According to the provincial government, the past six years has seen the number of craft breweries in the province rise from 54 to 118 – an almost 120 per cent increase – making it one of B.C.’s fastest-growing industries.
As someone who has decided to become part of that growth, Matthew Fox thinks he knows why.
Fox is the one of three friends who co-own the soon-to-launch Beach Fire Brewing and Nosh House in downtown Campbell River, and he says the explosion in craft brewing isn’t necessarily about the beer itself – although beer is often better when made in smaller batches – but the culture surrounding brewing and the growing trend of people wanting things that are handcrafted rather than mass-produced.
“I really think craft breweries address a lot of the things people are looking for within communities,” Fox says. “Whether it’s a neighbourhood of Vancouver or a small town like Cumberland, what breweries are serving are a throwback to the old country pubs that people have maybe been missing.”
That “throwback,” as Fox puts it, is, in some ways, more about the environment than it is about what’s actually being served.
“You’ve got a relaxed environment, an inclusiveness that allows kids to come along, some food culture thrown in, and it’s really a friendly gathering place more than a place that makes beer.”
Humans are a social animal, Fox says, and as such, they have a desire to be, well, more social.
And that wasn’t happening much within the beer-drinking community before craft brewing exploded onto the scene.
“People who drank beer would buy some and take it home to watch the hockey game, or whatever,” Fox says, “but there really wasn’t an intermingling or social aspect to it, for the most part. What we’re doing is trying to bring people together. We’re here to be a space for people to meet – not just the people they came with, but also the people around them.”
The explosion in craft brewing is also partly about people simply wanting to have some of the cool experiences they have while traveling when they get home, too.
Fox says he has travelled all over the world, and these little brew pubs really serve as reflections or microcosms of the communities they are in, “and so when people get home, they go, ‘man, I wish I could have that experience here.’”
And so, people like Fox and his business partners are making that happen.
Watch the Mirror for an upcoming feature on Beach Fire Brewing, what it takes to open one of these types of establishments and how these three partners made it happen here in Campbell River.
In the meantime, to answer the question everyone is asking: yes, they are still on pace to open this fall.
Fox says he is hoping to have the doors open by Halloween, but there’s still some significant work to be done inside the building and they won’t be opening before they are sure they are ready to provide the service they want the community to be able to consistently expect from them going forward.