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Joe Biz – Five Roads Brewery tasting room

By Joe Leary

Published 1:14 PST, Fri November 24, 2023

Joe Leary, a well-known veteran broadcaster, writer, television and radio personality since 1977, is joining the Richmond Sentinel as a contributing writer. He is the managing editor of Brian Jessel BMW – Magazine and the host of Canada’s original dedicated beer radio broadcast and podcast Just Here for the Beer since 2010.  

In brewing parlance it’s known as a ‘Satellite Tasting Room’. In essence, it’s an adjunct to the brewing company’s primary facility, but housed in a separate location and catering to; and attracting beer drinkers, via a secondary market. In other words, it’s the same brand and beer styles coming from the brewer’s home base, but in a separate area that doesn’t require a production component on premise to create the beer.

It’s simply a secondary point of purchase and an additional revenue stream.

And the concept has caught on.

In the Richmond area, Five Roads Brewing is the first such operation to add a secondary location to its portfolio, having found a quaint spot located in Steveston Village. Co-owners, Charlie Chakal and Aaron Fourt opened the doors of Five Roads Brewing in 2018 at their original home base on 202nd Street in Langley. It marked only the second brewery in the City of Langley; an area that today boasts a total of ten. 

Like virtually every other area before it, growth in the BC Craft Beer industry more than tripled and even quadrupled over the course of a few years time. The brand name ‘Five Roads’ emanates from the nearby five roads that intersect within the Langley beer community.

Being from Britain and known to enjoy the odd pint, Chakal wanted to create that kind of ‘Cheers’ environment and atmosphere within a second location. Being a Richmond resident for the past 35 years, it seemed natural to source out a locale within the vicinity. “We opened the satellite tasting room in Steveston in 2020 at the start of COVID-19,” he says, of the cozy 35 seat facility on Number One Road in Steveston. “We wanted a ‘Cheers’ style based on a British Pub; a small, intimate and welcoming environment; and very local”.

“The most important part to us is being part of the community. When someone walks into our bar they sit down and they see a neighbour and they chat with that person next to them, as we are so compact here.

The feeling is that you can walk in here at anytime, sit down and someone will talk to you.” With the Richmond area beer scene now numbering four facilities, not including nearby Delta breweries, Chakal has been on the lookout for where to house a second location and actually had his sights set on the Steveston facility for some time. “It had been a restaurant, burger joint, a wine bar and a number of businesses prior so I thought, why wouldn’t craft beer work here?’ Short answer: it does. 

 Having a second facility to sell additional product can place a greater demand on the brewing team. “It does because aside from looking after their own tasting room they have to worry about our second location”.

Oddly enough, while both locations sell the same product, beer preferences vary from Langley to Steveston. “Our best seller here in Steveston is our German Lager,” he says. “In Langley, it’s our ‘Permanent Resident IPA’, which was our first Gold Award-winning beer at the Canadian Craft Brewers Association.”

Chakal also notes that having two separate locations actually helps each other. “We get a lot of crossovers where people actually say to us that they live in Langley but pop in and see us here in Steveston and vice versa”. Despite the pace and volume of growth within Craft Beer, the system of governance in BC remains somewhat antiquated with respect to such a thriving industry. Breweries face the same constraints of every other business but with less freedom, given the nature of the product sold. With increased costs of all goods required to brew, added to the recent wage hikes, it can be a pretty expensive proposition to invest in the beer scene. Current BC Government regulations however, do allow up to three satellite tasting rooms per brewery. Five Roads now has one; which begs the question: one of more, to come?

“We are hoping,” he says. “We look at the demographics; the age, how many tasting rooms there already are in an area as a lot has changed in local craft beer during its growth. A lot of breweries now make decent lager, which everyone can drink; everyone makes light beers and we just made an IPA which is 2.5 percent ABV (Alcohol by volume). There’s really something for everyone in craft beer.  

The whole tasting room experience has changed exponentially over the years. Initially, they were merely a picking up point for the craft beer products they created. From being a place to simply fill-up a ‘Growler’ to go, they gradually grew to welcoming customers to consume beer on premise. With the advent of more breweries and a certain degree of relaxation on some stringent limitations early on, tasting rooms and satellite facilities today are much more customer-oriented, both in range of other consumables such as wine and spirits, plus the addition of more dining choices. With weekly events such as live music performances, trivia nights and the like, they have really shaped the BC beer scene and made the experience all the more enjoyable. 

@joeleary, X, @reallyjoeleary

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