British Columbia Doesn’t Love Beer?

In the news this week is a Statistics Canada report declaring that British Columbians drink less beer than other Canadians, in terms of beverage alcohol market share categories. The resulting coverage by mainstream media, which always enjoys covering beer stories, tends to highlight the implied shock and shame BC beer drinkers should feel for trailing the rest of Canada in brewski consumption.

British Columbians drink less beer than other Canadians

One imagines that their readers must think BC’s breweries should feel a pang of terror when scanning those headlines. Of course they don’t, because the news of beer’s overall market share loss doesn’t concern any brewery whose ownership resides in BC.

This week, CBC Radio Vancouver reached out to What’s Brewing/Beer Me BC for commentary on this news topic.  A small clip of the resulting audio interview (addressing BC’s stronger tendency toward craft beer over macro than other provinces) was featured on their morning show, The Early Edition with Stephen Quinn. Quinn, known to craft beer fans for his role hosting the BC Beer Awards for years, mused on the topic as well. Listen now →

Why the sky isn’t falling…yet

It’s true that BC drinkers in general are moving away from beer. Many of them are moving to spirits and cocktails—a fact exploited in the Canadian Club TV campaign below. The “ready to drink” (RTD) spirits-based refreshment beverage category (think Mike’s Hard) is among the fastest-growing in North America, and that is certainly reflected in BC, alongside its decades-long love of ciders and coolers. There has also long been a large percentage of BC drinkers who prefer wine, which isn’t surprising considering that industry’s strong presence in this province thanks to decades of growth and countless Okanagan and Island vineyards. However, it’s a fallacy to conclude that British Columbians like all beer less than other Canadians. After all, in terms of comparative market share, they definitely like a certain category of beer—the same category you like: craft beer.

The specific issue causing the fuss is that, as a whole, British Columbians just seem to dislike low quality, poor tasting and unflavourful beer more than other Canadians. Actually, BC residents don’t like boring drinks in general. They seem to want flavour and variety. For more and more of these people, cocktails and refreshment beverages are the answer. But for some others, the answer is craft beer, which provides flavour and variety but is still the “people’s drink”, with an attached social culture that the other beverages simply don’t posess. This has resulted in a craft beer scene that is the most developed in Canada.

Last summer, we reported that the Angus Reid Institute polled Canadians and found British Columbia was far and away the province most interested in craft beer. Over 25% of beer sales in BC is now from independent craft breweries, and that’s the highest in Canada. So the conclusion is that BC drinkers are just more refined, on average, than those East of the Rockies. We drink less beer, but better… an idea Quinn endorses, as well as The Georgia Straight in its coverage.

It’s true that the explosion in number of small breweries entering the market is slowing, not only in Canada but in the US and the UK as well. But craft beer is still growing steadily as a percentage of overall beer sales across the Western world, while macro beer sales steadily decline. It’s a bad time to be a giant beer company, but a good time to be a well-planned, fiscally viable, talented independent brewery in BC.

Survey says: BC the most craft-crazy province in Canada

What is the Market Share of Craft Beer In BC?

Categories: Business Of Beer

About Author

Dave Smith

Editor of Beer Me BC and What's Brewing Magazine. Writing credits include The Publican, BC Ale Trail and the BC column for the Northwest Brewing News. Accredited Member of the BC Association of Travel Writers. Craft beer fan since the late 1990s, CAMRA BC member since 2004. Along with wife Ivana, he travels Cascadia as half of the beer duo BeerSeekers.

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