BC Craft Beer Spotlight: Strathcona Beer Company

Strathcona Beer CompanyIn the Winter 2020-21 issue of What’s Brewing magazine, a group of industry members discussed how BC craft breweries are surviving hospitality’s harshest-ever winter with slashed capacity, frozen patios and a raging virus. One of those industry panellists was Brewmaseter Nicholas Nazarec of Vancouver’s Strathcona Beer Company, which was founded in Summer 2016. Let’s find out what Nic had to say about brewing at his soon-to-be-five-year-old company during a pandemic.

Q&A with Nic Nazarec

Q: The last time we checked in with you, there was no pandemic. Now, there is no end in sight. How did you hold up in 2020, and how busy has the brewhouse been?

Nicholas Nazarec

A: We’re pretty lucky, We had a busy spring and summer 2020 despite COVID and all the restrictions that came with it.

These days, the brewhouse is slowing down a bit, but with the time of the year it’s to be expected. To be honest it’s kind of nice not being balls to the wall crazy busy, because it lets me focus on specialty one-offs rather than just trying to keep up with the large demand for our core beers.

Q: What kind of beers are you making these days?

A. Looking at our sales, it seems people really like stronger beers in the Fall and Winter. We are keeping our Headbanger Imperial IPA and our Imperial Love Buzz Sour going all season long.

Q: How are things going in front of house operations? What is your capacity reduced to, and how is traffic for you?

A: Traffic is steady most days and we even get a line on Fridays, but going down from from 66 to 26 does hurt quite a bit.

Serving the East Van community for five years this July; a view of the tasting room in 2016

Q: Winter is a big concern for many hospitality businesses. Have you done much outdoor seating during COVID, and if so did you have a plan for the colder weather?

A: As soon as the City of Vancouver had allowed for curb-side or street patios, we were all over that, finally getting approval for a patio on 3 parking spaces around the side of our building on Campbell Ave. During the summer and beginning of fall it was great having 24 extra seats.

Due to its position however, without a roof or heater, a winter patio was not in the cards.

Q: Have you held any “virtual events”, or do you plan to in the future? Do you see much of a role for “online gathering spaces” in craft beer marketing going forward?

A: I did a virtual tasting for a company over Zoom. It was organized several weeks beforehand (to get the beer out to everyone) and that worked pretty well.

I think with people working from home more, and with social restrictions, having these kinds of online tastings or meetings could very well be used more and be very beneficial in helping people feel more connected.

Q: Do you think that COVID will permanently change people’s behaviour, and make society less trusting of close face-to-face interactions with strangers, even after vaccines emerge? Do you think craft beer drinkers are more likely or less likely to be mindful of keeping their distance than the general public?

A: With the amount of people we see coming to the tasting room even with all of the COVID restrictions, I don’t think people’s behaviour will permanently be changed. Sure, there are those that are immune compromised, or have close family who are, who will have to be more careful, and they may be more permanently impacted. Generally speaking, I think people are just watching the numbers and kind of judging the comfortability of going out and doing normal activities on a day by day basis.

Though we all love having a fresh pint on tap in the brewery, BC’s breweries can package a pretty tasty beverage to take home too. In that respect I think many people will choose to drink at home.

I think craft beer drinkers are smart people. Having said that, it does become more difficult to keep your distance once you’ve had a few.

Strathcona Beer Company


Strathcona Beer Company
895 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC

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What’s Brewing visits Strathcona not long after opening in 2016

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Beer Me British Columbia: since 2012, BC's #1 resource for craft beer reviews, BC beer industry insights and career opportunities.

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