The Lower Mainland is no stranger to craft beer. After all, Canada’s craft beer movement was born in British Columbia. Horseshoe Bay Brewing was founded in 1982, followed two years later by Granville Island Brewing. Three decades on and the province boasts over fifty breweries and at least a dozen brewpubs.
One of BC’s many breweries is Central City Brewers, a 65,000 square foot facility that calls Surrey home. They can vouch for craft beer’s increased popularity. This year alone they’ll produce an estimated two million 6-packs with an aim to increase that number to 5 million in the next few years. Central City is a community staple, hosting an annual Winter Beer Festival, a Cask Ale Festival in the summer, and providing a number of local establishments with their brews.
Gary Lohin, Central City’s brewmaster was a home brewer in the 80s when the first wave of craft brewing started. The industry came knocking and he never looked back, beginning his career at the original Whistler Brewing Company. Lohin’s a traditional brewer. You won’t find him adding unconventional flavours like lemongrass to his beer. What you will find from the Central City Brand is consistency, quality, value for money and choice. Lohin, like a butcher or baker, plays a key role in providing the community with a quality product that brings people together, but he’s a behind-the-scenes kind of guy.
We asked Lohin what he thinks has caused the craft beer movement’s following to grow so exponentially. He attributes it in part to the growing selection of craft beer.
“People in BC have broader palates, probably due to the variety of ethnic food options here in the lower mainland,” he explains. “They are open to more flavours and enjoy variety in their beers.” The trend in supporting small local businesses has also played a part, as well as an evolving economic climate. Lohin also credits the wine industry for introducing people to different styles and encouraging them to refine their palates. But we’re here to talk about BC’s booming beer business where according to Lohin, there’s still room for improvement.
“The hop industry is starting but is hard to get consistent and the farmers don’t have enough supply for the demand. No farms in the province can currently sustain what they need for production.” However, Lohin’s favourite ingredient needs no improvement. “Water – the water is great here! It’s some of best brewing water in the world.”