VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – We’ve heard all the hype over BC’s craft beer industry.
More than a dozen new breweries are set to open this spring alone, leading many to speculate the industry is saturated. But as the number of liquor distillers in the province continues to grow, could they be the next big trend when it comes to booze?
“It’s really exciting. You’re seeing more and more craft distillers. It’s really only been over the last couple years. Two or three years ago, there were maybe 15 of them in the province and now we’re up to around 50 because the government made some policy changes that made it a little easier for them to operate,” says Jeff Guignard with The Alliance of Beverage Licensees of British Columbia.
There were 27 BC distillers showcasing their wares at the annual BC Distilled festival recently, more than ever before.
“People come in and they see the vodkas and the gins and the specialty sprits that we do and it’s like an eye-opening, enlightening experience,” says Deep Cove Distillers founder Shae De Jaray.
He says there’s no doubt the distilling industry is catching fire, but believes it will be a steady climb rather than an explosion. “The license is really designed for the higher-end, artisan craft distilling world which is great. One of the other things is that we’re limited to using BC agricultural products.”
That caveat surrounding ingredients is one of the biggest obstacles.
“I would love to make rum,” says De Jaray. “You can make a rum out of sugar beets and sugar beets do grow in BC but there’s just not a huge industry for them yet. Maybe if all the distillers get together and some farms start getting excited about them. But there are sugar beets grown in Alberta for example. They’re great sugar beets, they’re Canadian-made, small family-run operations similar to a lot of the stuff we’re buying. So rum is something that we can’t touch because we just can’t make it.”
For now, they’ll stick to whisky, vodka and a variety of gins. One even makes a locally-distilled Amaretto.
“Will [industry] explode? I hope so but it’s tough to say,” admits De Jaray. “The more mainstream products, your vodka primarily, there’s such an ingrained product purchase loyalty, they’ve already got that brand associated. The growth is there and we’re seeing huge growth. Is there growth? Absolutely. Is it going to take over in the next little bit? It’s so hard to say. With the specialty stuff, once we all get whiskies going and unique gins, those style products, absolutely.”
Though he says matching the overall volume of the craft beer industry will be difficult.
By: Simon Drucker (March 28, 2016)