Central City Brewing continues 'aggressive' eastern expansion

Central City Brewing continues ‘aggressive’ eastern expansion

SURREY — A local craft brewery is expanding into new territory in Eastern Canada, as Red Racer beer attempts to take on Maritimes microbreweries that have been in operation since the early 19th century.

Surrey-based Central City Brewing began its expansion two and a half years ago with a foray into Ontario’s crowded craft beer market. Tim Barnes, vice-president of marketing and sales, is quick to admit it wasn’t an easy sell.

"Ontario’s not an easy market to break into. It’s tough for any out-of-province brand," he said. "So, unless you’re Ontario craft beer you are up against a challenge. But, you know, we’re doing it, and we’re selling quite a bit of beer there now."

Barnes said despite the competition, the U.S. is considerably harder to carve out ground in than any Canadian market. Their Red Racer brand is sold as Red Betty in 17 U.S. states to varying degrees of success.

But Eastern Canada is where the company is focusing on now, with expansion into New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and even Quebec this year with their Betty’s Iced Tea.

Up until now Central City has been using third party sales agents, but on Tuesday (Oct. 14) the company hired James Hume as new director of sales for Eastern Canada.

With multiple years of inventory, supply chain, category management and logistics management expertise, Hume’s extensive knowledge of the beer industry stems from his successful career with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). He started there as an inventory replenishment manager for the beer and cider division, and was most recently the company’s product manager for beer. 

“James brings intimate knowledge of the LCBO and the craft beer market in Eastern Canada which will no doubt ensure that we gain a bigger presence in Ontario, as well as other Eastern Canada provinces," said Barnes.

Hume has also worked for a number of consumer product companies including Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Nike Canada and McGraw-Hill Ryerson Publishing and Distribution. He was most recently the Eastern Canada sales and marketing manager for Horizon Beers.

Although Central City has an "aggressive" expansion strategy, Barnes says there’s a huge difference between craft breweries and macro breweries like Molson or Miller.

He said some craft breweries in the U.S. like Samuel Adams brews millions of hectolitres (HL) of beer each year. The lexicon of brewing has changed based on the production capacity of start-ups taking on the challenge of competing for the taste buds of beer lovers.

There are nano-breweries, micro-breweries, and regional craft breweries. Central City, with a current production limit of 50,000 HL, aspires to reach the latter designation. Barnes estimates that based on their building size and future plans, the company would have a capacity of about twice its current production.

That’s still well within the provincial limit for "small brewers" which is 160,000 HL a year.

"That’s really small. When people talk about Canadian craft breweries none of them come even close to the size of the U.S. craft breweries," said Barnes. "So, it’s a long way for every Canadian craft brewery to grow."