Doan’s Craft Brewing Co.

The Spotlight is a series of interviews with the craft beer heroes behind local organizations who are helping grow the beer scene in our fine city. In this issue, we look at Doan’s Craft Brewing Company.

Doan’s has been on the radar of every Vancouver craft beer lover for upwards of two years now. When it was announced that we’d see them moving into the former Powell Street Brewing location, many people were excited to see the space returning to life with a brand new brewery. The wait is now over, Doan’s doors are flung open and production is in full swing! I was fortunate enough to get to sit down with Mike Doan recently, and had a conversation about the delayed launch, the importance of pouring honest pints, plans for growth and more. If you haven’t had a chance to go visit these guys, read below and make your way over there!

You’ve finally opened your doors – congratulations! This one has been on the radar of our local scene for a long time now; what were the obstacles that delayed your launch? 
Evan and I started out where most do – as homebrewers – and had this great idea to open a brewery. We were working in retail, and neither of us were making very much money. It took us awhile to get the funds together, get a bank on board with our business plan and what we were asking for. After that, even once we had that money, the next major obstacle was finding a location. Almost everything available was just too large, and finding a place that was the right size and and properly zoned was pretty difficult. There were some options in South Vancouver, but we realized that we just couldn’t afford them when we took into consideration the need to hire architects and engineers to get the space usable for what we needed. When we heard that David and Nicole [Powell St Brewing] were going to be moving out of this space into their new location, we decided that we’ve already been looking for a year and a half so waiting six more months to land this space was okay with us. It was already logistically set up as a brewing space, so we’d save some money and time on that. It was the answer to our prayers; our dream was finally coming true.
What was the first beer you collectively decided you wanted to brew, and what styles can we expect to see going forward?
When we first got really into homebrewing, we were doing things like Double IPAs and things like that, because our very first influence into craft beer were brews like Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute and 120 Minute, and Russian River’s Pliny the Elder. We then got really into saisons, and we originally wanted to launch with one of our own. When other breweries like Four Winds came into the scene with their killer saison, we sort of figured that maybe that ship has sailed, with so many breweries doing great versions of it. We eventually landed with the decision to make German-style beers. Our tastes have changed, and we both had a lot of love for German styles. When Occidental’s Kolsch arrived, it was one of our favorites, and it prompted us to decide to make one of our own. With our Altbier, we didn’t think it was a style that was represented really well locally, and felt that we could do a really great one. We still wanted to do an IPA, but change it up a bit and go with a Rye version. We love Rye IPAs and back in 2012, we tried one in Philadelphia and it was one of the best I’d ever had. We’re still getting our feet wet here, but we are really proud and really happy with what we’re making right now.
We definitely are inspired by the way Brassneck always has a bunch of beers on the go at any time – and we will get there too – it’d be great to have a chalkboard with eight beers listed on it. We’ve got two or three in the works that will be coming out pretty soon. Our next two brews will be our first seasonal beer. The first will be our take on a German IPA, using a couple relatively new German hops. One of them closely resembles Cascade, and the other is a bittering hop with some interesting characteristics to it. Later in the summer, we have two other seasonals we’re going to do, but we don’t want to speak about them quite yet.  By the end of summer we should have six or seven beers in our offering.
You are offering what appear to be full pint pours – something not many tasting rooms can or do. Tell us about the decision to offer a proper 20oz pint.
We’ve been CAMRA members for many years, and really believe in the push for helping people be aware of what they’re being served. It’s really important to us, and we decided very early on that we would serve real 20oz pours. All controversy aside, if you order a pint, you’re going to get a guaranteed 20oz pour. We feel our styles do really well at that size, since they’re not big beers. As far as the breweries that don’t, it’s often to do with the permits and licensing behind their operations. We’re lucky to have the licensing to do it, and seized the opportunity to do it from day one.
Powell Street moved out of this space to scale up their operation: is there a plan to handle similar growth requirements?
We’re sort of split on that right now. Evan feels like it would be nice to pass this space on to another brewery when it came time for us to expand. Similar to David, we don’t have an ambition to become a massive brewery, but we do intend to grow. I feel it would be nice to keep this location and then open up another production facility somewhere else, where we could do a 15 or 20hl system, but still have Doan’s here. We’re not entirely sure yet. I’m leaning towards keeping this space for the long term, and Evan is okay with moving on to a new space to accommodate growth. We’re not in a rush. We want to get everything running well here, break even and then look at options for the future.

Your launch comes just a few weeks before VCBW gets underway. Will we see Doan’s involved, and are there any events this summer that you will be a part of?

We will be at the weekend event at the PNE this year, pouring our launch beers. I don’t think we’ll be ready to offer casks or anything like that quite yet. We’re super busy right now and don’t have our marketing materials quite ready to put out there yet. Our other business partner is racing to figure out our banners and other materials in the next two weeks. There’s so much to get done and quickly. Regardless of that, we’ll be there with our three beers so definitely come check them out. We’ve committed to VCBW as well as in Victoria for the Great Canadian Beer Festival. We didn’t want to commit to a whole bunch of events on top of that; making sure our production can keep up with demand here at the same time as those events. Very soon we’ll be producing enough to distribute to a few accounts in the city, with the first being 12 Kings Pub, which we’re really excited about.
There have been some great local collaborations recently. Steel and Oak with Four Winds, as well as the Brews Brothers P49 collab. If you could do a collaboration with any other brewery, which would it be and what style of beer would you want to do?
It’d be hard to choose! I’d say that there are a couple of breweries that have been incredibly kind to us; sharing knowledge, yeast, hops, and their own time in helping us get off the ground. I’d want to work with them. Powell St, Parallel 49, Main Street, and Four Winds. They’ve done a lot for us here. It’d be one of those four breweries for sure and it’d be an honour to brew with any of them. As for the style? I’d want to take it up a notch. I’d want to brew something big, and something like we used to do when we first started brewing at home. Maybe a Double IPA of some kind, or another Imperial brew of some sort. Outside of local breweries, we’d love to do something with Dogfish Head. It’d be amazing to brew with them.

Doan’s Craft Brewing Company is working tirelessly to bring you some really and truly great beers. They join a growing neighbourhood of great local breweries, and is one of my new favourite hangout spots. Stop over at 1830 Powell Street and treat your tastebuds – and your liver – to some seriously drinkable beers!

Jeremy Noonan





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