Market share has doubled in four years and shows no sign of abating Vancouver’s breweries and brew pubs
VANCOUVER — The phenomenal growth of the craft beer industry shows no signs of slowing in the year to come.
The market share for artisanal beer in British Columbia has doubled in the past four years, from nine per cent of all beer sales in 2009 to 19 per cent in 2013, said Ken Beattie, executive director of the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild.
According to the Liquor Distribution Branch, large breweries’ beer sales declined nearly 4 per cent last year, while sales by microbrewers shot up 38 per cent.
“It’s been amazing what has taken place here,” Beattie said.
And last year’s staggering total of 10 brewery openings could easily be eclipsed this year, with at least 21 new breweries in planning stages across the province, 13 of those in Metro Vancouver, Beattie said. About half a dozen are already under construction and many of the others are seeking a location.
“I have four or five groups come to me every month asking for advice about how to get into the business,” said Beatty. “There are a lot of hobby brewers in B.C. anxious to live their dream and own a brewery.”
With a lot of sweat and ingenuity, a nano-scale brewery can be set up for as little as $250,000, though most will cost closer to $1 million with lease and labour.
Retail sales of craft beer hit $174 million last year (up from $84 million just four years ago) and the dreamers and a handful of established brewing companies are betting large that figure has a lot of room to grow.
Last year, Steamworks opened a production-scale brewery in Burnaby to facilitate its transition from brew pub to regional brewer; and Central City Brewing opened a new brewery and distillery in Surrey with an eye to national expansion.
In Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, Mark James group will soon open a production brewery for its Red Truck Label, while Alberta craft brewer Big Rock will open its new facility just blocks away.
The new large brewers in Vancouver’s inner city will be surrounded by more than a dozen tiny neighbourhood-sized breweries, what the industry calls nanobrewers.
“Breweries that have been around a while — Steamworks, Central City and Red Truck — are scaling up to the next level, so they are opening massive production facilities,” said Beattie. “Central City will increase its production 18-fold.”
Steamworks owner Eli Gershkowitz doesn’t believe the B.C. beer market is even close to getting its fill of the craft product.
“In Seattle craft is 30 per cent of the beer market, in Portland its 40 per cent and those are pretty good comparables,” he said. “There is no reason to believe that Vancouver’s appreciation for craft beer will be any less than Seattle and Portland.”
By the end of 2014, B.C. could have more than 80 operating breweries, still only half the number in Oregon, which has about the same population.
Most startups intend to sell kegs to restaurants and taprooms and refillable bottles called growlers to walk-up customers. Vancouver bylaw changes and relaxation of provincial liquor laws allow brewers to run tasting lounges serving food and drink on site, which has created an important income source for small brewers, Beattie said.
Bomber Brewing opened in Grandview just three weeks ago with an on-site tasting lounge.
“We aren’t afraid of company, we think there is a lot of room for more brewers,” said co-owner Don Farion. “The growth [in craft beer sales] has been phenomenal and that was without tasting lounges; now we have a great new revenue stream right away.”
Black Kettle Brewing, a new microbrewery run by Bryan Lockhart and Phil Vandenborre, just weeks ago joined a cluster of small brewers settling into industrial spaces in North Vancouver.
Brewers that find early success at the nano end of the scale can soon find themselves hastily expanding if their product catches on. Powell Street Craft Brewery opened within walking distance of several other neighbourhood breweries at the north end of Commercial Drive, but soon saw demand outstrip supply after brewer David Bowkett’s Old Jalopy Pale Ale won Beer of the Year at the Canadian Brewing Awards just months later.
Powell Street was set up to produce less than 20,000 litres of beer a year. Contrast that with the new Central City brewery, which is equipped to produce 2.5 million litres a year.
“If you produce good beer the growth can be explosive,” said Beattie.
Real estate market conditions in Vancouver seem ideal to facilitate growth of nano-scale breweries, according to a recent report by commercial realtor Colliers.
Light industrial and warehouse businesses have fled Vancouver for larger buildings, outside storage and better transportation access in the suburbs, leaving the city with a supply of modest-sized, aging buildings that are considerably less expensive to lease than commercially zoned space, said Colliers property broker Matt Smith.
Nano-brewers are setting up shop in Mount Pleasant, north Strathcona, Grandview and North Vancouver where the price is right, he said. The “rustic look” of exposed brick and old wood beams in older buildings is also an attractive esthetic for small brewers.
“They are thrilled every time a new brewery comes in, because they are trying to recreate that Portland vibe, where you can walk from one brewery to the next,” said Smith. “And you can do that now, just walk from one to the other.”
Source: Vancouver Sun