KPU Brewing hosts virtual chat about the rise of the craft beer scene in B.C. and Canada

Canada’s first craft brewery started in Vancouver in 1982

Stan Wong, brewing and marketing instructor at KPU. (Submitted)

Stan Wong, brewing and marketing instructor at KPU. (Submitted)

For years, British Columbia has been known for its craft beer, and it continues to grow, with more than 60 breweries in Metro Vancouver alone. 

On Jan. 25, Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s brewing and marketing instructor Stan Wong shared his experience in the beer and marketing industry as part of a virtual question and answer series hosted by the university. 

The talk brought 18 attendees who asked questions about the industry and KPU’s brewing program. Wong discussed the rise of craft beer in British Columbia, diversity in the industry, and what the market could look like in the future. 

In the past, Wong said the information sessions focused on the technical and scientific aspects of the brewing process, and they wanted to show more of the marketing and sales aspect of the program and industry. 

“On one token, it’s ‘ask me anything’ from a sales and marketing perspective,” said Wong. “But I think it might be just as much a robust conversation. [The] kind of thing you would do at any bar or tasting room and just talk about what’s going on in the beer industry.” 

Before Wong entered the industry, he was a product marketing manager for Nike in Vancouver, Toronto, and the U.S. for 11 years. During that time he worked on a number of cross-promotions with beer companies, which eventually led him to work with Labatt, a large commercial brewing company in Toronto. 

In Wong’s experience, he said he likes how companies in the industry are “early adopters” and are focused on trying new things. 

“I enjoyed the beer industry equally as the sporting goods industry,” Wong said. “As craft beer was coming into a [growing] opportunity for the B.C. economy, it was a neat opportunity to share my experiences with the next generation of people in the brewing industry.” 

He says he feels that one of the special aspects of the craft beer industry is its growing diversity. 

“Whether that’s ethnicity, gender, it within itself has an initiative to be very open,” he said during the talk. “At the KPU Brewing Program, we feel we’re part of that community.” 

In addition to the community aspect the craft beer industry has, one of the memories that resonates with Wong was when KPU was named Brewery of the Year by the 2019 British Columbia Beer Awards. 

“To have KPU identified the best brewery in British Columbia was quite an honour,” Wong said. 

B.C. carries some unique moments of craft beer history, with The Troller Ale House in Vancouver being the first craft brewery in the country in 1982. Spinnakers, which opened in Victoria in 1984, was the first brewhouse that specialized in Old English style beer in all of North America. 

Before the rise of craft beer in the 1980s, the beer market was dominated by brewing companies such as Labatt, Molson, and Canadian Breweries Limited, also known as The Big Three

“And so that’s why Victoria is a bit of a hotbed for selection of beers outside of traditional Canadian beer, which is globally known for lagers and pilsners,” Wong said. 

During the talk, Wong said he sees non-alcoholic and lower-alcohol beer sales rising in the future among young adults due to them being more aware of their health. According to Cision, over 64 per cent of low to non-alcoholic beer is consumed by the 19 to 34 age demographic. 

“I hope that people walked away feeling more inspired to explore the craft beer scene and for those that are considering a career in the industry,” Wong wrote in a follow-up email to The Runner

“The beer industry is a lot of fun [and a] dynamic industry to be in.”