alcoholic beer, soda and tonic/sparkling water, and recently added distilling to its repertoire.

“We’re all about making great beverages that are high quality and fun,” said marketing manager Samantha Beck, who relocated from Calgary to join the team in May, 2021. “You can do as many fun photos and promotions as you want, but the product has to be good.”

Beck says being community-focused and embracing customer feedback is also key.

“We invite people to come and gather with friends or celebrate a big win. Our core mission is to do right by our community. To brew great products that are brewed as sustainably, creatively and thoughtfully as possible. And to have fun.”

Beck says Phillips has been inspired by exceptional companies, including Disney, and hopes to be a firm someone else puts on their ‘inspirational business’ list.

“We try to be focused on doing it our own way. We’re a pretty B-side company. So we have a lot of innovation in unique and quirky ways.”

Another secret to Phillips’ success is building healthy, long-lasting relationships.

“Our clients have to be rad; good people. And we try to help the bars and restaurants be better, rather than just saying, hey, can you sell our beer? We really try to approach all of it as a partnership and go the extra yard.”

Seamlessly attached to the brewery are a bar-esque ‘tasting room’ and a Phillips shop, featuring windows at one end, so customers and employees alike can see into the packaging hall and bolster physical connection with the production process.

There’s also a quirky ‘On-Air’ sign, signifying when brewery production is switching between their canning and bottling segments.

As for the future, the firm is focused on continuing to brew cool, innovative beer, staying connected and invested with their community and becoming ever-more sustainable.

“We’re also really excited about our non-alcoholic beer. The ethos is that people can still gather around beer to celebrate and ‘crack open a cold one’, even if they’re at their kid’s soccer game and need to stay sober.”


What’s in the DNA of a great employee? “Being down-to-earth. We pride ourselves on having team members you’d want to share a beer with. No. 2, they’re DIY. They come to the table and say, how can I make this place better or figure it out myself? And then being creative; that’s a huge piece.”

What’s hot or popular right now? “Our Dinosours are a popular, fun brand and we’re always adding new flavours. Our Tilt lager is also doing really well. It’s a delicious, crisp lager. And then Blue Buck is still one of our No. 1 beers and tasting the best it’s ever tasted. Our team is focused on making it better every day and hone/improve the recipe with a unique malt from our in-house maltworks.”

Describe your ideal customer experience? “Having our team help you find the best beer or beverage. Being able to come in and be exactly who you are. We really pride ourselves on being a safe and inclusive space. And the opportunity to meet new friends. We’ve built our long tables to encourage more socializing.”

Three things that make Phillips unique? “I’d say our innovation; our variety of beer; and our attention to creativity. Really making sure the beer and everything we’re doing is experimental and pushing the limits of what we’ve done before.

To learn more about Phillips, visit

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About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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