The Lower Mainland’s Craft-Beer Scene

Craft beer in B.C. | BCBusiness

Once a craft-brewing wallflower, the Lower Mainland is now booming with microbrew startups that make Portland and Seattle blush

When it comes to (legally) unfulfilled business opportunities in Vancouver, few have been more obvious than local thirst for high-quality, locally produced beer. B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch [BCLD] numbers have always identified beer as the most-consumed alcoholic beverage—67.5 per cent by volume last year—and a very close second to wine for total retail dollars.

Meanwhile, industry numbers indicate that microbrewed beer has seen demand grow almost 20 per cent. The BCLD reports that in 2012 sales, what the organization qualifies as small producers rose 13.3 per cent for cans and bottles and 19.4 per cent for draft beer. Most impressive is that this meteoric growth in B.C. craft beer consumption parallels a slight drop among consumption of the stuff brewed by larger, national brands.

The opportunity, therefore, is massive, not just for in-store sales and national distribution—given that craft encroachment on big beer brands is a national and even North American phenomenon—but at the retail level, with dedicated tasting rooms and pubs moving product as well.

No wonder, then, that this month’s Vancouver Craft Beer Week, running until June 8, is a lot more buzzy than usual.

Up to 10 new breweries are scheduled to open this year in the Lower Mainland alone, in addition to three massive expansions by existing breweries—specifically Surrey’s Central City, Steamworks and the Mark James Group.

But no revolution is ever easy, and the hopped- up party is being tempered by buzz-kills, from taxes on growlers to city council legislation that contradicts provincial brewery reforms. Still, these are mere details as the city takes its long-coming place alongside revered West Coast beer towns.

Red Truck
Location: 295 E. 1st Ave., Vancouver
Date Opening/Expanding: End of 2013
Beer Types: Lager, Ale, IPA, specialty and seasonal releases
Staff Size: 6
Target Markets: Vancouver and B.C.
Packaging: Kegs, bottles, cans and growlers
Brewmaster: Hamish MacRae began his professional experience at R&B Brewing in 2009, then moved to Red Truck in 2011 to apprentice under Dave Varga and Iain Hill. He took over production there this year.

33 Acres Brewing
Location: 15 W. 8th Ave., Vancouver
Date Opening/Expanding: June 2013
Beer Types: “Classic and simple… craft beer on the West Coast”
Staff Size: 5
Target Markets: Lower Mainland
Packaging: Kegs, bottles and growlers
Brewmaster: Brewmaster David Varga has been brewing beer professionally for 15 years and is well known throughout the craft beer scene in B.C.

Main Street Brewing
Location: 2148 Main St., Vancouver
Date Opening/Expanding: July 2013
Beer Types: “All sorts of craft beer in small batches”
Staff Size: 6
Target Markets: Vancouver, “with a strong emphasis on our immediate neighbourhood”
Packaging: Kegs and growlers

Location: 263 E. 7th Ave., Vancouver
Date Opening/Expanding: July 2013
Beer Types: Pilsner, IPA, Brown Ale
Staff Size: 8
Target Markets: Lower Mainland and B.C.
Packaging: 650ml bottles, cans and growlers
Brewmaster: Conrad Gmoser is a reformed architect who, in 1996, abandoned the promise of a respectable profession to pursue his passion for beer.

Location: 3845 William St., Vancouver
Date Opening/Expanding: Late summer
Beer Types: Pale Ale, Pilsner, seasonal selections
Staff Size: 10 now; 20 once new operation is running
Target Markets: B.C. with future plans for Canada wide, Oregon and Washington
Packaging: Kegs, bottles (six-packs and 650ml), cans and growlers
Brewmaster: Caolan Vaughan

Four Winds
Location: #4-7355 72nd St., Delta
Date Opening/Expanding: June 2013
Beer Types: Belgian Saison, West Coast IPAs, Pilsners and Pale Ales
Staff Size: 4
Target Markets: Lower Mainland
Packaging: Four-pack 330ml bottles and growlers
Brewmaster: Brent Mills has been brewing professionally for three years. He studied brewing at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago.

Bomber Brewing
Location: 1488 Adanac St., Vancouver
Date Opening/Expanding: September
Beer Types: Czech Pilsner, Special Bitter, monthly seasonal beers
Staff Size: Not set yet
Target Markets: Vancouver and Biercraft/Incendio restaurants to start, then Alberta and Ontario
Packaging: Kegs, bottles (for the Pilsners), cans and growlers
Brewmaster: Blair Calibaba formerly owned a U Brew and has been brewing for six years.

Surrey Central
Location: 11411 Bridgeview Dr., Surrey
Date Opening/Expanding: July
Beer Types: “Hoppy beers”
Staff Size: 70+ in the brewery, brewpub and liquor store
Target Markets: B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and expanding to Quebec, Washington, Oregon and California
Packaging: Six- and 12-packs of bottles and cans; also 650ml and 750ml bottles
Brewmaster: Lohin is a celebrated brewer with over 20 years’ experience. He founded the Lower Mainland’s first brewpub.