B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Central City Brewing

SYWTOABP: Industry Research

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The So You Want to Open a Brew Pub series of blog postings is in the final stretch.  I realize I’ve done several posts on market research, but not a dedicated post on industry research.  What’s the difference you ask?  Well, I got asked that once and, basically, market research is investigating the people (businesses) who potentially would buy your product or service. Industry research is everything else: competitors, government regulations, suppliers, etc. Porter's Five Forces for Canadian Brewing Industry

A loyal reader would note we have covered government regulations and suppliers pretty thoroughly, and touched on direct competitors and less direct competition for people’s disposable income. What part of industry research have we neglected? For starters, what industry is a brew pub in?  If you answered brewing, you haven’t been paying close enough attention.  A brew pub is officially classified as part of the restaurant and food services industry. That is the industry most of my research and writing has focused on. However, some of the brew pubs in the province have had considerable success selling beer outside of their pub in kegs, bottles, and even cans.

The recent BC Business article on the craft brewing industry noted the success of Central City. They started making their beer available for purchase offsite. Now demand exceeds capacity, which isn’t a bad problem to have. Their rapid success isn’t unique. Several other BC craft brewers are noted as experiencing very healthy sales growth in the last few years. However, I have to caution anyone thinking of opening a brew pub that thinks Central City’s growth is the norm for new businesses in either food services or brewing. As Central City expands, less of their total revenue will come from retail sales at the brew pub and more will come from packaged product.  Selling bottles, kegs, and cans for consumption elsewhere is what the brewing industry is all about.

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Another Milestone: The Alibi Room 200th

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Nigel Springthorpe spoofs Michael JacksonI remember there was a time when a new change-up in the Alibi Room’s draught lineup was newsworthy of being posted on this blog. Those then became such a regular occurrence that even Nigel couldn’t keep up with posting copies of his new draught menu to his own Web site. Now we are lucky to get the occasional tweet, warning us of the odd noteworthy beer going on tap.

On December 3, 2009, the Alibi Room celebrated its 100th tap list with a party that has become legend amongst local craft beer nerds and brewers alike, not least of which was Nigel’s souvenir the beer geek’s guide to the Alibi’s 100th beer list. A shade over a year later, and three and a half years after this ball got rolling, it’s time to toast the 200th:

The Alibi’s 200th Beer List
December 22, 2010, 5:00pm
157 Alexander Street, Vancouver

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Beer Wars: The Battle Rages Every Day

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CAMRA Vancouver is screening the beer industry documentary, Beer Wars, at 4:00pm on Sunday, January 31. Greg Koch of San Diego’s Stone Brewing will be in attendance, and entertainment will be provided by local muscians, Sun Wizard. Central City, Driftwood, Granville Island, Howe Sound, R&B, Red Truck, Steamworks, Swans, and Yaletown brewing will be serving BC craft beer.

This is an ideal event for a person looking to find out more about beer and the craft brewing scene in BC. Where else can you have a good brew and watch a movie at the same time, except at home!


Beer Wars is not a stupid, drunken, frat-boy romp, filled to the brim with crude humor and bad taste. It’s a film that looks behind the scenes of the American beer industry (also relevant to Canada), where corporate behemoths are being challenged by small, independent brewers shunning the status quo, and creating innovative new beers. The story is told through two of these entrepreneurs — Sam and Rhonda — battling the might and tactics of Corporate America. Interviews with numerous industry players fill in the big picture.

Beer Wars is also not a flick that was made for the beer geek. Filmmaker, Anat Baron (UBC alumnus), set out to make an accessible movie that would give the average, mass-market beer drinker a better understanding of how their beer is made, where it comes from, and how it gets to them.

Beer Wars Movie

Date: Sunday, January 31
Time: 4:00 – 8:00pm
Venue: District 319, 319 Main Street, Vancouver, BC
Cost: $30.00, $25.00 CAMRA members (includes entry & all beer)
Tickets: only 150; advanced purchase only

  • online at CAMRA Vancouver
  • Alibi Room: see Rick Green on Jan. 28 from 6:00 – 8:00pm
  • Dix: see Monica Frost at the bar on Jan. 28 from 6:00 – 9:00pm
  • Firefly Fine Wines and Ales: see Lundy Wed. & Thurs., 3:00 – 11:00pm; Fri. & Sat., 10:00am – 6:00pm
Beer Wars movie poster

District 319 is an exclusive venue that is only available for private functions. It was an abandoned Asian movie house that has been renovated into a stylish, state-of-the-art multimedia facility.

