On a recent trip to Seattle, I was greeted by an unexpected sight. Smack in the middle of my favourite Whole Foods was a display of Driftwood Singularity and Fat Tug. Upon further examination, there was Red Racer, Howe Sound and more Driftwoods in the beer cooler. The stack of Unibroue Ephemere by the green apples was appropriate, but BC craft brewers in the States?
Email is wonderful: let's go to the source and ask why our great beers are leaving the province?
"We [Driftwood] are really a result of the Cascadia craft beer renaissance that
originated from Northern California, Oregon & Washington State," explains Gary Lindsay from Driftwood. "We don't consider international borders when looking at a relevant market to share our efforts."
Dave Fenn (one of the HoweSound owners) agrees, "We think it's important to compete in these markets, much like US
breweries are competing with us in British Columbia. We get recognition
within a huge market, and many search us out when visiting Canada."
The bigger beer market not gone unnoticed by Gary Lohin of Central City, "We look at North America as our market, and hope to build some
traction when the new brewery opens." Central City can be found in Chicago, Boston, Philly, and Portland (Maine). Howe Sound sales in Washington, California, Wisconsin and Minnesota. These markets are a small percentage of overall Howe Sounds, but they are growing steadily.
Thankfully the local brewers are not forgetting their local markets. Gary Lohin never forgets the locals, "We in fact
sell all over BC, and in Alberta and Manitoba selectively. Red Racer was just
given a general listing on Ontario, which means access to 264 of their stores."
"This market in no way compromises our [Howe Sound] ability to distribute in Canada.", say Dave Fenn. Howe Sound is in 180 BCLDB stores, over 200 private stores in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and soon Ontario.
What does this mean for local beer drinkers? Who knows? Hopefully access to bigger beer markets will spill over into more seasonal releases and a greater chance for experimentation. This will only make things better for the craft beer scene in BC.