With the craft beer market share in BC at 20% and the number of craft breweries in the province approaching 100, the landscape is starting to look a lot like Downtown Vancouver’s skyline. That’s not to say the market can’t sustain more breweries, given the other 80% that hasn’t come under the craft beer umbrella, but there will need to be more growth. The question is, where will it come from?
No Sure Bet
The easy days – if there really ever was such a thing – are over. Considering names like Surgenor, DIX, Taylor’s Crossing, and R&B, opening a craft brewery in BC is no longer a sure thing. Having a passion is not enough to carry a business. Now, a lot more dispassionate business acumen has to go with it. Marketing needs to be a fundamental component of one’s business plan, not an afterthought. That means realistically analyzing the market to find your niche and developing a strong brand around it before spending a cent on real estate and plant. Or for those with an existing business, it’s time to take a hard look at where the industry is going and ask yourself if major changes will be needed in how you operate to stay in the game.
As I anticipated, increased competition has breweries – especially those without a clearly defined niche – increasingly searching for new markets. Logically, the first forays outside BC have been to Alberta and Washington. Then, it’s only natural that the rest of North America eventually came into view. Anywhere else?
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‘Tis the season to open a new craft brewery in British Columbia, apparently. While I was in the Comox Valley for the holidays, I learned that Cumberland Brewing Company was officially opening their doors. According to The Vancouver Sun, 21 breweries are in the planning stage across the province, 13 of which are to be in Metro Vancouver. Canada’s third largest city has proven friendly to nano-breweries where patrons can walk in the door and get a pint or growler fill of a unique tasty local beer. Will the Comox Valley prove as friendly? I hope so.
The Cumberland Brewing Company (CBC) was started by Darren Adam and Caroline Tymchuck, whom I contacted via the brewery’s Facebook page to see if they were interested in talking to a blogger about their business. Darren and Caroline told me to come down to their Dunsmuir Avenue location the next day, their fourth day of operations, for a quick chat. Despite it being a holiday, there was a line out the door and it was tough to get a seat in the tasting lounge. When Darren could spare a minute, he was happy to answer a few questions. Read the rest of this entry »
The So You Want To Open A Brew Pub series ended many moons ago, but people still read it and it has become a valuable resource for entrepreneurs and beer aficionados. Sometimes folks leave comments and questions and sometimes they find my personal email address and write me directly. The most common question is, do I think [insert small Canadian town name] is a good spot to open a brew pub? Read the rest of this entry »
Almost anyone who enjoys having an alcoholic beverage in British Columbia will have a gripe or few about the legal restrictions on doing so. Well, now you have a chance to influence some changes the government will make to bring our laws more in line with the current social culture. Like Halley’s Comet, this opportunity does not come often. Don’t let this chance to have your views included pass. Saying your individual opinions don’t matter is lame. It’s not about you! It is the sum of the parts that matter, so make yourself part of the equation by October 31 for the collective impact to be greater.
So what should those changes be? It’s easy to leap right into the details, but I have to agree with Anthony Gismondi:
Modernizing B.C. liquor laws has to start with a philosophical change about how we interact with alcohol.
In many respects, I think we are already there, given the many parties that are pushing for change. The challenge is for the government to accept the broader cultural underpinning for these changes and approach this issue from that perspective, rather than reacting piecemeal to parochial lobbying, which is what led to the LDB warehouse privitization fiasco and special dispensations to the wine industry (BYOB, legal personal importation) that irritated beer and spirits folks.
Cresting the hill, a vista unfolds much changed since I last visited five years ago. Once an open field and a vision in the mind of Christian Sartori, the land is now covered by trellises draped with verdant boas sporting clusters of aromatic hops, hops that gave rise to Driftwood’s legendary Sartori Harvest IPA.
When I first paid a visit to Chris Sartori’s secluded Columbia Valley ranch, I was joined by two brewers and a brewery owner. The hop crisis had hit and I was hoping that by introducing Chris to our craft brewers, they would establish a long-term relationship that would both reduce the financial risk of his venture and help create for them a more reliable hop supply. Read the rest of this entry »
While I have lamented for some time that most hotels in Vancouver seem oddly uninterested in promoting local craft beer to the city’s visitors, this is slowly beginning to change. One of my current favourite Vancouver hotels to enjoy a BC brew at is The Listel Hotel on Robson Street (at Jervis). Forage, their zero waste restaurant (formerly, O’Doul’s), offers a seasonally-changing selection of ten BC craft taps, along with some Pacific Northwest bottles. I can’t resist having their meaty popcorn with crackling for a beer snack as a start to an evening of seriously good local communal noshing. Chef Whittaker’s award-winning BC spot prawn and seafood chowder is also not to be missed!
Starting today, in a BCbrews exclusive contest, you have three chances to win a $100 gift certificate to forage. Every Monday for the next three weeks, I’ll be posting a question on Twitter with the hashtag #forage4beer relating to forage’s beer selection, which you can find on their Web site. Answer the question once on Twitter, being sure to include the hashtag. Then, on every Friday at 5pm, we’ll choose a random winner who has correctly answered the question.
On a final note, be sure to keep an eye on the forage twitter feed for news of an exciting craft beer event that is in the works. You won’t want to miss it!