Barley Mowat 

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Known Shadow Brands

with 11 comments

Crap, this is hard. The concept of shadow brands is, as I alluded to in my intro post, no where near cut and dry. Trying to present this information in a format that even approaches readable is basically impossible, so I’m just going to barf it all out here and let the Intertubes deal with it.

Before we get going, though, I should at least attempt to explain my reasoning. I considered a few key sources of evidence when compiling this. Those sources, in no particular order, are:

  • Which breweries are owned by whom, usually determined via Wikipedia or Ratebeer
  • What breweries are licensed to produce beer, according to the LCLB
  • Who the LDB is paying for said produced beer
  • My ass. Yup, pulled some of this out of there by dead reckoning. What, you expected journalistic integrity? Have we met?

So, if your label claims to be made by a brewery that isn’t licensed to make beer and certainly isn’t selling beer to the LDB, odds are you’re on this list.

Anyway, here goes. Here are the obvious beers in BC where who it says, or implies, brews the beer on the can (and it usually IS a can) is different from who actually brews it. In some cases, like Red Racer, you’ll notice the word “brewery” isn’t in the title anywhere, although “Central City” sure is tiny on the back. In others, like most of the Pacific Western brands, there IS brewery in the title but at least they acknowledge who brews it somewhere on the can. Others, like the various Allen brands and Turning Point, try to create the impression of a whole new, craft brewery that simply doesn’t exist.

I’ve left off some of the “purer” brands, like Cantebury for instance, just because they’re not trying to fool you and honestly I don’t want to write “Cantebury” more than twice in my life, and frankly they’re mostly Pacific Western anyways. Red Racer is here just because I like their cans.


Damnit! Gams! I meant gams! Sexist slang is HARD!

Beers where the can claims/infers being brewed by someone other than who actually brews it
(Click header to sort)

Brand Brewed By (on can) Who actually Brews it Brand Type
Big Surf Big Surf Beer Prohibition Shadow
Black Loon Black Loon Granville Island Shadow
Bone Beer Bone Beer Prohibition Shadow
Bowen Island Bowen Island Northam Historic
Red Racer Central City Central City Brand
Hell’s Gate Hell’s Gate Turning Point Shadow
Stanley Park Stanley Park Turning Point Shadow
Steamworks Steamworks Dead Frog Contract
Main Street Main Street Russell Contract
Granville Island (12oz) Granville Island Molson Contract
Hops & Robbers Double Trouble Dead Frog Contract
Scandal Scandal Pacific Western Shadow
Shaftebury Shafebury Okanagan Historic
Cariboo Cariboo Pacific Western Historic
Red Truck Not Packaged Red Truck Brand
Sailor Hagars Sailor Hagars Howe Sound Contract

Who owns which breweries
(Click header to sort)

Now let’s talk ownership. Some of those brewers up there might have brick and mortar breweries, but they sure don’t own them. This is a list of all breweries in BC that are owned upright by another entity. That parent might be a bonafide brewery themselves (like GIB/Molson) or they might be a holding company (like Prohibition/Allen). My head hurts.

Also, some of these subsidiaries are quasi-independant, in that they have their own staff, own brewery, and then set their own direction independently of their fiscal overlords. In some cases (like GIB), the LDB even pays them out as a separate company.

Brewery Is owned By Parent Brews Quasi Independent
Prohibition Allen Brands No No
Granville Island MolsonCoors Yes Yes
Columbia Labatts (AB-InBev) Yes No
Okanagan Sleeman (Sapporo) Yes Yes
Whistler Northam Yes (as Bowen) No
Red Truck Mark James No No
Turning Point Mark Anthony Yes (not just beer) No

So there you have it. I probably missed a whole bunch, so swear at me below.

Written by chuck

July 11th, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Write In to Support Brewery Lounges

with 54 comments

UPDATE 3 — Oh, I see, they weren’t done counting. A further 522 for, and 8 against. Yeah, that makes it, let me get my calculator here… uh… 832 for, 70 against. Over 10:1. Yeah, that’s a win in pretty much any sport.

UPDATE 2 — Motion passed! Now they just have to enact the sucker!

UPDATE — The deadline to submit comments has passed. Thanks everyone for your support. The end tally is: 282 form letters in support, 61 form letters opposed, 28 personal letters in support, 0 personal letters opposed. Crushed it.

