By Naomi Yamamoto
Minister of State for Tourism and Small Business
B.C.'s craft brew industry is hopping, making Vancouver one of the top craft beer markets in North America.
Today, the craft beer market represents approximately 10% of the overall beer market in B.C. In fact, dollar sales have more than doubled since 2009 - a huge increase in any business.
On Aug. 26, 2014, I toured four innovative craft breweries in the Lower Mainland and I was impressed with the wide array of choices and the care and attention the brew masters devote to ensuring they produce artisan quality beer.
They all show the true spirit of entrepreneurship by developing their breweries and products in ways that set them apart in the marketplace and capitalize on a growing audience of craft beer consumers.
From breweries that produce small batches to ensure they can provide more than 50 beers to sample, to breweries that emphasize the social aspects of beer drinking and view appreciating good beer as a uniting force, to breweries that use hot rocks to add a smoky flavour to their beer, they all promote their products with an insightful appreciation of their customers.
B.C.'s craft breweries have been influenced by the craft brewing industry of our neighbours in the states of Washington and Oregon, and many of them have also taken advantage of the 100 mile diet movement by pairing their beers with food made with local ingredients.
There are now about 85 craft breweries in B.C. employing more than 2,500 people. This year alone, applications are underway for 22 new craft breweries - joining large-scale beer companies in creating jobs and boosting B.C.'s economy.
To ensure the craft beer industry continues to grow, our government will be exploring a quality assurance program for craft beer producers and discussing options with industry stakeholders to see if we can build on something similar to the successful VQA program. This stamp of authenticity could appeal to beer drinkers, just as it does to wine connoisseurs.
Most local craft breweries have already tapped into consumer interest in how their beer is produced by allowing visitors to tour the inner workings of their breweries.
Brewers and distillers can also apply for an on-site consumption area such as a lounge, special event, picnic or tour area. And small and medium-volume liquor manufacturers that also own an off-site restaurant or pub can apply to serve their products in up to three of their establishments.
Providing more top tier choices and comfortable venues to sip a beverage attracts visitors from other jurisdictions too. Craft breweries in Victoria and the Lower Mainland receive visitors known as beer tourists who plan their vacations around where they can sample new styles of beer.
Some of the brewery operators I met with last week mentioned that they have received flattering remarks from tourists from countries like Germany -- known for producing quality beer. Favourable comments about the high quality of B.C.'s beer will not only boost our already growing craft brew industry but ultimately could boost the tourism industry as well. Cheers to that!