Vancouver’s brewery boom is set continue this year with at least four more craft breweries preparing to open their doors in coming months, joining 10 others that have opened in the city since 2014.
Experts and those in the business say the craft beer rush will likely continue as Vancouverites’ demand for craft beer appears to be stronger than ever.
Between now and the end of the year, several new craft breweries are preparing to open, including Andina Brewing Company at 1507 Powell St., Faculty Brewing Co. at 1830 Ontario, Strathcona Beer Company at 895 Hastings, and Luppolo Brewing Company at 1123 Venables.
In the city of Vancouver, there are 23 craft breweries and brew pubs either open or set to open, said Ken Beattie, the executive director of the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild. Beattie said six opened last year in Vancouver and four opened in 2014. With the four coming this year, it means a total of 14 new craft breweries in three years.
As the number of new breweries keeps rising, there has yet to be any notable failures, Beattie said. “In Vancouver, none. No one has closed their doors,” he said. “That tells me that the public wants quality beer and innovation. They like that there is this pride of place in a neighbourhood.”
It doesn’t appear that the market for craft beer has yet been saturated, he said. “You look at a city like Portland — that has way more breweries, and they really become neighbourhood functions.”
At 1507 Powell St., in the emerging heart of East Vancouver’s brewing district, brothers Andres and Nicolas Amaya are readying a 13,700-square-foot space for what they hope is a fall 2016 opening of Andina Brewing.
Andina Brewing will include a tasting room, as well as growler fills and keg service for selected local pubs. They don’t plan to bottle or can their beer for at least a year.
The Amaya brothers are new to the craft beer business, after becoming fans of locally produced brews in the last five years, Andres Amaya said in an interview. He said he used to work in the hotel industry, while his brother Nicolas worked as a cameraman for CBC news.
“We started looking into the boom of craft beer,” he said. “We saw the tendencies in Portland and Washington state and how it’s moving up here. We thought it was the right time and the right move for us to build one.”
Originally from Colombia, the brothers plan to incorporate South American culture into their beer-making, tasting room theme and food menu, which will feature a rotating ceviche menu.
The most difficult part so far was finding a space for the business. “It was a long process,” Amaya said. “I think it was 11 months of looking for the right spot.”
He said they knew they wanted to be in East Van, near the likes of craft beer pioneer Storm Brewing, and Powell Street Craft Brewing and Parallel 49. “We wanted to be in this area. Not only because we wanted to be with the other breweries and be part of the community, but also this was the right location for us.”
The Amayas eventually leased industrial space in the heart of so-called “Yeast Vancouver”.
The surge in competition doesn’t worry the Amayas. “We are fully confident that — not only us — but any of the ones opening, Luppolo and Strathcona… everyone is going to be successful because the appetite for craft beer, at this point, is unstoppable,” he said. “So for us, the more the merrier.”
And more there will be, said Kevin Kassautzki, the Avison Young senior associate who worked on the leasing deals for Luppolo Brewing and Bomber Brewing.
Like Beattie from the Brewer’s Guild, Kassautzki couldn’t name one Vancouver brewery that has closed down in the three years since 2013 when the B.C. government updated its legislation to allow tasting lounges. The City of Vancouver then started handing out tasting lounge licences to local breweries and distillers, giving the brewers a new, lucrative component to their business, sparking the current craft beer boom.
Kassautzki said that lately more potential brewers are forgoing the bustling brew hub of Mount Pleasant for the emerging craft beer hub centred around a northern tract of East Van in and around Powell and Venables streets. He said a lack of available space and rising rents in Mount Pleasant are to blame.
“There isn’t a lot of vacancy in the Mount Pleasant area for new breweries to enter that market,” he said.
He said light industrial lease rates in Mount Pleasant are now reaching $20 to $25 a square foot, with taxes and operating costs adding $3-$5 per sq. ft. “In East Van, lease rates are still lower than that, where you can still take on space for low double digits on the lease rates, and your taxes [and operating costs] would be three to five dollars.”
Kassautzki said most prospective micro craft brewers are seeking spaces around 5,000 sq. ft., but he’s aware of two groups each seeking a space of between 15,000 and 30,000 sq. ft. in East Van for new breweries. “When a space comes available, it’s usually sought after by multiple groups, and one or two are likely a brewery.”
Kassautzki agreed that the market and number of craft breweries in Vancouver would continue to expand. “I can see it going this way for the foreseeable future.”