Molson Coors has announced that it will be shutting down its beer bottling operations at the historic Vancouver brewery located at the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge.
The company says demand has been falling with more consumers desiring the tastes of smaller breweries. The Liquor Distribution Branch‘s data indicates small brewery sales rose by 43.4 per cent during the first two quarters of the year and approximately 30 small breweries have opened in B.C. since 2013.
In addition, the provincial government has recently implemented subsidies and policies that favour small breweries, including changes in how prices are marked up when small breweries grow into a new production category or increase their volume in beer production.
According to The Province, there will be no immediate impact on staffing levels until March 2015 and while operations will be reduced, the Vancouver brewery will continue to produce beer products in cans and kegs. Meanwhile, Molson Coors’ breweries in Toronto and Montreal will continue to bottle beer.
In September 2014, Molson Coors made public its plans to lay off 15 staff at its Vancouver brewery, a facility that employs about 180 people. At the time, the company also blamed competition from small breweries and said the layoffs would be “temporary.”
The Vancouver brewery was built in 1953 and sits on 7.6 acres of land worth at least $33-million. It is Molson Coors’ only brewery west of Toronto and fulfills the supply for Western Canada (up to Manitoba) and much of the United States.
Following the 2004 closure of New Westminster’s Labatt Breweries for redevelopment into the Brewery District, Molson became Metro Vancouver’s largest brewery.
For much of Molson Vancouver’s brewery history, malt and barley ingredients were shipped into the plant by freight train along the Arbutus Corridor, which terminates next to the brewery. When the trains stopped running on the Arubutus Corridor in 2001, Molson was Canadian Pacific’s only client for the route. The company has been relying on trucking for its plant imports and exports ever since the railway ceased all train operations.
Towards the end of the 2000s, the Vancouver brewery underwent a major $32-million equipment upgrade that included the installation of seven new fermentation tanks, a new bottling production line and a new bottle washer. Altogether, the upgrades in 2008/2009 boosted the Vancouver brewery’s annual production capacity to 2.2-million hectolitres or nearly 1.3-billion cans and turned 22 part-time jobs into full-time positions.
Over the long-term, it is not known whether Molson Coors will sell its Vancouver brewery, located in prime real estate, for its redevelopment potential. Either way, the area on the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge will likely become a hotspot for dense development: the Squamish First Nations holds 8.7 acres of reserve lands immediately adjacent to the brewery and has previously announced their plans to develop the vacant sites into high-density commercial and residential towers.
Feature Image: James Sherrett