Postscript

As of February 1, Beer Wars is now available on demand, as a download, or on DVD.

A New Trend for Father’s Day?

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Mother’s Day brunch is becoming a fairly established tradition, but what is there for Dad? How about a Father’s Day brewmaster’s dinner? Thinking that’s a perfect way to show your appreciation for dear old Dad, Central City Brewing, Crannóg, and R&B are each hosting such a dinner this coming Sunday. Here are the details:

Diva Head Sous Chef Jeff Van Geest

Diva Executive Sous Chef Jeff Van Geest

Unforgettable Tastes For an Unforgettable Man

June 21 @ 6:30 – 9:30pm
Diva at the Met
645 Howe Street, Vancouver
Cost: 5 courses w/ beer $55
Info: e-mail diva@metropolitan.com or call (604) 602-7788

MENU
Local Oysters 3 Ways
Tempura with crusted edamame & wasabi
Fresh with green apple herb mignonnette
Smoke with rhubarb barbeque sauce
R&B Sun God Wheat Ale

Albacore Tuna & Pink Salmon Tartare
Classic garnish
R&B Bohemian Lager

Bacon Wrapped Sloping Hill Pork Loin
Confit shoulder, morel mushrooms & barley risotto with dried pear
Maple mustard jus & cream ale foam
R&B Smoked Raven Cream Ale Cask (specially brewed for this event)

Farmhouse Cheddar
Apple ginger crumble, garam masala gastrique
R&B Hoppleganger IPA

Blackberry and Dark Chocolate Napoleon
Morello cherry chocolate coulis
Stout ice cream and stout foam
Espresso gellee
Dark Star Oatmeal Stout

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Beer Festival in Wine Country

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Patrick Cumisky serving up some Central City Red Racer IPA.

You may be surprised to learn that it takes a lot of good beer to make a fine wine. That might explain why Penticton’s Cannery Brewing sells more beer in Naramata than all of Alberta and why Silverado Brewing operates a burgeoning brewpub on the grounds of a winery in Napa. It may also explain why the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale in Penticton has no problem still selling out in its fourteenth year.

This year was the first time I attended the OFOA. I had heard the festival was starting to get on the rowdy side in recent years (from the perspective of older beer geeks like myself). My suspicions were aroused when a half-dozen twenty-something males in the lineup in front of me started whooping and hollering even before the venue doors had opened! They were not already drunk. I guess the OFOA must be their biggest event of the year — combine drinking and two-dimensional food (pizza) with skirt-chasing and brawling et voilà, Christmas in April.

How about some Paddock Wood London Porter?

How about some Paddock Wood London Porter from Saskatoon?

I expected, therefore, to see plenty of young bucks drinking themselves into alcohol-induced belligerency, rather than taking the time to learn about and appreciate the beer. However, festival organizers seemed to have taken note of the downward trend and made some changes. Tickets were reduced by 1,000 for each of the festival’s two days, the cost was increased, and sales were strictly limited to before the event. It was also suggested that the music, for the most part, was chosen to coax a more mellow mood than feed the fire. These measures and vigilant security seemed to effectively keep a lid on things. A number of vendors expressed to me a resulting improvement.

On the tasting side, the majority of the festival was devoted to craft beer. There were 17 microbreweries directly represented, including four Washington breweries; two importers poured five beers from four foreign craft breweries; two mass-market beers squeaked in over the bar; and a smattering of alcopops and a macro-cider were there for the females who think they don’t like beer and will continue to think so until their menfolk graduate from drinking macro lager as their everyday beer.

Crannog brewmaster, Brian MacIsaac, accepts the Peoples Choice Award for his Back Hand of God Stout.

Crannog brewmaster, Brian MacIsaac, accepts the People's Choice Award for his Back Hand of God Stout.

