Now that BC liquor laws have shifted to benefit craft breweries (http://bit.ly/Ydw14O) we can begin thinking about how craft beer can take advantage of the culinary tourism trend growing in BC. Finally craft beer is being recognized on the same level of wine — and since wine-tourism has taken off in recent years, surely craft beer will follow the same path.
So what would craft beer tourism look like? Well, there are several points to consider:
1. Breweries should be in a cluster
For convenience, a destination hosting craft beer tourism should have a variety of breweries within the city. In BC, cities like Vancouver and Victoria are poised to immediately take advantage of craft beer tourism because they have many, many breweries. Towns with single breweries could still host tours and activities, but there would be a lack of diversity to really establish the town as a centre of brewing activity.
Unlike vineyards, which thrive in specific environments, breweries can essentially pop-up anywhere. This is a reason why regions like the Okanagan, Napa, and Sonoma are all destinations for wine-tasting: the vineyards are clustered. The same thing applies with cities housing many craft breweries.
Currently, Vancouver is set to create quite the cluster in the Main Street area, with the likes of Brassneck, 33 Acres, Main Street and Red Truck. Another cluster is around Powell Street with Parallel 49, Coal Harbour, Powell Street Brewing, and Storm. The more one can walk between breweries, the better.
2. Each brewery should offer something unique
This one is a no-brainer, but it is still worth mentioning. Because the process of brewing the beer is more-or-less the same among all of the breweries, each brewery should offer its guests something that sets themselves apart. This may include giving the guest the opportunity to take part in the brewing process, or have a unique tasting room that reflects the brand. Chances are the breweries already offer a certain type of beer that is not available anywhere else, so there is usually something that will always set themselves apart.
A proven success for many tourism businesses is to partner with other businesses. This can include partnering with the various food trucks around Vancouver, which could provide sustenance for the many sud sippers in the brewery. Other partnerships could include various tour companies — a brand new tour company called Vancouver Brewery Tours is set to begin operating brewery tours of Vancouver. This is a great business idea in these revolutionary times, and the breweries need to get on board with them. Even basic city tours should look at providing something revolving around beer tours.
Another way to build craft beer tourism is for the breweries to become a member of a local DMO (Destination Marketing Organization) such as Tourism Vancouver or Tourism Surrey. Here they could be put in the spotlight to anyone who comes to Metro Vancouver as an attraction to check out. This would target beer drinkers who may not know about craft beer, but are interested enough to check it out — next thing you know, more conversion takes place.
4. Build with tourism in mind
With the explosion of craft beer popularity, and the promise to open tasting lounges in the breweries, there is an expectation for the brewery to have a place to drink their product. New Vancouver breweries should make sure that in their design they create a decent lounge for craft beer fanatics to sit and enjoy the beer.
Further, existing breweries who do not have this should look into investing in renovating their existing location to accomodate a tasting lounge. However, some breweries, like Victoria’s Driftwood and Hoyne, have no real space to take advantage of this, and to expand would be a major investment. Although, considering the popularity of Driftwood beer, if there was a proper tasting lounge on site, they could expect a full room most nights.
After talking with people in Vancouver’s tourism community, it’s very evident that craft beer tourism is a skew of tourism that continues to fly under the radar. However, in the last year, awareness of craft beer among non craft beer drinkers has skyrocketed. There are people travelling to Vancouver from all over Canada and the United States, and when they get here, they go straight for the breweries. Word of mouth draws travellers to Vancouver specifically because they’ve heard about the burgeoning beer scene.
And if the media coverage of this year’s Vancouver Craft Beer Week is any indication on the greater awareness of craft beer in Vancouver, then we can expect craft beer tourism to explode in the next year.