Sunday, May 2, 2010

Canada Craft-Brew Stats Follow-up

I recently remarked on the state of Canadian craft-beer industry stats. To recap: CBC reported drops in beer sales, but rises in wines and spirits sales = "sophisticated" shift in boozing habits. I whined at the lack of dedicated statistics on the craft-beer industry in Canada that might show that craft beer is doing better at the macros' expense. The US has stats to show that craft beer is doing very well. Where are ours?

Well, having read my post, Rick Green (formerly of the Craft Brew Association of BC) was kind enough to send me a detailed email about this issue. It basically backs up two suspicions:
1. collected stats on Canadian craft brewing are inadequate
2. however, some regional stats indicate that the craft beer industry is probably doing extremely well, and certainly out-performing the big boys.

Here's how Rick tells it:
Hi Dan,

Regarding your post on Craft Beer Stats, I wanted to comment...
...Canada is a patchwork of craft brewer organizations. There isn't a national body, like in the US. The Brewers Association of Canada consists of the large brewers. That makes it difficult analyzing the Canadian craft beer market overall. The BCLDB is the best source for provincial stats, as the membership of the Craft Brewers Association of BC does not include all craft (aka "cottage") breweries and brewpubs and, therefore, is not privy to the individual stats of the non-members. See the LDB's Quarterly Market Review for the most up-to-date figures.

As you've discovered, what StatsCan reports is actually quite off the mark as to what is really going on. In the latest issue of the Quarterly Market Review, you will notice that the volume increase of craft beer sales in BC over the same quarter last year, is the largest of all categories tracked. So what was StatsCan saying about declining beer sales?

This isn't the first time StatsCan has reported on the "decline of beer." The same story was told last year, about which I commented on my blog. Most of what I wrote is still relevant, perhaps even more so as I feel the embracing of craft beer is picking up here...

Thanks Rick!

It is worth looking at the stats Rick kindly points us to. The document is the BC Liquor Distribution Branch Quarterly Market Review (most recent of which is for December 2009). It gives a picture of alcohol sales in BC, with more detail than the StatsCan stuff. Now, the doc doesn't refer to "craft-beer" specifically, but does break down domestic beer sales into two important categories: sales by companies who produce more than 100,000 hectolitres per annum, and those that sell less.

I'm not so sure this can be taken as the threshold for "craft" status. In a recent interview with Jason from Driftwood, he said:
We have to keep reminding ourselves what a microbrewery is, it's supposed to be a reaction to massive, mass produced, mass-marketed beer. Is it a microbrewery when it's doing 20 thousand hectolitres (HL) a year?
A microbrewery must typically produce less than 18,000 HL per year. "Craft brewery", however, is a term that describes a certain philosophy of beer-making. Although there's a correlation between smaller-scale breweries and craft-beer producers, they are not directly equal. So it isn't straightforward to say that the "under 100,000 HL" category equates to craft breweries, but it gives you a pretty good idea.

That said, the stats are pleasing. Here's a graph showing year on year sales in thousands of litres in the domestic beer market in British Columbia:

It's a crap graph — I can't use excel properly. But it does show a downward trend in sales of the largest macro breweries, but an upward trend in sales by breweries who sell less than 100,000HL a year. Between 2005 and 2009, "macro" sales fell from 218,629,602 litres to 206,218,424 litres. In the same time, "micro" sales grew from 19,762,929 to 29,835,897.

That's an increase of 50%. If even a portion of that increase represents smaller, true craft-breweries (whatever that means to you) — then it looks like things are looking very rosy for the "sophisticated" beer drinkers in BC. Plus, by my estimate, at this rate, by 2035 craft-breweries will outsell macro breweries! (my B+ in stats was a sympathy grade...)

Note: Oh, and Dave — Rick says: "I have resigned from my position with the CBA. I don't have any current plans to move to Asia. However, my new venture is a travel company focused on Asia, so I expect I will be spending more time there."


  1. The Northwest Brewing News said Rick was going leaving them for an Asian Travel Adventure. I assumed that meant travel to Asia and adventure.

  2. We don't have stats on sales of craft beer in Canada, but we do have every craft brewery location on our map - I could give you numbers per province if you'd like...


  3. Thanks pqjulie, that'd be nice.
    Oh, just a heads up - the locations for Driftwood Brewery and Phillips Brewery in Victoria are incorrect. Phillips moved from Esquimalt to Government Street some time ago, and Driftwood is on hillside to the west of Government Street, not to the east. Otherwise the locations are good.

    You can email the numbers to me: dplett [at] gmail [dot] com

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  8. any idea where i can find a domestic vs craft comparison from 2009 till now?