Finding Your Indy Beer

Budweiser Bud Light and other beer in the beverage department of a supermarket in NYC

Find the good stuff hidden behind the crap

You walk into a beer store in British Columbia. Hopefully, there is so much selection you’re overwhelmed.

So what to choose? How can you tell if your beer supports the big bad macrobreweries? If this is a concern, or if you simply want to know, here are some clues to find out if your brewery is independent or corporately owned.

Roughly 70% of all beer sold in Canada is owned by two breweries: Molson and Labatt (who are themselves owned by even larger breweries). One big trend right now is larger breweries buying out smaller breweries. This has been going on for a long time. Over the years Labatt has purchased Kokanee, Alexander Keith’s, and even Lucky Lager. Molson bought out Pilsner, Rickard’s, and recently Creemore Springs (who, yes, owns Granville Island Brewing). Not only Molson and Labbatt buy out Canadian breweries; in fact, Sapporo from Japan has bought out Sleeman’s and Okanagan Springs Brewing.

OK, those ones are obvious. But how can you tell if a beer is truly independent? Here are a few tips:

  1. Go to the edge of the beer store where beers are sold in singles or in six-packs only. Independent breweries don’t have the money or the power to place their beer in a prime location.
  2. Always read the label to find where the beer is brewed. If it says the actual city or town the beer is brewed, chances are it is independent.
  3. If you see them advertise on television, they’re probably a macro beer. Generally no microbrewery can afford to use television for advertising.
  4. If you want the taste of a basic American lager without going corporate, there are several craft breweries that produce pilsners, or go for Moosehead, which is still independent.
  5. Similar to point one, almost every beer sold in a large 650mL bottle is most likely independent craft beer.

Remember, the big breweries are always trying to buy microbreweries. They then use those beers to enter the craft beer market. A good example of a macro brand trying to dress up like a craft beer is Rickard’s (owned by Molson). They are coming out with several SKUs that look like craft beer — remember Cardigan autumn spiced lager and Oakhouse winter lager from Rickard’s? Don’t fall for it!

So follow these tips, grab your beer, and look super cool while you support local craft beer!


  1. Great article Blanch! Pretty excited for what’s to come of this blog page!

    For your readers out there, here are some other well-know local “microbreweries” to be corporately subsidized, like Granville Island Brewing: Okanagan Spring Brewery, Stanley Park Brewery, Yaletown Brewing Co, even Brewhouse High Mountain Brewing Co in Whistler.

  2. Yeah, Steamworks, Yaletown, and Brewhouse are part of the Mark James Group in Vancouver. They tried to trademark the term “Cascadian” when labelled on beer. Needless to say they’re not gonna win that battle.

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