Wednesday, January 6, 2016

beer column

my notes from yesterday's beer column on cbc radio one's on the coast with stephen quinn
with my look ahead to 2016:

After exhaustive research, I believe that 2015 closed with 113 craft breweries in B.C. - except, in talking to Joe Wiebe, I'm questioning that number.  He says that if you exclude all the shadow brands, contract brewers without their own brewery and multiple locations, the number is actually exactly 100.  So I'm going with the number of craft breweries in B.C. is somewhere between 100 and 113 at the end of 2015.

What I do know is that 20 new craft breweries opened in B.C. in 2015.  5 of those were in Vancouver, 8 in the Lower Mainland and 5 on Vancouver Island.

And there are more breweries in the works for B.C. in 2016!

The Georgia Straight says that there will be 15 breweries opening in 2016, and The Growler puts the number at more like 20.  

The ones that I am aware of who are close to opening are:  Faculty Brewing, Andina Brewing. Luppolo Brewing and Strathcona Brewing in Vancouver, and Field House Brewing in Abbotsford.  And look for breweries opening in Kelowna, Squamish, Nelson, Port Alberni, Golden and Chemainus.

Andina Brewing will open on Powell Street, hopefully by the summer, and will be a South American inspired brewery and tasting room.  The space is massive (13,700 square feet) and will boast a stage for live music.

Faculty Brewing is expected to open in the spring on Ontario Street in False Creek. The 1400 square foot space will be home to a learning experience for budding beer nerds. All of Faculty’s recipes will be made public and home-brewers will be encouraged to submit their own recipes. The tasting room is designed by the same people behind Brassneck Brewery and Strange Fellows Brewing. Faculty will also host home-brewing workshops.

Strathcona Brewing is expected to open in the Spring on East Hastings Street. The 12,000 square foot space will boast classic styled beers – 3 signature and 3 rotating. It is a true neighbourhood endeavour that is partially owned by Strathcona residents, so expect to see collaborations with local artists.

Luppolo Brewing is hoping to open by the Summer on Venables Street, very close to the existing Bomber and Off the Rail breweries... and really close to my house. What did I do with my life before there were multiple breweries on every possible route for me to get home? Luppolo will feature some Italian inspired beers with local twists. Hoppy ales and sours are promised, as are European and Belgian style beers. The 800 square foot tasting room will also offer Italian charcuterie and sandwiches.

Field House Brewing in Abbotsford should be serving beer any day now on West Railway Avenue. A large space for beer tasting, playing kids and, in good weather, lawns for recreation, Field House aims to be a community hub.

East Van is also set to get a cidery in 2016 – Sunday Cider at 1st and Clark.  There won’t be a tasting room, but growler fills of the unfiltered and unpasteurized ciders are expected – right around the time they release their hopped cider – hopefully in the Spring.

And in case you missed it – Foamer’s Folly opened in Pitt Meadows on December 18th

But the question some folks are asking is:  Is there really room for all these new breweries?

I think that there is, for several reasons.  There’s always talk about when this growth will have to stop but I don’t think that will be any time soon.

Firstly, breweries that opened in 2015 are already winning awards, so we’re still looking at quality beers taking their place alongside the more established award-winning breweries.

Secondly, as I said last year at this time, the tasting rooms are all full, and breweries are having trouble keeping up with demand.  So the thirst for craft beer continues to outpace brewery openings. 
And then there’s the fact that there are still a lot of people who haven’t made the move to craft beer.  Whether its habit, living in an area without a craft brewery or price points, craft brewers would do well to figure out ways to woo these people over to the craft side.  Some more rural breweries are doing this via brewing lager styles familiar to macro beer drinkers.  Again, it’s about knowing your community.

What I do think we’re going to see, like in any market, is a marketplace in which inferior product and/or bad business models will fail.  I think as more breweries open, everyone will have to take a look at their intended market, their current customer base and social media to keep themselves positioned properly.  And of course, keep making good beer!

My predictions for 2016:

1.  I think that we’ll continue to see an increase in the number of sour beers available, both barrel-aged and kettle sours – one to watch out for is Strange Fellows Oud Bruin – Iain Hill’s version of this classic barrel aged sour is a beer nerd favourite and everyone has been waiting for the first batch from Strange Fellows to age itself into perfection.

2.  I think we’ll see more session ales and lagers on offer.  Session beers are those 4.5% and under, which are popular with those who have to drive later, those who want to be able to drink more than one beer in a session and still remember how to walk and talk, and with brewers as it takes some creativity to keep full flavour in a less alcoholic beer (and because people can buy more of them at a time!).

3.  And I think the marketshare of craft beer will continue to grow.  I don’t always wear beer tshirts, so sometimes I am an undercover beer geek, and even then, the number of people who strike up beer conversations with me is huge.  People are still really excited by this new thing they have discovered and want to talk about it.  That tells me that there’s still lots of “buzz” around craft beer - that more people are beginning their beer journeys.  And they'll tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends, and so on and so on!

One area I do think may becoming glutted now are beer events.  It seems like everyone has jumped on the craft beer bandwagon when it comes to a theme for fundraisers or events.  I feel like I was at a craft beer themed fundraiser most weeks in 2015, and invited to several others that I couldn’t fit in!  If a beer nerd like me is overwhelmed by beer events, I can only assume that the general person must be getting there as well.  On the upside, I like how much craft beer this means is available at events – and it certainly makes me more likely to attend.

Beer Picks:

The cold weather is upon us – so my picks this week are all winter beers - 2 winter warmers and a session ale:

Bomber Brewing Old Fat Heater winter ale – 8% of malty goodness with notes of caramel, dates and figs.  Available in 650 ml bottles and at the tasting room.

Howe Sound Brewing MegaDestroyer Licorice Stout – if you like black licorice, then this imperial stout is sure to please you.  But watch out, it’s 10% and comes in a 1L bottle.  Definitely share with friends!

And a lower alcohol offering:

Moon Under Water’s Dark Side of the Moon oatmeal session stout – 4.2% with notes of chocolate and orange.  Available in 650ml bottles at private liquor stores.

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