The big vote on brewery lounges is tomorrow at city council, and what was looking like a slam dunk on the side of awesome is now in jeopardy. The short version of that link is that a group of people (the Campaign for Culture) feel the proposed restrictions on are bad. I’m not going to pick a fight on that particular issue; the three restrictions, while reasonable, are totally just a salve to make lounges less threatening to bars. For the record, the three limitations are:

  1. Must close by 11pm
  2. Must be smaller than 860 square feet
  3. Cannot host more than two special events per month

What I am going to take issue with, though, is CFC’s approach of “if we can’t get what we want, we’re taking the ball and going home.” Yup, they are fighting against allowing lounges AT ALL unless those three restrictions are removed. Honestly, it’s like being three months into a relationship and refusing first time sex with your girlfriend because she won’t let you put the horse in the bathtub full of jello.

Having brewery lounges at all is so vastly better than NOT having them, that we’ll take this amendment, horse-less jello tub and all. (What? No horse? What about a goat?) While, yes, an amendment lacking those restrictions would be even better, what would be much worse is the many months of additional time it would take to get it. We have two awesome breweries about to open in Brewery Creek (33 Acres and Brassneck), both of which are absolutely counting on their lounges to generate much-needed revenue to stay afloat.

The other dirty little secret is, of course, that the current batch of breweries don’t even want those three restrictions lifted. None are proposed for more than 860 sf, and none want to be open past 11pm. That’s what pubs are for, and brewery lounges are absolutely not pubs.

Anyway, enough prelude. The whole point of this post is to get people to send emails to the mayor and council supporting this amendment. Those cranky bastards at CFC are doing this on their side, resulting in 12 letters against to just 1 for. I’ve taken all the hard work out of this for you, and drafted a form letter you can use below.

To make it even easier, I’ve created a one click link for you. This should open up a pre-written email in your favourite email writing program. Customize the letter, or just sign your name and hit send. (Or don’t, because the deadline has passes)

If that link doesn’t work for you, the email address you want is mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca and the letter is below. Please folks, do this. It’s actually important.

Dear Sirs/Mesdames:

I am writing you today in support of amending the Zoning and Development By-Law to allow lounge use accessory to a Brewing or Distilling use.

The burgeoning craft brewing and distilling industry supports a key demand of local residents: to purchase merchandise from, and thereby support, local businesses.

Vancouver residents increasingly recognize the quality products being produced by local breweries and distilleries, but unfortunately have to retire to their homes to enjoy these products beyond a small sample. Allowing lounges will encourage a sense of community around these new businesses, as well as award local producers a much-needed revenue stream, encouraging further expansion of this new niche.

Additionally, our rapidly increasing local brewery and distillery scene has drawn the attention of visiting tourists, many of whom are dismayed to learn that the extent of their sampling is limited to a single sample per day. Adopting an amendment that will erase this restriction, and bring Vancouver breweries and distilleries more inline with businesses in other jurisdictions will be extremely beneficial to local businesses and residents.

I trust that you will consider the interests of both local businesses and residents when you take this matter under consideration on July 9th, and vote in favour this amendment.

Yours truly,

Written by chuck

July 8th, 2013 at 8:20 am

Posted in Beer and You

Intro to Shadow Brands

with 8 comments

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately into pretty much every brewery in BC, in an attempt to figure out who actually brews what beer. While on the surface this task might seem to involve going to each brewery’s website, and writing down their big ole list of beers, in reality it’s quite hard (in reality, I pulled liquor licenses and financial records on some to follow the money… I am not kidding. Side note: you brewery owners sure lease a lot of your family cars).

You see, for whatever reason, some breweries tend to lie about what beers they brew. Not all of them, mind you. Not even most of them. A small minority, though, seem to think that actually admitting what beer they brew would be bad… somehow.

Thus enters the concept of a “Shadow Brand”: a beer that sure looks like it’s made by an independent brewery, but in reality is just rolled off the assembly line between batches of Big Brewery Beer #3 and #4.

So it’s simple, right? Find out all cases where the brewer isn’t the same as the brewery on the side of the can and we’re done! Whoa. Not so fast. Turns out this is more complex than anyone thought. So, as a precursor to my big list o’ shadow brands (coming soon, I swear), I will first talk about a few select examples to show how hard this all is.

Example One: Driftwood Brewing

Driftwood Brewing, founded in 2008, is still run by the owners out of its original location to this day. It is absolutely, most certainly not a shadow brand in any way. Had you worried, didn’t I? But I had to establish the negative case. Everyone after this is to a varying degree not independent.

Example Two: Red Racer

Again, no such company, but you wouldn’t expect it to be as “Red Racer” is quite clearly a brand of beer and not a brewery. At no point does the can say “Red Racer Brewery” anywhere, and the back of the can quite clearly identifies itself as brewed by Central City Brewing. The relationship isn’t as perfectly obvious as Driftwood, but it’s still decently clear.


