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 Bainbridge Liquor Store.
Over the course of 2015, British Columbia has seen significant changes to the cost of craft beer at retail. Despite the affirmations by our government that consumers and retailers would not be impacted by the price increases brought forward by liquor law reforms, you and I know this has not been the case. Retailers have been forced to rethink what beers they order and give shelf space to because of the imbalance in markups, resulting in less variety and ultimately limiting the selection you would otherwise have.
Fortunately, this hasn’t deterred some of our finer private liquor stores – and Bainbridge Liquor is a great example of this. A big, bright store boasting a selection that has held its’ own against shrinking craft beer shelf representation, I spoke with Aaron Bourcier, manager and impassioned craft beer advocate. “Coinciding with my taking over of the store in September 2014, we decided to greatly improve upon our selection of craft products. With the expansion of the craft beer scene further out from the core of Vancouver, and so many new breweries popping up around then, it seemed like the time was right to give the city of Burnaby a store that focused on local and craft.”
Local breweries are well represented here, as are a large number of American and European imports. “I could see the parallels happening out here to when I was part of the early days of Brewery Creek, and how the area just needed a place that represented the changing tastes and interests of the community” said Bourcier. “We are currently offering over 350 different craft products”.
Their store is being managed by a group that is clearly passionate about the craft ecosystem, and are acutely aware of the challenges being introduced by the changes made to our liquor laws this year. “None of the changes have been positive for the industry” remarked Aaron. “There is no such thing as a ‘level playing field’ when one side has to deal with its main distributor also being its main competitor.” This is a sentiment that , though felt by most private retailers across the province, hasn’t been expressed nearly publicly enough. I personally find it both refreshing and admirable to hear these sentiments being aired by a business serving its’ local community, because it does need to be heard – and not just by consumers. “We should be embracing and celebrating our local products, and making them accessible for people to enjoy on places like our beaches and parks.”
Upon visiting the store, you will see this statement reflected loud and clear. A large selection curated by staff who are quick to encourage customers to try something new, and who can speak to the importance of local representation at fair, honest prices. In places outside of Vancouver proper, this is especially important, for it encourages cities to look at the economic advantage to support our community and the success of its’ small businesses.
On a lighter note, I asked Aaron the question I ask most of the subjects of our Community Spotlight: Which two BC breweries would he like to see collaborate? His answer was interesting, in that I hadn’t heard it before. “It may be self-serving and slightly changing the question, but I’d like to see more of the draught-only producers collaborating so I can get some of their stuff into my fridge at work – and at home! Crannog with Powell Street, Brassneck with Driftwood, and Storm with Townsite, for example.”
Bainbridge Liquor Store offers active CAMRA members 10% off their craft beer purchase. They also feature in-store tastings on Fridays and some Saturdays. They also offer a great selection of craft ciders and local spirits, and encourage readers to visit their Facebook and Twitter pages for regular updates on new product arrivals.
Jeremy Noonan – CAMRA Vancouver Community Liaison