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. 

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.

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.

But 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.

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

Steven Senne/The Associated Press

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

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.

In a statement, Molson Coors said the beer industry is evolving and the company's goal is to "be able to meet the emerging consumer tastes."

The Chilliwack brewery will employ 100 people.