Canada’s beer industry is brewing out west

By Jordan Knox

If you haven’t checked out the beer industry on the west coast in the last five years, you are missing out. Most craft breweries on the west coast are taking a minimalist approach, using simple quality ingredients, and highlighting seasonal products. The tasting rooms where the steel brewing tanks are visible, simple yet functional seating and reclaimed or element-driven materials frame the experience.

With new microbreweries popping up weekly you may think that the industry would be oversaturated, but that appears not to be the case. In Vancouver alone, there are just shy of 40 microbreweries and the industry there shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, if you talk to most brew masters, they are finding it hard to keep up.

In addition to the demand for the microbrew product, the craft beer community has a certain camaraderie that tends to be unlike their large brewery counterparts, focusing on collaboration over competition. While Budweiser still maintains the title of highest distribution on the planet, some large restaurant brands like Moxie’s are making the bold move to switch large selections of their draft beer portfolio over to local craft brews, craft producers like Four Winds (saison) and Red Racer (ISA) have replaced taps previously occupied by Kokanee and Canadian with little to no backlash from their customers.

Since the product is in high demand and of high quality, most consumers would expect to be paying premium prices, but when you cut out the middle distribution costs, the consumer wins. In most cases breweries are charging $6 to $9 for a tasting flight which usually contains four to six samples around 4oz each. So whether your favorite beers are ISAs or IPAs, saisons or ciders, there is something for every palate. Maybe the beer for you is something off the map. Brewers like Vancouver’s own Brassneck Brewery are developing small batch brews like Bivouac Bitter made with perfectly harvested Douglas Fir tips from the Okanogan.

Craft brewers in Vancouver are sourcing local, brewing local, and hitting the sweet spot with their customer base. While the scene has picked up where food trucks and farm to table initiatives have left off, they would not be as successful if not for the municipal government. Officials have worked to identify the needs of the brewers and the customers that they serve and have worked to define regulations that help to grow the business responsibly.

With the blueprint for success firmly in place, the wave is now sweeping inland with new breweries opening in small towns like Kimberley. It is an adventurous and tasty time for the craft beer market in British Columbia. Cheers to your next pint.

About the author

Jordan Knox works at Northland Properties and is a General Manager in training at Moxie’s in Vancouver, B.C.  With over 18 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, Jordan has worked throughout North America and the Caribbean with industry-leading companies. He received his diploma in Hotel and Restaurant Management from SAIT Polytechnic in 2000 and is a lifelong student of the food and beverage industry, always looking for what new trends are emerging.

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