Brent Morton and Jamie McGrath on the roof of the new Romero Banjos shop. Photo: Pharis Romero
Brent Morton and Jamie McGrath on the roof of the new Romero Banjos shop. Photo: Pharis Romero

By Brandon Hoffman –

On June 5, Horsefly musicians and banjo builders Pharis and Jason Romero awoke to find their banjo shop in flames. Before long it had burned completely to the ground, consuming not only the J Romero Banjo Company, but an assortment of rare and vintage instruments, boutique microphones, and boxes upon boxes of the duo’s band merchandise. In interviews with the CBC, Pharis sounded amazingly upbeat about the whole debacle. By the time of the fire, the Romeros had just finished demolition of their house, and had barely begun construction of a new one. The sudden erasure of the shop from their property made it look like the otherwise pristine corner of Horsefly, BC had suffered an aerial assault. But the kids are safe, and for the most part the damage was covered by insurance, so as positive as ever the pair work towards rebuilding.

It’s nothing short of inspiring to see Phar and J make the best of a complete freak accident that could have potentially devastated them financially, not to mention spiritually. Just as inspiring is the outpouring of support from the community that surrounds them. We’re not just talking about neighbours and family, but a network of friends and collaborators that spans the globe.

Almost immediately after the news broke on social media, the Romeros found floods of donations in their Paypal account. Pharis’ sister and fellow songstress Marin Patenaude promptly organized a benefit concert in Vancouver, attracting the likes of Tim Readman, John Reischman, John Miller, Barney and Dustin Bentall, the Burying Ground, Viper Central, Jenny Ritter, and many more to come play.

But personally, what I find to be the most awesome display of support for the widely loved Cariboo institution came out of Quesnel BC’s Barkerville Brewing. The team already had a fire-related specialty beer slated to release for summer 2016 in commemoration of the Barkerville fire of 1868. Upon the news of the Romeros’ loss, the brewery rebranded the seasonal white rye IPA as a fundraiser to “help Romero Banjos rise.”

I caught up with Barkerville Brewing’s Nolan Foster to talk about the project.

Out of the Ashes is a small run of hybrid beer distributed exclusively to Quesnel, Williams Lake, and Prince George. Only two pallets of the beer were distributed. Very quickly they were scooped up by Cariboo liquor stores, and almost as quickly the bottles started flying off the shelves.

It took very little prompting for Foster to nerd-out about the beer. This is Barkerville’s first ever hybrid beer, crossing three distinct styles into one delicious brew. Out of the Ashes borrows spiciness and the finish of rye malts, the citrusy snap of west coast hops, and a peppery coriander flavour characteristic of Belgian yeast. “Troy [Rudolph; brewmaster] excels in the Belgian style, and we’ve only ever put out one Belgian style,” said Foster, referring to the White Gold Witbeer.

Ten per cent of the brewery’s proceeds from the beer goes towards the rebuilding of the J Romero Banjo Shop. Nolan expects this to work out to $800-1000 when it’s all said and done.

So download the Romeros’ Juno Award-winning album, A Wanderer I’ll Stay, and pick up a couple bottles of Out of the Ashes on your way home. Not only are you setting yourself up for a mighty fine evening of music and beer, you’re helping the lovely and inspiring family get back on track.

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