Recently i was invited to the relaunch of the Brewery formerly known as Big River Brewing now known as Be Right Back Brewing or BRB brewing. It was a really nice event where i was treated to some very nice beers and some delicious food. What was more interesting to this blogger however was what the change represented as a whole. If you are a beer snob, geek, Brewery Creek devotee or Yeast Van lifer its totally possible you’d never heard of Big River Brewing (or BRB). Thats because this brewpub is located in Richmond. Not city centre Richmond either, Poorly planned suburban entertainment district Richmond (Vancouver City planners would walk the area bawling about place v. space and pseudo-space). BRB shares a building with a bowling alley and a Old Spaghetti Factory (despite an oddly specific name its not actually a factory), behind a massive megaplex theatre across the way from a pool called water-mania and a trampoline park. This isn’t Gastown this is sort of like a failed hyper-capitalist 6th rate Diznee Land where every area of the park requires another entry pass and although its divey its not divey enough to be ironic. So why the heck was this place of failed suburban-capitalist-city-planning home to one of the early micro-breweries in Metro-Vancouver (back then we called it the GVRD)? My guess? Cost benefit and limited schtick.
Does this make sense yet? Probably not. Lets go back to 1997 then. The internet is a thing but still pretty lame and the Canucks are mired in a period mediocrity (wait isn’t that now?).
Richmond is chilling relaxing maxing all cool (Fresh Prince reference) but is concerned that no one is there to see it.
They decide find the most extreme teenagers with attitude and ask them to brainstorm, no wait extreme brainstorm, the coolest tourist attracting area no where near major or future transit hubs… because hydrogen cars, we’ll all drive those. They sat in a mall boardroom drinking mountain dew chucking out ideas:
“Giant Movie theatre!” “YEA!”
“Great downtown Vancouver restaurant?” “Yea spaghetti factory?” “Totally rad dude!”
“Ice Rink?” “YUP!”
“Definitely Bowling Alley!”
“Casual Dining?” “SUBWAY!”
“Swimming pool…” “WITH WATER SLIDES!”
*Then an adult walks in and says “What about beers?” and the teenagers say “oh yea a bar too, but how do we make it more extreme? what if they made the beer there? Meh i dunno lets come up with something later.”
But they never did, making beer in site was the best gimmick they could come up with and when they realized they could likely increase profits by making their own beer investors swooned.
By the way i’d just like to point out that what i have just explained is absolutely historically accurate and in no way a chance for me to make fun of the 90’s and Richmond.
Fast forward to like 1999 and the people going to Big River Brewing are exhausted soccer mums and dads having recently dropped off their kids at birthday parties at one or more spots around the parking lot. in a state of pre-collapse they, with the only other parent whose face they don’t hate for no reason at all spill into Big River Brewing. Of course they want alcohol but they don’t want IPA they want beer comparable to their Canadian-weiser. That was Big River Brewing’s market.
So in what took just less than 600 words have explained why beer geeks may have never heard of Big River Brewing. Because they made beer to appeal to adjunct-lovers. With the craft beer revolution (aptly-named by Joe Weibe) shit changed for Big River. People darted coming in likely more than just Kokanee and expecting flavourful beers which Big River was low on. For Big River to survive in a time where the suburbs had some of the best breweries in Vancouver like: Yellow Dog, 4 Winds, and Central City, they had to change. Thus we see the evolution of Big River into BRB brewing.
So how’s the beer?
Stout- Brewed to style and something i quite enjoy- 3.5/5
Pale Ale- West coast style and sessionable- 3.5/5
Mild- Not as good as Vancouver best mild (Real Cask)- But a good example of style 3/5
These beers are worth getting a growler of and despite being located in a suburban hell hole BRB is definitely the crown jewel of the area.