Three Kitsilano friends hope to launch the West Side’s first craft brewery

From left: James Boileau, Dana Barnaby and Andrew Lavigne. Contributed photo

In a city as beer crazy as Vancouver, it’s maybe surprising there are no breweries or brewpubs in Kitsilano.

Three friends and long-time residents of the west side Vancouver neighbourhood are rectifying that.

James Boileau, Andrew Lavigne, and Dana Barnaby are launching Kits Beach Beer, a beer that can be a rallying point for the neighbourhood.

Boileau tells Vancouver Is Awesome that while the Kitsilano neighbourhood is well known, the beach is the only thing the whole community can get behind.

“Kits is all about the beach, all about the lifestyle,” he says.

So they decided to focus on that.

“We said ‘Let’s make a beer for drinking at the beach,'” he says. “We wanted something that was easy, refreshing and synonymous with summertime and having fun with friends outside in the sun.”

To that end they’ve made Kits Beach Beer Summer Ale, which he describes as a “really easy drinking beach beer that has lots of flavour.”

“Simple ideas are hard to execute when they’re done well,” he adds.

Three other styles are on the horizon, Kits Grapefruit Ale, Kits Summer Radler and Kits Winter all planned. A ginger beer is also in the works.

The idea first got bandied about around five years ago, suggested by Lavigne, the beer connoisseur of the group (who’s also a business coach and author). Barnaby, a documentary filmmaker is interested in the production side of things and making the beer, while Boileau wants to build a brand that encapsulates the neighbourhood (last year he opened Kits Beach Coffee).

“Vancouver has over 25 beer companies but we’re the only one on the west side,” says Lavigne in a release.

Kitsilano itself is has a history of brewing already, Boileau notes, though the beer isn’t being brewed there. Vine Street and West 11 Avenue used to house the headquarters for Vancouver Breweries more than a century ago; more recently there was the Molson Brewery on Burrard Street.

Unfortunately, the city’s zoning bylaw means there’s no place for a brewery (which requires a light industrial designation) in Kitsilano.

“The fact there is no brewery allowed through city zoning in Kits is fascinating because there is such a history of it,” Boileau says.

Long term the hope and the dream is to open some sort of production facility in the neighbourhood, Boileau adds, but for now they’re getting into the market, launching Kits Beach Beer, which is brewed at Settlement Brewing’s facility (online orders can be delivered within Kitsilano for free). They’re also launching merch, with hats, t-shirts, tote bags, beach blankets and biodegradable sunglasses.

“Nobody takes you seriously until you exist,” he says. “Now we exist.”

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