I recently completed my master’s thesis at the University of Toronto in landscape architecture on the relationship between craft beer, sustainability and community (as reflected through and facilitated by the landscape). Through my research, I discovered countless examples of breweries in the Lower Mainland and across B.C. which are enhancing community through both social and economic means.
Craft breweries afford the opportunity to facilitate connection between local businesses and compound benefits.
I first noticed this in 2013 at 33 Acres Brewing in Vancouver - serving their own fresh beer brewed in-house but also serving baked goods from local bakery Nelson the Seagull, coffee from local roaster Matchstick, chocolates from Vancouver-based Beta 5, jerky from BKH up the street on Fraser, etc.
It was truly a cooperative endeavour that reflected the skilled producers across the city. In the tasting room, local creatives mixed with industrial workers and young families, and lately more retirees during the quieter daytime hours. I should note this same dynamic exists at Four Winds’ current Tilbury location despite its distance from any significant population.
This trend also remains true in more rural areas, taking, for example, Persephone Brewing out of Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast. Brewing out of a farmhouse/barn and using their own hops and produce to make their goods, they draw in members of the local community and visitors alike.
Their tasting room is a cross-section of society where you’ll find elderly folks around a game of crokinole sitting beside a group of young cyclists taking a refreshment break in their weekend ride, while neighbours run into each other filling up their glass growlers with the latest fresh offering - a point of pride in their community.
I was told once by an owner at Townsite Brewing in Powell River that if one wants to bring a community together all they’d need to do is open a craft brewery. The unique flavours and freshly-crafted pints attract tourists and those with refined or experimental palates, yet the competitive price point and the home-grown success story draws in those who would normally drink macro-produced lagers such as Budweiser or Molson Canadian.
The benefits also spill out from the brewery into the public realm - as can be seen in “Brewers’ Row” in Port Moody. The breweries entice members of the community to take an outing, but the neighbouring park becomes filled with people socializing and hanging out. This can clearly be offered as a parallel for Southlands with its proximity to Centennial Beach, in addition to the small-scale retail boutiques also soon located in Southlands.
Craft beer transcends the social and cultural boundaries often associated with upper echelon consumable products like wine and gourmet dining. The best beer in the world is affordable to all as conveniently demonstrated by Four Winds, who won Canadian Brewery of the Year in 2015 and many awards since while still having more affordable fare than any top-tier cocktail bar in the city.
A craft brewery is perhaps the most suitable “Third Place” (a term coined by Ray Oldenburg as an alternative place to home and work) for a community, performing as an anchor and focal point for people to spend time with others. The significance of this “Third Place” in Southlands is only amplified by its relationship to a nearby public square, allowing for connection between people regardless of whether they are a patron or not.
In regards to the Four Winds proposal and the zoning variance, I truly think the negative response was uninformed and ultimately irresponsible. Fear-mongering over the word “industrial” in the zoning designation conjured exaggerated imaginations of what the brewery would entail - and this was left to run amok.
A quote in the Optimist from Coun. Jeannie Kanakos suggests a misunderstanding of the nature of brewing beer at the craft scale. It’s hard to imagine using the word “manufacturing” to describe baking pastries or making chocolate in this size of facility. The size of this proposed brewery is in line with the breweries noted earlier and many others that are compatible with their residential neighbours - a far cry from the scale of the Molson factory historically on display at the foot of the Burrard Bridge in Vancouver.
The “industrial” part of the operation involves little more than steeping and boiling a combination of grains and hops, producing smells for a short period that can be more-likened to baked goods and fruits than the manure used on the neighbouring fields. The fermentation that follows is essentially odourless. All these smells are easily mitigated anyhow, which appears to be the plan in this proposal.
As for the concerns surrounding the proportion of commercial square footage used in the proposal compared to the overall allotment in the Southlands plan, I can hardly imagine a better complement for the town square or a more stable anchor to provide a steady flow of clientele to the smaller boutiques composing the rest of the commercial space in the Southlands.
Delta’s professional planning staff vocalized support, and I trust that to get to this stage in the process they have done their research on this proposal’s suitability and logistics within the Southlands vision regarding traffic and noise.
Four Winds will, without any doubt, be a reason for people to visit Tsawwassen. People will travel from across the Lower Mainland and further to spend a day (and their money) at the beach and local businesses which they might otherwise plan to spend in another community. Four Winds is already a point of pride in the community, which I think you may underestimate the reach of. I can’t recall how many times I voice with pride to my friends that Four Winds is from my hometown. They often cite it as their favourite beer and tell me they’d love to pay a visit until they learn that it’s in Tilbury and not close to anything else.
I’ve seen a beer hall in Toronto fill during one of Four Winds’ “tap takeovers” with people craving to try their nationally-acclaimed beer. I was so proud of home.
The Southlands neighbourhood, especially with the potential of having Four Winds in it, holds tremendous appeal with young families who moved out of Delta but entertain the thought of moving back to raise their family. There is no question that Tsawwassen is an aging population. The question becomes whether it is worth sacrificing the future appeal of Southlands to meet the desires of a demographic that likely won’t be able to live in it once it’s built out?
I truly don’t believe those opposed represent Delta. I do believe that the majority of people held the belief that Four Winds in Southlands was such a reasonable and worthy idea that they didn’t need to fight for it. We didn’t think it would come to this.
The supporting petitions, outcry on social media and discussions within my family/peers would suggest that people were surprised they would have to fight for something so worthwhile. I know I was.