beer column

from yesterday's beer column on cbc radio one's on the coast with stephen quinn:

Breweries continue to open in the Lower Mainland and across the Province.  The next one set to open in Vancouver is going to be a bit different.

So far most of the local breweries share a common model (with Callister's cooperative being a notable exception).  The breweries have owners, who are sometimes also the brewers, they have a brewery facility, usually with a tasting room on site, and they brew their own beer.  Liquor rules now allow those tasting rooms to sell some other people’s product, but they are all making their own beer.
The new brewery set to open in “Yeast” Van is different from all those others.  Factory Brewing is going to be a dedicated contract brewery.

A contract brewery is one that brews beers for other people.  When they open up, which could optimistically be in May, they will be brewing for 8 partners.

At this time Factory will only confirm one of the 8, but the types of people who choose to contract brew include local breweries who are at capacity at their own breweries, breweries outside the area who want to break into the local market, brewers not yet ready to open their own breweries, and non-brewers who want to have someone brew beer for them.

Small breweries would be able to increase their brewing capacity without having to find a larger space or expend a lot of capital to do so.  Part time brewers who aren’t yet in a position to open their own brewery would be able to use Factory to brew as much or as little beer as they can afford and not have to worry about overhead or staffing.  American breweries would avoid the long waits at the border for their beers to enter Canada.  Non-lower Mainland breweries would avoid having to ship their product to the biggest market in the Province or expend the capital to open a local branch of their brewery.  There are definitely potential benefits in contract brewing for several segments of the industry.

Andres Palma, the head brewer at Factory, tells me they have also been approached by a local musician to develop a beer recipe and brew a small batch or two for him.

Andres also told me that they expect to be producing 70,000 hectalitres of beer by year 2, in their 20 fermentors.  The brewhouse is made by Newlands, and includes a hop-back!  Factory will be bottling, canning and kegging.  They also expect to open a tasting room on the site on Vernon Street (the old Direct Tap location) at which they will pour their partner's beers.  Look for that tasting room somewhere in the next 18 months.

Contract brewing has been around forever, but not everyone is a fan of the concept.  While contractors will be able to attend at Factory to work with Andres to perfect their brews on Factory’s system, Andres will be in charge of brewing and will take over all aspects of the brewing process.  To some beer fans this means that the name on the label isn’t authentic.

I thought this might be a bigger issue than it appears to be though.  All the beer geeks I asked weren’t fussed about it at all.  Now, I didn’t get around to everyone so it may be there are some fierce dissenters out there.  Those I did ask were curious to see if it would be a successful model for breweries looking to expand their output, as the profit margins in beer are slim to begin with.  They wonder if there will be any profit after paying someone else to brew and package their beer.  They were also curious about what would happen if all the contractors want to increase their volume at the same time.  Will Factory be able to accommodate everyone and still brew their own Factory beer?  I wonder about how beers from other locales will taste when brewed with Vancouver water.  I find that beers brewed at Dead Frog in Aldergrove for Ontario brewers Double Trouble taste very different than those brewed in Guelph, and I have to say, I like the ones from Guelph better, which isn’t surprising since the recipe was perfected in Guelph.

Doan's Brewing is the one confirmed brewery using the services of Factory.  Evan Doan says that finding Factory is a “dream come true” for them.  He says that “With the size [they] are now, it’s basically impossible for [them] to acquire enough funds to expand let alone pay [themselves].”  They expect contracting with Factory will enable them “to produce enough volume to reach more people and different markets as well as providing a little more financial freedom.”  They are looking forward to eliminating the struggle of keeping up with production of their core brands.  Freed up from that side of production, Doan’s is aiming to release a couple of new series of beers from their brewery – an 1830 series and a ‘Funtime Series” of collaborations.
I am very interested to see how the beer geeks and consumers at large embrace a dedicated contract brewery, and how the brands using their services fare.

Beer Picks:

Main Street Brewing and Red Truck Brewing collaboration:  Ryzenshein Crystal Rye Gose is a kettle soured ale, brewed with pilsner flaked wheat and crystal rye and soured with lactobacillus.  The sour citrus balances nicely with the salty coriander, and the rye adds a subtle spiciness.  The finish is dry and sharp.  5%  Available in 650ml bottles

Powell Street Brewing and Odd Society Distilling collaboration:  Ode to Wallflower is Powell Street’s Ode to Citra pale ale aged in Odd Society’s Wallflower gin barrels.  The hyper-local collaboration produced a botanically charged, slightly oaked hoppy pale ale. 6.2%.  Available in 650 ml bottles and on tap at both tasting rooms.

Central City Beer League Lager:  This premium lager is intended to “show an approachable style to craft beer flavour.”  It is brewed as a traditional craft lager – approachable, easy-drinking and flavourful.  A lot of people say the real test in craft beer is brewing a good lager – here’s one you can use to lure lager drinkers to the craft side!  5% Available in 6 packs of 355ml cans.


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