The team behind Strathcona Beer Company have been part of the neighbourhood for so long that they can remember when one of them was able to afford to buy a house there. That’s a big deal in Vancouver, a city with one of the most expensive housing markets in the world.
“Twenty years ago, one of our partners bought a house in Strathcona so he could raise his family there,” reminisces Operating Partner Adrian McInnes. “I owned a mixed media print shop in the neighbourhood for ten years before we launched the brewery. We’ve all been part of this place for a while, and we love it.”
That place is Vancouver’s oldest and most diverse commercial and residential neighbourhood. Since 2016, Strathcona Beer Company has been representing this place with pride. That year, partners Adrian, Tim Knight, and former Brewmaster Michael “Fezz” Nazarec got to work building out what would become their brewery.
“The building was basically an empty shell, so we did what we wanted.”
What they wanted was a destination that represented the heritage of Strathcona. That meant creating a tasting room with board from concrete, a white fir bar, and table-tops featuring neon reveals.
From a cultural standpoint, the partners had a clear vision in mind when they decided to make their contribution to Vancouver’s burgeoning craft beer scene. They wanted to create a “collaborative community space” for Strathcona, a place to nurture connections between the many creative people living there. And, naturally, they wanted to brew some absolutely delicious beer.
“Fezz had a lot of experience in international beers, so we started out with a lot of offerings like Czech pilsner and English dark mild. But after our first year, we started delving into less traditional beers, and now we have a lot of fruit-forward beers, sours, radlers, modern IPAs.”
When you ask Adrian what challenges the brewery encountered in its earlier years, his answer is the same one many in his industry would give.
“Dealing with the Liquor Control Board was complicated. We had a hard time getting our lounge license at first. That meant when we first opened our tasting room, we were only able to give out samples and sell beer that people could take home. But we didn’t even have a canning line at the time!”
Typical start-up bumpiness aside, the tasting room was an instant hit. “When you’re the new kid in town, everyone wants to check you out. People liked what they saw. Our tasting room was our saviour, really. It became a place families could take their kids to.”
With a fully licensed and enthusiastically received brewery up and running, Strathcona Beer was ready to share their delectable brews with a wider market. That meant figuring out their complement of packaging solutions, which led to an (award-winning) partnership with Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC).
“Our relationship with Great Little Box Company is fantastic. When we first started out, we had a different supplier for our labels, but they would just outsource the flexographic printing. We thought, ‘Why not do our corrugated, digital, and flexo label printing all in one place?’ We have that one-stop-shop experience with GLBC now and it’s so great. There’s one team, they all talk together, and they all know the industry.”
Fortunately, Strathcona Beer and GLBC were a well-oiled machine by the time the brewery launched their “Beach” series of radlers.
“Our third summer we released Beach, and it was a huge hit. We had to ramp up production quite a bit to meet the need. Now it’s a seasonal beer. In fact, we’re going to drop Beach Light this summer. It features grapefruit and 3% alcohol content, and we can’t wait to share it.”
Neither can we! We’re so proud of the work we do with one of Vancouver’s most colourful and committed breweries.