From natural disasters to economic shutdowns, 2021 continued to challenge us all. Still, many of BC’s local craft breweries endured. Let’s look back at some of the good, the bad, and the delicious things 2021 brought.
I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sick and tired of dealing with adversity.
Between heatwaves, wildfires, flooding, and snowmageddon (OK, I live in Victoria so any snow is overwhelming!), it felt like 2021 was just one calamity after another. And no one will forget the tragic discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at residential schools.
Astute readers might notice I didn’t even include COVID in my litany of misfortunes. When I consider how our relationship with the pandemic evolved over the past year, I almost feel like I’m looking back at a decade’s worth of events in just one year.
We started off the year in lockdown with no events or social gatherings allowed, as well as travel restrictions limiting our mobility within the province and beyond our borders. Early in January, Premier Horgan announced an immunization schedule, and by the spring, many of us were getting our first doses. I personally got mine on May 15, and what a relief that was! Later that month, BC’s Restart Plan was announced, which gave us all more and more freedom to travel and enjoy life. Personally, I celebrated with an epic bike ride over to visit two breweries in Delta with some cycling buddies.
By summer, like many others, I had my second vaccination and a lot more freedom, although the previously mentioned heatwave and wildfires certainly negated some of that positivity. Still, I managed to squeeze in a bike ride to Sooke with some friends, and my family and I even enjoyed a little getaway to Gibsons in August, where I discovered just how great Tapworks Brewing is (seriously, if you haven’t been there before, plan a trip to Gibsons later this year when travel is allowed!).
In the autumn, it seemed like many people were feeling more optimistic. In the beer world, we even enjoyed some events — here in Victoria, there were two back-to-back events on Thanksgiving weekend: Lager Than Life and Fresh to Death.
However, that optimism was fleeting because, as we all know, the new omicron variant has returned us to a near-lockdown as we await booster shots and warmer weather.
But all throughout 2021, BC’s local craft breweries endured and kept on producing delicious beer for us all to enjoy. Here’s how.
New breweries continued to open, including:
- Alberni Brewing in Port Alberni
- Beacon Brewing in Sidney
- Boardwalk Brewing in Port Coquitlam
- Devil’s Bath Brewing in Port McNeill
- Fern + Cedar Brewing in Qualicum Beach
- Galaxie Craft Brewhouse in White Rock
- Lakesider Brewing, The Office Brewery and Unleashed Brewing in Kelowna
- Locality Brewing in Langley
- Radium Brewing in Radium Hot Springs
- Studio Brewing in Burnaby
- Wild North Brewing in Creston
We were proud to award our fourth annual Best Brewery Experience Award to Vancouver’s R&B Brewing 24 years after it opened its door as one of East Van’s original microbreweries.
2021 seemed to be a big year for brewery anniversaries, with several celebrating prominent milestones:
- Nelson Brewing – 30th Anniversary
- Howe Sound Brewing – 25th Anniversary
- Mt Begbie Brewing – 25th Anniversary
- Whistler High Mountain Brewhouse – 25th Anniversary
- Cannery Brewing – 20th Anniversary
- Phillips Brewing – 20th Anniversary
During 2021, we launched several new or newly refreshed ale trails, including:
- Kelowna and West Kelowna
- North of the Fraser (New Westminster, Burnaby, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam)
- South of the Fraser (Richmond, Delta, Surrey, and White Rock)
- Northeast BC & Northwest BC
- Vancouver – Brewery Creek and Vancouver – Yeast Vancouver
In the spring we also created the Victoria Ale Trail Passport promotion, which encouraged residents to visit their local breweries, and it was a great success. Later in the fall, Vancouver’s North Shore ran a similar passport promotion, and there are plans for passports in Kelowna and elsewhere in 2022.
We published a wide range of stories on our blog: seasonal beer lists; profiles of folks who work in the industry, including Kim Lawton’s Hops Among Friends series; and a new series called “Artist Behind the Label” by Nicole McFadden that profiles some of the people who create the beautiful artwork that appears on cans and bottles in BC.
The BC Ale Trail blog also featured stories about important issues including Diversity in Brewing and the Brave Noise initiative.
Our writers covered a lot of ground so that they could share their tales in the form of travelogue-style Road Trip Tasting Notes:
- Lucas Aykroyd dives into BC’s “InBEERior Trail” – Kamloops, Shuswap & Vernon
- Andrew Findlay explores Vancouver Island’s adventure and culinary hub – Comox Valley
- Ruby Hogg explores close to home in the Robson Valley – Valemount
- Explore BC’s epic Sea to Sky with Fuel for the Sole – Sea To Sky
- Kim Lawton’s Insider Guide to Craft Beer in the South Okanagan – South Okanagan
- Noëlle Phillips explores local delights and historical sites – Maple Ridge
- Joyce Lam explores New West – the ultimate foodie, shopping and craft beer destination for urban explorers – New Westminster
- Yet Another Hill: Cycling in Search of Beer, Cider and Sunshine on the Southern Gulf Islands with Joe Wiebe – Southern Gulf Islands
- Experience Prince George family-style on this weekend getaway with Ruby Hogg – Prince George
Looking ahead, what does 2022 hold for BC’s craft beer industry?
That’s tough to say since we don’t know for sure how long COVID will stick around, and even if we do move past the pandemic, what will the post-COVID economy look like?
We do know that several more new breweries are expected to open this year, including:
- 2 Dads Brewing – Victoria
- Abandoned Rail Brewing – Penticton (Naramata)
- Bayview Brewing – Ladysmith
- Brewing August – Vancouver
- Brookswood Brewing – Langley
- Checkerhead Brewing – Shirley
- Deadfall Brewing – Prince George
- Everyday Brewing – Nanaimo
- Hornby Island Brewing – Hornby Island
- Post & Row Brewing – Dawson Creek
- Rusted Rake Brewing – Nanoose
- Shaketown Brewing – North Vancouver
- Small Gods Brewing – Sidney
- Upscale Brewing – Cranbrook
While we wait for the COVID situation to improve, let’s all continue to focus on staying close to home so we can limit exposure and support our local economies. Your hometown breweries really appreciate your support, and if by some chance you live in a rare community that doesn’t have its own local brewery, you should still be able to find BC craft beer in your local liquor store. Lots of breweries in BC will ship beer directly to you, too.
Stay posted here for more news and information about BC’s craft beer scene.
All the best at the start of 2022. Let’s hope it’s a big improvement in 2021!