A new brewery is getting ready to open in Port Moody

Train Wreck Brewing Co. will open early in 2024 in the Port Moody location formerly occupied by the Fraser Mills Fermentation Co.

Train Wreck Brewing Company is moving into the location previously occupied by the Fraser Mills Fermentation Company that declared bankruptsy last September. MARIO BARTEL/TRI-CITY NEWS

It appears a hole in Port Moody’s craft beer scene is about to be filled.

A post on social media is teasing the opening of a new brewery at the site on St. Johns Street formerly occupied by the Fraser Mills Fermentation Co. that went bankrupt last September.

The new brewery is to be called Train Wreck Brewing Co. and its first post on Instagram on Monday, Dec. 18, says it will be opening “in the next few weeks.”

The news is being greeted enthusiastically by commenters.

“I am grinning ear to ear right now,” said one.

“Looking forward to coming by for a cold one,” said another.

The brewery is currently undergoing a makeover for its new identity. One side of a new sign is already up and the walls in the expansive tasting room have been repainted with Train Wreck’s logo.

What happened to Fraser Mills?

Fraser Mills closed its doors for good last September after the brewery’s assets were seized as part of a bankruptcy and insolvency procedure initiated by the Business Development Bank of Canada.

The brewery opened in 2020, less than two months into the COVID-19 pandemic, as an extension of the Beyond the Grape home-brew supply store founding partner Michael Druce had been operating two doors down for 20 years.

Druce said the public health restrictions in place at the time forced the new brewery to alter its initial vision to operate primarily as a 40-tap tasting room and social gathering place to investing in canning machinery so it could offer its first four beers and one cider in off-sales at the front door.

“We just have to reshape our expectations,” Druce told the Tri-City News.

The St. Johns Street location was also meant as a temporary waystation until redevelopment of the old Fraser sawmill site along the Fraser River in Coquitlam begins where the eight original partners always intended to build a permanent brewery.

The initial lease on its premises, a former boat dealership, was for five years, with an option to renew for another five.

But Port Moody’s only brewery away from the city’s renowned Brewers Row, struggled to generate the kind of buzz and success enjoyed by its six craft breweries within a short walk of each other on Murray Street. In June 2022, Fraser Mills mysteriously closed for several days due to “internal issues that have been hindering our commercial viability.”

A struggling industry?

Train Wreck’s imminent opening comes at a time of upheaval in Metro Vancouver’s craft beer scene.

In the Tri-Cities, Taylight BrewingMariner Brewing and Bakery Brewing have all undergone ownership changes in the past year — the latter also rebranded to Brave Brewing Company.

Further afield, Vancouver breweries like Andina and Callister have closed or announced their closure, along with Studio Brewing in Burnaby, and Deep Cove and Green Leaf breweries in North Vancouver. As well, Bomber Brewing, that’s been a stalwart in East Vancouver since 2014, is for sale.

Last August, the Canadian Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) and the Coalition of Canadian Independent Craft Brewers (CCICB) called for an update of Canada’s Excise Tax Act to give the country’s smaller brewers a bit of a break on the first 500,000 hectolitres they produce.

“This change would benefit all breweries large and small equally in terms of excise tax dollars saved and would lead to significant investment, job creation and economic growth across the entire sector,” the industry groups said in a submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance.

The groups are also joining a broader call from small businesses for more time to repay loans from the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) that was launched in 2020 to provide funds to help them weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter, CCBA executive director Christine Comeau said 2024 is “looming as a challenging year for the industry, with brewers facing repayment of their CEBA loans, high interest rates, inflationary pressure and decreasing beer consumption.”

The worst may be over

Ben Coli, who owns Dageraad Brewing in Burnaby and is on the Board of Directors for the BC Craft Brewers Guild, said the more than 240 small breweries in the province are feeling the pinch from several sides, including inflation, high interest rates, rising rents for industrial spaces and even more expensive packaging products like bottles.

“There are a lot of headwinds in the economy right now,” Coli told the Tri-City News, adding he thinks more breweries are likely unable to withstand the storm and could close this winter.

Coli said many of the breweries that opened just before or during the pandemic were particularly hobbled by having to incur more debt to keep their doors open rather than putting their earnings toward paying down debt they accrued to get built.

“Some breweries were probably badly managed, but a lot of them just had terrible luck with the way that events unfolded and they didn’t stand a chance,” he said.

But Coli added with signs that interest rates could be coming down in the coming year and consumers getting used to paying more for many things, the industry may be turning a corner. He said he’s “hopeful that the brewing industry will stabilize and that people will think twice before opening a brewery.”

—This story originally appeared on Tri-City News

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