B.C. Beer Blog

The who, what, where, when, why, and how of B.C. craft beer

The Business of Craft Beer

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BCB Business of Craft Beer EventAccording to Jan Zeschky’s reckoning, there will be 22 new craft breweries opening in British Columbia this year — that is, 22 he is aware of. This will bring the total number of BC craft breweries and brewpubs to 85.

So if we assume, on average, that each brewery will produce six beers annually (four core, two seasonals), that amounts to 510 BC craft beers. That is equal in number to 84% of all beers currently sold in the 197 BC government liquor stores, only you won’t find even close to that number of local craft beers actually sold there.

This makes for an increasingly competitive landscape, putting more pressure on startups to have a solid business plan. Even in the early days of the current boom, there was no guarantee of success. Surgenor Brewing and Plan B failed to gain enough traction and the Mark James Group closed DIX and Taylor’s Crossing brewpubs. “Build it and they will come” and “brewing the beer we like” is looking more and more like playing the lottery.

Passion for beer is essential when starting a craft brewery. However, that alone is insufficient. It needs to be combined with business acumen for there to be a good chance of success. Muskie McKay’s B.C. Beer Blog series, “So You Want to Open a Brew Pub“, is an excellent resource for providing such guidance. Now in September, Kwantlen Polytechnic University will begin offering a two-year diploma in Brewing and Brewery Operations. For the first time, budding BC brewers and brewery owners will not have to go to Chicago, Davis, or Edinburgh to get a foundation for starting a commercial brewery.

Another indication that the business of craft beer is gaining more serious attention in the local mainstream is the upcoming The Business of Craft Beer event being hosted by BC Business Magazine on May 29. Starting with with a keynote address by Jamie Floyd from Eugene’s Ninkasi Brewing, there will be a premiere screening of Jeremy Dyson’s Brew Love, a new mini-documentary featuring BC’s love affair with craft beer. This will be followed by two discussion panels moderated by Joe Wiebe, author of Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider’s Guide to B.C. Breweries. Bomber Brewing’s Don Farion, Mike Tod of Parallel 49 Brewing, and Jim Dodds from Red Truck Beer will discuss Opening a Brewery in BC. Adam Mills from Four Winds Brewing, Ian McKay of Driftwood Brewery, and Central City’s Tim Barnes will then talk about Marketing & Selling Craft Beer.

You would think that with so many breweries in BC, opening a new one is a straightforward process. Let me tell you in no uncertain terms, it is not. The opportunity to learn from those who have recently done so and potentially finding a mentor to guide you through the process is invaluable. And the insight you can gain on the marketing and selling of craft beer in BC, especially if you are looking at sales in government liquor stores, will help give you more realistic business expectations. Fortunately, the craft beer community is very collaborative and supportive. After all, there is still much work to be done. The majority of beer drinkers have yet to join the craft beer revolution.

The Business of Craft Beer
Thursday, May 29, 2014
2:00 – 6:00pm
The Imperial
319 Main Street, Vancouver

Tickets: $75 via Eventbrite

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