Heart of Our City — A taste of North Coast life

Craig Outhet never expected to stay on the North Coast for so long

When Craig Outhet first moved to Prince Rupert, he planned to stay for two years — that was more than 10 years ago.

“The story I tell is at first I was a little concerned because I had just finished up all this schooling in GIS, geographic information systems, and I thought I was moving away from where all the jobs were. To be honest, it was probably the complete opposite,” Outhet said.

“I found work in my field pretty much right away once I moved up here. My first job was working in fisheries monitoring. I’ve been here ever since.”

Immediately after graduating with an advanced diploma in GIS from the British Columbia Institute of Technology in Vancouver, Outhet moved to Prince Rupert where his then-girlfriend, now-wife, Carolina de Ryk had been offered a job at the northern CBC branch. It didn’t take long for the couple’s plans to change.

“I had more opportunity for advancement. I got to do a lot of interesting things that I probably wouldn’t have been doing if I had just stayed in Vancouver and worked in that same field. It was way better to move north.”

READ MORE: More than 100 square kilometres of B.C. coast proposed for protection

Outhet worked on marine planning with the North Coast Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society, a job that allowed him to work with First Nations bands and different levels of government on long-term resource management. Meanwhile, de Ryk was promoted from an associate producer position to host CBC’s Daybreak North.

“She’s now the breadwinner,” Outhet said.

After working in marine planning for about seven years, Outhet decided to pursue a career submerged in a new liquid: beer.

The craft beer business was brewing and booming in Vancouver when Outhet decided to move north, and as more small-scale breweries opened down south, Outhet realized he missed the plentiful selection the larger city had on tap.

“So I thought, ‘Well, I’ll learn to make beer.’ I just started making beer at home, because I wanted to get some of those flavours in beer that I couldn’t get from the stores up here.”

After several years of brewing with friends and many late nights planning a business strategy, Outhet, James Witzke and Kent Orton opened Prince Rupert’s first craft brewery: the Wheelhouse Brewing Company.

“All three of us aren’t from Prince Rupert,” Outhet said, “but we love being here and we just wanted to give the town something that it didn’t have that it could be proud of and could even draw people to Prince Rupert.”

One moment he could be proud of is winning bronze for his Smokehouse Porter at the Canadian Beer Awards in 2016.

For Outhet, his love of beer boils down to its power to bring people together.

“Whether it’s at a pub or at our lounge for a pint and to have a conversation, a chat about everything, whatever is on their minds.”

When he’s not brewing, the business owner and family man loves spending time with his two young daughters.

“Just spending time with them is pretty special,” Outhet said. “The ability to spend time with my family is probably my favourite thing to do.”

Away from the Wheelhouse, much of Outhet’s spare time is taken up by coaching his daughters’ soccer teams and sitting on a small business committee for city hall.

Originally from Prince George in B.C.’s Interior, Outhet has spent the past 25 years on the Pacific coast.

“I’m not much of a spiritual person at all, but there is definitely something about an ocean, which can be balancing. The coastal scenery is amazing and the coastal climate that comes along with that is perfect. I don’t think my body can take those cold Interior winters anymore — I’ve turned soft,” Outhet said with a laugh.

“The people that also seem to be drawn toward the water seem to be of the same mind as me. That brings a culture to it as well. All of those aspects make me think that I’ll never be able to leave living on the ocean.”

A decade after moving to the city “at the end of the road,” as Outhet refers to Prince Rupert, he no longer has a plan to leave.

“We may have had the two-year plan to begin with, but it quickly evolved into a lifetime plan. Like a lot of people, we moved here and fell in love with it. Great community, amazing landscape, affordable living, the opportunity if you put your mind to it to do anything you want.

“We’ve had our family here, we have a beautiful home here. We know we’re not going anywhere for a long time.”

Read more Heart of Our City profiles here.


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