Barley Mowat 

Gotta Admit It’s Getting Better

with one comment

The BC Liquor Distribution Branch, being a public body, periodically releases a bunch of numbers about the state of liquor consumption in British Columbia. These reports are generally slipped onto their website with little to no fanfare in the hopes that no one’s paying attention, but I am.

Such an attitude is to be expected, though, from an organization assigned the schizophrenic task of selling as much liquor as possible to maximize profits while simultaneously being required to hold the world-view that booze, and therefore rising sales thereof, are bad. When you think about the LDB through this lens so very many of their actions begin to make sense.

Especially store interiors that
make you feel like a rummy getting your medicine.

Enough with the psychology, already. What goodies can be found in our latest set of numbers? The LDB’s 4-times-annually market statistics publication, imaginatively named the ‘Quarterly Market Review’ contains all sorts of fun stats. Here’s my glossy overview, but definitely feel free to read the thing yourself.

People in BC are spending about the same money on booze as they did last year. It’s down a bit, but not significantly. If we wanted to characterize the BC market in a sweeping generalization (and really, who doesn’t?) things can be boiled down thusly:

Beer down slightly (although up for domestic brands), Ciders/Coolers up a lot, Spirits down, Wine down slightly

Screw the 10,000 metre view, though, I want to know how craft beer is doing! Well, folks, it’s doing well. Awesome, in fact. Of course, sales statistics aren’t reported by the LDB into “craft” and “shiite” so we have to do some interpreting. The stats we do have are based on three categories of volume: >160,000HL, >15,000 but <160,000HL and <15,000HL. The small guys are safely craft, the middle group includes some from both ends of the spectrum (GIB, Lighthouse, Phillips, and rather famously Pacific Western, etc) and the upper end is safely macro. So how do things look for your made-in-BC beer scene? (Year over Year numbers, Domestic Beer, by volume) Macro Volumes: Down 1.33% Middle Volumes: Up 9.74% Craft Volumes: Up 35.57% Yay us. Don't pop the bottle conditioned Belgian ales just yet, though. Time for a healthy dose of perspective. That 1.45% that the macros lost? That's 2,481,897 litres of beer. That's an abstract number until you realize it's about the same production volume as for all the breweries under 15,000HL combined. Not the increase, mind you, but the total annual production. The macros didn't earn their name for no reason.

Pictured: Business-ending disaster for a craft brewery; 2 hours of inconvenient insurance paperwork for a macro.

Overall, though, the trend is clear. In 2009 the macros accounted for ~91% of all domesticly produced beer sold in BC. That number has changed slowly over the years since: 89% (2010), 85% (2011), 83% (2012) and now 81%. In that time, sales of both the middle guys and the small guys have doubled. In short, the likes of MolsonCoors and AB-InBev are bleeding out, slowly.

Taking up the middle ground are a mix of the almost macros (Pac West, OK Springs, and Granville Island), but also a healthy dose of brand new and expanding true craft breweries. The domestic tiny-brewery market went up by ~29,000hl in the past twelve months. In the big scheme of things, it’s less beer than the macros could produce in a week, but on more down-to-earth scales it’s almost 100 Bridge Breweries, or 2 Parallel 49s.

And that’s just the beer we SOLD. Chronic shortages at the new breweries show that demand is exceeding supply. Want to buy some Powell Street Old Jalopy? Good luck with that. Growth in the little-guy market is large and growing: 16% (2010), 6% (2011), 11% (2012) and 36% (2013). Keep in mind that as the more successful breweries cross that magic 15,000HL boundary they stop counting on the bottom end. Even with the occasional 15,000HL hit to the bottom line, the smallest breweries just keep selling ever-larger quantities of great beer.

In short, it’s never been a better time to be a craft brewery or a craft beer drinker in BC.

Written by chuck

August 6th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Beer and You

One Response to 'Gotta Admit It’s Getting Better'

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  1. Great writing, Chuck. I can count five or six interesting things I learned from this.

    There were a couple of spots where the figures raised questions for me; what we need is a nice chart showing just how much share of BC market the Craft, Regional and Macro vendors have had over time. Maybe that exists somewhere.


    7 Aug 13 at 21:50

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