Molson Canadian managed to weasel in a pseudo presence at the Boston Pizza booth, unofficial sponsor of unhealthy eating and, by extension, unhealthy drinking. Nevertheless, the food offering was actually better than the Washington Cask Beer Festival. The Barking Parrot took it for best value in my books. (How can you beat a cheeseburger for $1.00?) The Kettle Valley Station Pub offered a decent Louisiana Chicken Burger for $2.00. However, the best eating was easily from Salty’s Beach House — Thai Mini Meatballs, Scallops Remoulade, and fresh-shucked oysters. How civilized! The majority of festivalgoers seemed to agree too as Salty’s won the award for best food.

While there were seven hours on Saturday to make your way through the 60-odd beers worth trying; between drinking, chatting with brewers & fellow CAMRA members, eating, and taking in some of the entertainment, I didn’t manage tasting them all. Mind you, I’d had a number already. Things especially slowed down later in the day when the crowd got much thicker and lineups were ten deep in places. I mostly concentrated on trying what was new to me and found myself quite satisfied by the end.

The festival finale was the announcement of the Industry and People’s Choice awards. The people chose Crannóg’s Back Hand of God Stout as the festival’s best beer. A panel of judges, including my editor at Northwest Brewing News, Alan Moen, selected Pyramid Apricot Ale as the best macro beer, while Shuswap Lake’s (aka Barley Station) Sam McGuire’s Pale Ale was their choice for best micro beer. And that’s what I would call a successful conclusion.

For more OFOA photos, see my Flickr Beer Festivals Set. I also have some photos from my tour of Cannery Brewing the day before.

Central City Turns Five

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Surrey’s Central City Brewing celebrated its fifth anniversary on Saturday. Brewmaster, Gary Lohin, opened up the brewery to those wanting a tour. And because touring makes one thirsty, he set up a special beverage station with the following cellared ales:

  • Belgian Tripel – brewed December 06, 9.0% alc/vol
  • Smoked Porter – brewed October 07, 8.5% alc/vol
  • Thor’s Hammer Barley Wine – brewed October 07, 10.5% alc/vol
  • Imperial IPA – brewed June 08, 8.5% alc/vol
  • Red Racer Winter Ale brewed September 08, 7.5% alc/vol

Needless to say, the beverage station proved to be the most popular part of the tour. If you happened to miss the celebration, you’ll have to wait another five years before you can sample a comparable selection of cellared Central City ales. If we’re lucky, Gary may even brew a special beer for the occasion —a Red Racer 10-Speed, perhaps?

Gathered in the brewery for a special cellared ales tasting.
Gathered in the brewery for a special cellared ales tasting.

Another thing worth celebrating is the new chef. Executive Chef, Carl Sawatsky, came to Central City from the Bacchus Bistro at Domaine de Chaberton winery in Langley. He has brought a sensibility for matching food & drink that was also showcased this day with a five-course tasting menu:

❧ Beet Salad with goat cheese, pecans, frisée, and Raspberry Wheat Ale gastrique
Red Racer White Ale (aka Wally’s Wheat)

❧ Onion Cheddar Beer Soup
Iceberg Copper Bock

❧ AAA House Aged Striploin with mushy peas potatoes and red wine demi glaze
Boomers Red Ale

❧ IPA Braised Pork Belly with cabbage and crispy potatoes
Empire IPA

❧ Spiced Beer Cake à la mode with toffee sauce and stout truffle
Steelhead Oatmeal Stout

AAA House Aged Striploin with mushy peas potatoes and red wine demi glaze, accompanied by a Boomers Red Ale.

One could choose the courses individually or order all five for $40.00, including a 5oz taster of beer with each — very good value for the quality of the food and beer. Carl and Gary are eventually hoping to have a new tasting menu every month. Given how good this was, they should be encouraged at every opportunity to do so. Not enough brewpubs do this, which in my opinion is a major shortcoming. Brewer and chef should be working hand in glove, creating a synergy that exceeds what they can accomplish individually.

In case you didn’t know it Central City lager, pale ale, and wit are available in cans in both government and private liquor stores. The Empire IPA will be the next beer released in cans.

