BC Craft Beer Spotlight: Three Ranges Brewing Co.

Three Ranges LogoFrom What’s Brewing magazine’s Winter 2020-21 issue

BC’s 200 craft breweries were built to be community gathering places, forgoing TV screens in favour of long, shared tables and mingling. For now, that is no longer the advantage it was.

In the current issue of What’s Brewing magazine, a group of industry members discuss how BC craft breweries are surviving hospitality’s harshest-ever winter with slashed capacity, frozen patios and a raging virus…and what awaits them in 2021 if a wary public continues to stay home. Today, we hear from Michael Lewis of Valemount’s Three Ranges Brewing Co.

Q&A with Michael Lewis

Q: The last time we checked in with you, there was no pandemic. Now, there is no end in sight. How are you holding up, and how busy is the brewhouse these days?

Michael Lewis

A: Things were crazy in 2020. It was planned to be the year of our expansion to a bigger brewhouse. In fact, I traveled to Idaho the week before the lockdown to buy our new boiler from a brewery down there. It was sitting in storage.

We’re holding up pretty well though. The lockdown was rough, but as summer opened up and our bike park opened, things got very busy. The province’s allowance of redline area expansion was huge for us as well. We were able to use a good portion of our empty lot next to us for a big, beautiful patio area. It kept our brewhouse and the staff jumping pretty well.

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

A: Front of house house operations have slowed as winter has come rolling along. Our normal taproom capacity is 51, but with the restrictions and our safety protocols in place we’re down to 20 seats inside. Traffic is our normal slow in respect to tourism, but in the Fall we had a Transmountain Pipeline camp in town, and there was a huge benefit in increased traffic for us.

Our sales shifted to quite a bit more packaged sales both though front of house, and to outside liquor stores. It has created a production challenge for us due to the amount of time required to package. I think we’ve dealt with it pretty well. We are now cutting back on a couple of brands to allow us to make sure we keep the best selling products like Tail Slap IPA in stock.

Michael with wife Rundi

Q: Winter is a big concern for many hospitality businesses. How much outdoor capacity do you have, and do you have a plan for the colder weather?

A: Winter has been challenging for us, especially when it’s really cold. We’ve really beat our creative side up this past year coming up with ways to deal with all the restrictions.

Our answer for winter has been the addition of the two 18’ x 36’ tents. We have kept our expanded patio area with the addition of some military surplus tents with stoves in them. With the tents in place, we’re back up to 70 seats in all. We won’t have all of those full for the winter, but we hope to have a few nights a week with a packed house, socially distant of course!

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. I don’t think it will permanently change people. As humans, we crave companionship and social interaction. Beer is a great medium for that interaction. The only challenge we see is that with more beer, sometimes there is less mindfulness of the restrictions

The province has put the onus on businesses to maintain the rules. This means staff sometimes have to be the bad guys when everyone is having too good of a time. It’s a challenge, and I can see where it bothers our staff to be the fun police.

I hope that craft beer drinkers can see and respect the fact that when businesses are harping about the rules, it’s so that we can keep our doors open and continue to provide that little bit of social outlet we all need right now.

Q: What’s next on the horizon for you? Any other topic, product, community activity, or recent successes you’d care to highlight?

A. We’re focused on production expansion, to give us a bit more creative freedom on the brewing side. We hope to have the building done and a bigger brewhouse in place by this Fall. And who knows, maybe we’ll come up with the cure for COVID in the process!

Three Ranges Brewing

Three Ranges Brewing Co.
1160 5th Avenue, Valemount, BC

Memories Gallery:

What’s Brewing visits Three Ranges in Summer 2017


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Beer Me BC

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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