Craft beer might be everywhere right now (depending on where you’re sitting), but that doesn’t mean every craft brewery is fending off the fanboys.
Far from it. The realities of the brewing industry, coupled with those of small business entrepreneurship, means it’s very difficult for small-sized craft breweries to gain any kind of foothold outside their home turf. Sometimes, they need some help.
Enter Graham With, brewmaster at Parallel 49, who conceived of the wildly popular Brews Bros collaboration mixer pack as a way to give smaller breweries more exposure throughout Western Canada.
Brews Bros Volume 2 is out now, and features 12 music-themed Parallel 49 collaborations with Four Winds, Strange Fellows, Quesnel’s Barkerville Brewing, Victoria’s Category 12, along with several other craft breweries that don’t have wide distribution.
“A lot of these breweries don’t have product in stores,” With says. “The idea was, we could get their product in stores and they can be like, ‘Sweet, there’s our logo in government liquor stores.’”
Brews Bros is an example of the craft beer industry’s unique approach to business, where the “competition” isn’t seen as the competition at all, but a part of a larger community – a community with a growing pool of collaborators that can work together to sell beer, market themselves and grow the industry in the process.
At the same time, P49 is providing breweries like Barkerville access – however limited –to markets in that aren’t otherwise available to them, particularly in Vancouver.
“Vancouver’s pretty far away from us, so we’re always looking for opportunities to expose ourselves down there and get some recognition,” says Nolan Foster, Barkerville’s sales manager. “It might put our name on the map a little bit more, in the Lower Mainland. It’s a valuable market and we’re really not a part of it too much yet.”
In a way, P49 is acting as curator of quality beer for people who might be interested, but haven’t thought enough about it to dig in past Blue Buck or Gypsy Tears.
“The cool thing is, there’s the big brewery going out of its way [for small breweries],” says Evan Doan, head brewer of Doan Brewing, one of 11 breweries featured in this year’s mixed pack. “There’s so much stress, so much tank time and so much money gets poured into this, and it’s like a win-win for all us smaller guys that wouldn’t dream of having our beer even in private liquor stores. The recognition for us is kick-ass.”
With says Brews Bros was conceived to partner with BC’s smallest breweries, many of which were featured the first mixer pack, released in spring of 2015. This time around, there weren’t too many tiny breweries left to collaborate with, so Vol. 2 has partnered with some of the bigger, more popular brands, including Strange Fellows, Four Winds and Fernie Brewing, as well as a few smaller breweries (Doan, Crannog and Barkerville.)
With says they’ll continue to do Brews Bros, as long as there’s enough breweries to collaborate with (which shouldn’t be a problem) and providing that P49 has enough capacity to make it work. Brews Bros is a complex project that takes careful planning and scheduling to ensure that the brewery has enough tank space to make their core beers while making these specialty batches.
Brews Bros is available now at private and government liquor stores, and at Parallel 49 Brewing Co., but it’s going to sell out fast. Probably. Get one while you can.