This weekend, the Trail Beer Refinery will throw a birthday party. A little over two years ago, this business in downtown Trail started brewing its first batch of beer. It then opened the doors to its restaurant. The grand opening was such an anticipated event that people lined up down the block.

Lineups and full houses continue to happen today. “It’s still going strong,” says Mike Konkin, founder and one of 13 co-owners. In addition to a popular restaurant, the Refinery has several brands of beer available in local liquor stores. It has just introduced a new vodka soda, about to be distributed around the province. And the Refinery’s impacts on the community are larger than ever.

It was in early 2016 that Konkin started realizing his dream of owning a brewery in Trail. After doing market research, he noticed that other breweries often started too small, and then soon had to expand. Wanting to bypass that growth phase, the co-owners decided to go big right from the beginning. “And that entailed some funding,” Konkin says.

Because the Refinery would bring jobs to the community, revitalize vacant commercial property and help bring a new sense of vibrancy to Trail’s downtown core, this opportunity was suited to the Trust’s Impact Investment Funds. This program, delivered by Community Futures and Heritage Credit Union, supports businesses that aren’t able to secure conventional financing but will benefit communities in an impactful way.

Two years later, the Refinery employs over 20 people—and it has helped downtown Trail produce a whole new vibe. “The downtown core, from before we started to now, is night and day,” says Konkin. “There are always new things happening. It’s not just us: it’s the Trail Smoke Eaters; it’s the new library museum; it’s other businesses that have come or updated. There’s a different feeling downtown.”

The Refinery has definitely played its part, from being a fun place to socialize for people of all ages, to hosting events like painting nights and hockey fundraisers. “It’s a really cool, community atmosphere. I think we’ve succeeded in that.”

Even the by-product of beer brewing has wider benefits. Instead of being thrown out, the Refinery’s beer mash goes to farmers for uses like pig feed, and to a local manufacturer of dog biscuits. The Refinery’s next push will be to introduce new beer brands, expand its beer distribution system throughout the province and into Alberta, and continue to promote the success of its new vodka soda.

“It’s been a fun ride,” says Konkin. “We’re now trying to launch new products, continue to innovate and keep on growing.”