There’s something about the combination of craft breweries and farmers’ markets that is beautifully wholesome. For some, it’s a combination that brings the community together for fun and connection. For others, it’s like a lifeline and a symbiotic relationship of sorts.
Craft beer fans typically have a handful of cherished beer memories. You know the kind—the time you went to Oktoberfest when you were backpacking across Europe, or the time you managed to score a rare bottle of something special from your favourite brewery. I’ve got a few, but one of the best was the time in 2008 when my wife and I visited a beer festival in Nelson, New Zealand, and there was a farmers’ market outside—and you were allowed to take your beer outside into the market.
I remember stepping onto the lawn outside the festival and eyeing up carrots and beets, sipping an ale brewed with manuka leaves, and feeling transgressive. You just couldn’t do that in BC at the time.
Stopping by Persephone Brewing’s farmers’ market
Of course, our province’s liquor laws have changed (much for the better) since that time, and now sipping a beverage at a licensed market is completely and perfectly lawful. But it had been a while since I’d done it. So, the other Sunday, I put on my helmet and rode my bike up the road to my local farmers’ market, which just happens to be at Gibsons’ Persephone Brewing Company. I needed something for dinner anyway, and I was thirsty.
Persephone’s 11-acre farm property offers the perfect laid-back setting for a market. On a lawn tucked between a farm field and a pond, a handful of vendors offered a variety of goods that included jams and preserves, wood carvings, wild mushrooms, and, of course, local produce, much of it grown on the same property as the brewery. I parked my bike, bought a pint of Pollinator Pilsner, and wandered, stopping by a booth displaying handmade soaps and body care products to chat with Persephone’s market coordinator, Sophia Ballantyne.
“My favourite part about organizing the market is the vendors,” Ballantyne told me. “They’re always so happy to be here. It’s a fun place to hang out on a Sunday.”
Meanwhile, a growler of Persephone beer was making its way from booth to booth, and as the vendors filled their cups, I could see that this wasn’t empty talk.
Crannóg Ales’ farmers’ market connection is a lifeline
Persephone’s farmers’ market is in good company—many breweries across the province take part in or host their local farmers’ markets. For most, the markets are just one innovative way among many to get their products to thirsty beer fans. But for Sorrento’s Crannóg Ales, farmers’ markets have been critical to the survival of the business.
“The farmers’ markets have been a lifeline to us this year,” explained Crannóg’s co-owner Rebecca Kneen.
“Normally, most of our beer goes to pubs and restaurants, as we are a rural brewery focused on draught sales and we do not bottle or can. Finding ways to get growlers to people has been huge for us.”
At three weekly farmers’ markets (of which one—the All Organic Farmers’ Market—takes place year-round), Crannóg sells pre-filled growlers, swapping them out for empty ones brought back by repeat customers. The returned growlers get washed and sanitized back at the brewery, refilled, and sold at future markets. This system, Kneen said, keeps growlers from being needlessly discarded, and eliminates much of the waste created from packaging beer in bottles and cans.
Terrace’s Sherwood Mountain Brewhouse and the Skeena Valley Winter Farmers’ Market
Farmers’ markets help breweries reach their customers, but the relationship can be beneficial for the markets too. In 2019, Terrace’s Sherwood Mountain Brewhouse hosted the Skeena Valley Winter Farmers’ Market, providing space in its warehouse for farmers, food stalls, artisans, and live music. Market customers could come in from the snow and warm up in the market area before strolling to the adjacent taproom for a beer.
During the Northern BC winters, it is far too cold and snowy to have any fresh or artisan items outside for selling. Hosting the market in their warehouse gave local farmers and artisans a chance to showcase their winter wares to the market visitors who may not have been able to get them otherwise.
Since it worked well in 2019, they are also going to work with the farmers’ market team this year to see if they can host the winter market again starting in November or December. Here’s hoping!
