As I prepared to trek down Kingsway into the deepest throes of South Burnaby, I knew exactly three things about the area: Jagmeet Singh is the current MP; people really seem to like the waffles at La Forêt; and—the reason for my visit—it’s the location of the newly minted Studio Brewing.
So it’s with sincere apologies to the leader of the NDP and to brunch as a whole that the latter is likely to be the sole reason I’m going to make a habit out of visiting this area from now on.
Three years ago, Mark Quinlan, Andrew Somers and Matt Leslie were looking to make a mark on the craft beer scene, with the shared feeling that, as Quinlan explains, they “didn’t want to be another brewery amongst a group of other breweries.”
So when the location of a former autobody shop just a 10-minute walk from the Royal Oak skytrain station opened up, the trio of Vancouverites got familiar with the area.
“We got to know it really fast—spent a lot of time walking around, driving around, checking out local businesses, and found there was a lot of people in the area with no amenities whatsoever,” recalls Quinlan, who also works in the beer industry as the director of finance for a canning company.
“And we thought it could really spark a community in this area. We always wanted to be the first in an area, and it kind of checked all the boxes. At first it seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere, but the more we got to know the area, we just felt it had so much potential.”
They ended up purchasing the building. “We figured that when we did the math, the mortgage rate would be about the same as the lease rate in East Van or Port Moody,” says Quinlan. “So we just said, ‘Okay, well if we’re going to do this, we really want to put our stake in the ground and show we’re not going anywhere, we’re committed.”
As it turns out, an auto body shop isn’t exactly equipped to serve beer. So Quinlan and his team got to work, doing everything from adding extra washrooms to negotiating the purchase of neighbouring parking space.
They also brought in one of the city’s best brewing minds in Ryan Voigt, formerly of Superflux and Twin Sails, who was fresh off trips to France and Belgium where he studied different brewing processes.
Studio Brewing, named for the experimental nature of the beers, officially opened three weeks ago and its owners have been very pleased at the reception thus far.
“People are coming up to us and saying, 'I’ve lived here forever, I’ve been waiting for this my whole life,'” says Somers.
And while the brewery itself is a lovely marriage of clean design and simple execution with its white walls and wood accents (plus an inviting patio), the attraction was always going to be the beers.
“I signed on with these guys because there are few people I’ve met in the industry that care more about beer and want to put it first,” says the veteran Voigt. “For me, that’s big—giving me the freedom to do what I really want in here.”
That is proving to be a prescient choice. Studio’s menu is dotted with complex takes on classic beers. The Rolodex is a impeccably clean pale ale; the Take My Money Wheat Double IPA merges the two styles beautifully and is about as smooth an 8-percent beer as you can buy; and the Concrete Overcoat Imperial Porter is already seeing acclaim across the beer scene for truly separating itself in an extremely crowded category with a toasty flavour and creamy body.
And while the folks at Studio insist they won’t force the production of a flagship beer—“if it happens, it happens, but it’s not our aim,” says Quinlan—the Daisy Chain New World Saison feels like a natural fit. Named for the adjacent street Studio sits on, it’s an absolutely delicious floral and fruity merger. And, just for good measure, the can it’s delivered in isn’t shabby either.
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So, chalk up a point for South Burnaby, and for a dream come true—for some dudes that get to own a brewery, sure, but also for a community.
“We’re all in the same boat here, we’ve been incredibly committed to and passionate for craft beer for such a long time,” says Quinlan. “And the reception in the community has been so overwhelming.”