British Columbia

Molson Coors opens new brewery in Chilliwack amid flat beer sales in B.C.

The Molson Coors Fraser Valley Brewery in Chilliwack is ready to start cranking out cold ones — but with overall beer sales down in B.C., it appears the market is also a bit chilly. 

Company cuts ribbon on new plant as beer faces growing competition — though craft sector is still growing

Andrew Molson, director of Molson Coors, cuts the ribbon during the opening of a new brewery in Chilliwack, B.C. on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The Molson Coors Fraser Valley Brewery in Chilliwack is ready to start cranking out cold ones — but with overall beer sales down in B.C., it appears the market is also a bit chilly. 

For more than half a century, Molson's B.C. brewery stood on the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge in Vancouver, until it was sold in 2014 to Concord Pacific for $185 million.

Construction began on the $200 million facility in Chilliwack in April 2017 and on Tuesday morning the ribbon was officially cut at the new 36-acre site on Kerr Avenue.

People tour the new Molson Coors brewery during the official opening in Chilliwack, B.C. on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The brewery, which has the capacity to produce more beer than the total amount of craft beer sold in the province in the 2018/2019 fiscal year, will brew and distribute a wide range of Molson and Coors brands, as well as Granville Island beer and "others as demand arises" according to a statement from Molson Coors.

"We have ready-to-drink products, flavoured beverages, even kombucha products," said Matthew Hook with Molson Coors. "So we're just trying to stay relevant with consumers while shoring up our important beer products we make, like Canadian and Coors Lite."

Luke Harford, president of Beer Canada, which represents Canadian brewers including Molson Coors, says beer sales in B.C. are down about three per cent compared to 2018.

Ken Beattie, executive director of the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild, said big breweries are taking a hit as customers are showing "a significant interest' in flavoured drinks such as canned spirits.

"One of the cornerstones of the craft beer industry is that innovation and that creativity," added Beattie. 

Molson Coors sold its iconic 55-year-old Vancouver brewery in 2014 to Concord Pacific for $185 million. (CBC)

Craft brewers are also encroaching on what has long been a big-brewery marketplace.

Beattie estimates the market share for craft beer in B.C. has tripled over the past seven or eight years and now represents about 30 per cent of the total amount of beer sold in the province.

"We're constantly looking at innovation and introducing new products to the market, knowing that there's interest in changing things up," said Andrew Molson with Molson Coors. 

The Chilliwack brewery will employ 100 people. 

With files from The Early Edition and Yvette Brend

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