Craft breweries and farmers’ markets: A symbiotic relationship
Back at Persephone, I set to work finding things to take home. First I chose a jar of dried morels from Shaggy Jack’s Wild Mushrooms, promising to return the jar next week to recover my $1 deposit. Next, I bought a hefty bag of yellow beans and a smooth, shiny green cabbage that grew a stone’s throw away in Persephone’s market garden. Finally, on an impulse, I picked up two bars of natural soap—they smelled too good to pass up.
I finished my pint, got back on my bike, and, riding away, I reflected that there really is no better way to shop for vegetables than with a delicious craft beer in your hand.
Breweries all across British Columbia participate in local farmers’ markets. Check this list to find one in your area:
Whistle Buoy Brewing and 3 Victoria Farmers’ Markets
They will be continuing with the Esquimalt Market for September, and potentially into the winter as well (depending on vendor space as there are fewer spots for the fall and winter). The TOPSOIL market has wrapped up until the Spring, but they will continue to be at the Moss Street Market until the end of October, and potentially through the winter too.
Rustic Reel Brewing Co. and Three Kelowna Farmers’ Markets
Rustic Reel Brewing Co. keeps busy with three Kelowna Farmers’ Markets, which they’ll keep participating in through September and potentially October:
Smugglers Trail Caskworks and the Fort Langley Night Market
Four Winds Brewing and the Southlands Grange Centre
Four Winds Brewing is involved with the brand new Tsawwassesn farmers’ market at a new development called the Southlands Grange Centre (which is also where Four Winds is planning a new brewery and restaurant). The market takes place every Saturday 10am – 2pm. In the winter, it will likely move inside a barn.
Lighthouse Brewing and the Esquimalt Farmers Market
Lighthouse Brewing has a longstanding relationship with the bi-weekly Esquimalt Farmers’ Market, where they have been testing a Beer Garden for the 2022 season! This is a pilot project they’ve been brewing up with the Esquimalt Farms Market.
Lighthouse is working with the market to keep the beer garden going next year, so stay tuned! The beer garden is 19+ only, with beer tickets being sold. All proceeds for beer garden sales go towards the Esquimalt Market, a wonderful not-for-profit organization.
Trading Post Brewing and the Fort Langley Farmers’ Market
Trading Post Brewing participates in the Fort Langley Farmers’ Market at St. Andrew’s Church every Saturday 10am – 3pm, from May until December. They also occasionally participate in the Langley Community Farmers’ Market, which takes place Wednesdays at Derek Doubleday Arboretum from 3pm – 7pm. This market ended September 1st, but keep an eye out next year!
Howl Brewing and Three Victoria Farmers’ Markets
Howl Brewing takes part in three Victoria Farmers’ Markets. They’re at each for at least a couple more weeks and may continue with the Esquimalt Market into the fall.
- Esquimalt Farmers’ Market (Bullen field Thursdays 4:30-7:30) Aug 21, Sept 18
- North Saanich Farmers’ Market (10990 N Saanich rd Sat 9:30-11:30) Aug 26, Sept 9&30
- Peninsula Country Market (Saanich fairgrounds Sat 9:00-1:00) throughout the summer. Sept 4&25, Oct 9
Luppolo Brewing and the Vancouver Farmers’ Markets + the New West Farmers’ Market
Luppolo Brewing participates in the Vancouver Farmers’ Markets, which run at several locations around the city all year round (they reduce to two locations from November to April). They also participate in the New West Farmers’ Market which takes place in Tipperary Park every Thursday, from 3pm-7pm, from April 1st to November 4th, 2021.
Cannery Brewing and the Naramata Community Market
Cannery Brewing participates in the weekly Naramata Community Market in Naramata. It is organized by the NaramataSlow Society. It runs every Wednesday from 4-7pm all summer long until September 29th.
NaramataSlow is committed to the farmers’ market principles of “make it, bake it, grow it”, the goal is to showcase a variety of in-season fruits and vegetables and locally made food products, as well as convenience meals, snacks and locally crafted goods.