When a Comox Valley orthopedic surgeon went into the beer business last year with some friends on the Prairies, the market they tapped into wasn’t exactly what they expected.
Dr. Tom Woods and his partners had opened a brewpub in an old bakery building in the Warehouse District of Regina, Sask., but almost as soon as the doors were open, the pandemic hit, and the doors had to close — five days into business.
“We limped along on growler sales,” he said. “We had no can production at that time.”
Since that time, they added a kitchen at the pub, but there have different shutdowns that pushed back their plans each time. Last summer, they also started canning their Warehouse Brewing Company beer, and they are now shipping stock into B.C. and other Western provinces.
“We’re really trying to focus on our distribution,” Woods said.
Cascadia Liquor general manager Jeff Lucas recently told Woods the beer was already cracking the top 20 at the store out of the more than 350 craft beers they offer.
“I’m glad to hear it’s doing well,” Woods replied. “It’s the first brewed-in-Saskatchewan beer here at Cascadia.”
Based in the Comox Valley since 2008, Woods is originally from Alberta, as is one of the other main partners. Another one had been a resident physician in Saskatchewan, which is part of why they set up in Regina. They also wanted to test a newer market for craft beers.
Also among the smaller partners are a few of Woods’s medical colleagues from the Comox Valley. He’s guessing a few of them are contributing to the already-strong sales of the Warehouse lines, which includes Sask Harvest Lager, Queen City Kölsch, Anonymous Tip IPA, Factory Stout and Accountant Amber Ale, among others.
“We’ve got a great brewer,” he said.
Already, they have won a medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards, in 2020 for their Iconic Bitter.
Woods, himself, had tried his hand at making beer back when he was a teacher.
“I brewed beer back in the day, when it was little green bottles,” he said. “It was terrible stuff.”
He loved all the microbreweries he visited on the West Coast and wanted to own one himself one day. He and his partners took a couple of years to find the right location, which turned out to be in the Saskatchewan capital’s Warehouse District.
As far as canning the product, it was something the company considered an option, but it quickly became essential to the business model since the spring of 2020.
“It’s mandatory now,” he added. “It’s critical to our survival right now.”
For more info, see www.warehousebrewingcompany.com/