I think it’s somewhere up on her thigh, if only the skirt would move a bit more…

Example Three: Cariboo Brewing

Cariboo Brewing does not exist. It did exist, a long time ago, and it produced an eponymous lager similar to the one that still bears its name today. In the mid-50s, though, CWB went belly-up and was purchased by the more familarily named Pacific Western Brewing Company. PWBC, though, elected to keep “Cariboo Brewing” as a brand, and further elects to accurately identify themselves (PWBC) as the brewer on the side of their cans. If you’re wondering why this is different than Red Racer, it’s the “Brewing” in the Cariboo name.

Example Four: Main Street Brewing Company

Also on the list of breweries that does not actually exist is Main Street Brewing Company. Despite their flagship Main Street Pilsner being nearly ubiquitously available all around the lower mainland, the reality is that its brewed by Russell Brewing under contract from MSBC, a brewing company that doesn’t operate a brewery or even have a license to produce beer (yet; that changes later this year). Personally, I think this is a good way for small breweries to get off the ground and finance their start-up, but it’s still misleading.

Example Five: Granville Island Brewing

Now it gets complicated. Molson owns GIB, but GIB is still a separate company, with separate offices, separate employees and yes, a separate brewery. The trick, though, is that the vast majority of GIB’s beer is produced by Molson under contract (anything in a 12oz is brewed in the big Molson plant on Burrard). The owner/ownee relationship complicates this, though, making this slightly more than just a contractor/contractee relationship as per MSBC. Usually the contractee, for instance, gets a say in what beer is made and how much.


If you’re going to play dom/sub, at least use a safe word. Otherwise you get this.

Example Six: Big Surf Beer Company

This one’s a bit stickier. Big Surf has been quietly brewing a not-awful lager up in Kelowna for a few years, with fairly small distribution. This year, though, they launched a parallel line but neglected to use the words “Big” or “Surf” anywhere on the bottles. That line is labelled as “Prohibition Brewing Company.” So this is a clear shadow brand, right? It is, but not in the way you think it is. Turns out their license to produce beer is under Prohibition, not Big Surf, so it’s Big Surf that’s the shadow (both beers are distributed by “Allen Brands,” named after owner Dan Allen–see how murky this is getting?).

Example Seven: Stanley Park Brewing

At last, a pure shadow brand. This meets all the things we’re looking for: There is no such brewery as Stanley Park, there is no brewery IN Stanley Park, the bottle makes several misleading statements about the brewery’s history and production, and nowhere on the bottle does it make mention of the actual brewery: Turning Point Brewing (perhaps more famous for their Hell’s Gate Lager… and for being down by the sewage treatment plant). Turning Point, for their part, is owned by Mark Anthony Group, perhaps best known for Mission Hill Vineyards, but also responsible for a whack of other products.

– – –

So that’s seven, count them, seven categories of brewery. From the straight-up “brewed by the owners” approach of Driftwood all the way down to the “this tested well in marketing, and new beers outsell old beers, so let’s invent a brewery” of Stanley Park. I will now assign terms describing each of these classes of brewery, so that when I drop the big ole list on you later you’ll know which is which.

1. Driftwood is an INDEPENDENT BREWERY
2. Red Racer Beer is a BRAND
3. Cariboo Brewing is a HISTORIC SHADOW BRAND
4. Main Street Brewing is a CONTRACT BREWERY
5. Granville Island Brewing is an OWNED BREWERY
6. Big Surf Beer is a SHADOW BRAND
7. Stanley Park Brewing is a SHADOW BRAND (BUT EVIL) (preview: it’s just them in this category)

Clearly, I have not mentioned everyone in the province, so please don’t raise your hands in a chorus of “b-b-b-ut!” just yet, and yes, there are more subtle variations in each class. I’ll deal with that in a later post, I swear.

For now, though, let’s conclude with a discussion about why, fergordsake, would anyone want to do this? New labels cost money, new bottle shapes cost money, paying a company in Toronto to hold your domain listings anonymously costs money. Why go to all the bother?

Well, with branding comes reputation. Brew good beer and people will associated “Good” with your product. Brew bad beer and, well, you get the picture. The problem, though, is that pretty much all beer is profitable. Good beer’s habit of being increasingly profitable and taking more of the market leads to things like Shock Top (AB-InBev), because the public is more likely to try something if the marketing is also high-end, and distanced from your existing budget brands. Be honest, would you have tried a Hell’s Gate Wit?

It works the other way, too. Brew okay-to-good beer, but want a slice of that macro-esque, cheap swillin’ lager scene? Yet you don’t want to associate your existing brand with macro swill? Then you can invent Black Loon Brewing, a brand that has nothing Granville Island about it. At least it pays for the bomber program.

Next week: the big list.

Written by chuck

July 4th, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Posted in Beer and You