CAMRA Recognizes Vancouver’s Best in Beer

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Dustin Sepkowski, Morris Anh, Rose Weir of The Whip

Dustin Sepkowski, Morris Anh, and Rose Weir, photo courtesy Brian K. Smith Photography.

The Vancouver chapter of the Campaign for Real Ale has announced the results of its annual members poll recognizing local and regional excellence in brewing and beer service. Dix BBQ & Brewery was awarded Best Local Brewpub; The Alibi Room is Best Local Beer Cafe, Pub, or Restaurant; and Brewery Creek, Best Local Liquor Store for beer selection.

“While it may seem curious that the best beer is in Surrey and the best brewery in Victoria, this year’s results reflect the growth in popularity of real ale in Vancouver,” explained CAMRA Vancouver President, Rick Green. “We are fortunate to have brewers throughout the province willing to meet the demand here.”

Dix BBQ & Brewery began the trend in 2002, featuring a cask-conditioned ale once a month. With the encouragement of CAMRA Vancouver, the following has grown. Now Dix features a weekly cask ale and hosts a semi-annual cask festival.

“We are very pleased to be awarded favourite brewpub in the Lower Mainland,” said Dix brewer, Derrick Franche. “On behalf of the Dix BBQ & Brewery staff, I’d like to thank CAMRA Vancouver for their support.”

Nigel Springthorpe, Alibi Room publican.

Nigel Springthorpe, photo courtesy Brian K. Smith Photography.

In January of 2007, The Whip Restaurant & Gallery partnered with local microbrewery, R&B Brewing, to offer a weekly cask from brewers all over BC. Last year, they inaugurated the annual Feast of Five Firkins, a special brewmasters’ dinner featuring five courses paired with five firkins from five brewers. Their success is reflected in the three rewards they received this year.

Real ale is also reaching the suburbs. Taylor’s Crossing brewpub in North Vancouver offers a monthly cask ale, as does Surrey’s BigRidge brewpub. Central City Brewing, also in Surrey, launched their annual cask festival last summer.

Not only is Gastown an evolving dining destination, it’s also a growing focal point for craft beer. Steamworks has been the standard bearer since 1995. Two years ago, the Alibi Room changed direction to become a true free house showcasing all of the province’s best beers. Publican, Nigel Springthorpe, noted:

“We went out on a limb to try something different. The build has been slow, but I really feel things are coming together. We pick up our own beer from the Island; we even have small breweries in the Interior carpooling their beer or getting visitors to throw kegs in their trunks to bring to us. Things are changing. Craft beer is becoming a bigger part of our culture here in BC.”

Last year, the Irish Heather moved across the street into a newly-renovated location. As part of their makeover, they became the first establishment in Vancouver to offer cask-conditioned ale daily, supplied by R&B. And with first-rate imports being sold through progressive retailers, such as Brewery Creek, we can expect the bar to be raised in Vancouver.

The results of the 2009 CAMRA Vancouver Awards are:

Best Local Brewpub
Gold: Dix BBQ & Brewery
Silver: Central City Brewing
Bronze: Yaletown Brewing

Best Local Beer Cafe, Pub, or Restaurant
Gold: The Alibi Room
Silver: The Whip Restaurant & Gallery
Bronze: The Wolf & Hound

Best Local Liquor Store
Gold: Brewery Creek Cold Beer & Wine Store
Silver: Firefly Fine Wines and Ales
Bronze: BCLS Signature Store (39th & Cambie)

Best Local Beer Event
Gold: The Whip Real Ale Sundays
Silver: CAMRA On a Mission to Mission; Feast of Five Firkins (tie)

Best BC Brewery
Gold: Phillips Brewing Co., Victoria
Silver: Storm Brewing Ltd., Vancouver
Bronze: Crannóg Ales, Sorrento; R&B Brewing, Vancouver (tie)

Best BC Beer
Gold: Central City Empire IPA
Silver: Storm Black Plague Stout
Bronze: Crannóg Back Hand of God Stout

Best BC Seasonal Beer
Gold: Yaletown Oud Bruin
Silver: Steamworks The Grand espresso stout
Bronze: Granville Island Winter Ale