Since its launch in 1984, Vancouver Island Brewing has been a pioneer in craft brewing in British Columbia. Calling Government Street in Victoria home, Vancouver Island Brewing is made up of a group of passionate and inspired people dedicated to driving innovation.
Vancouver Island Brewing is a local business through and through; using locally-sourced ingredients like hops grown in the Cowichan Valley. Their Brew Crew consists of 36 full and part-time employees, ranging from brewers to servers and everything in between.
To explore how Vancouver Island has made its mark on the community, and to learn about how and why they are taking part in Canada United, we spoke with David Nicholls, General Manager & Partner at Vancouver Island Brewing.
Passionate, innovative and a creative Leader, Dave has a proven track record in building brands, stretching possibilities, and driving growth. He has recently joined Vancouver Island Brewing as General Manager.
With 20 years of proven business building and marketing experience spanning a variety of industries, Dave has expertise in small business leadership, as well as, in all facets of big business marketing including conceptualization of marketing visions, digital strategies and execution of many national campaigns, special events and marketing communication strategies.
Dave’s had the privilege of working on some incredible brands throughout his career including Johnny Walker, Hotmail & MSN, Unilever, Stella Artois, Alexander Keith’s and launching Bud Light Lime. Most recently at Six Pints (Molson’s Craft division) he was the General Manager of Granville Island Brewing and the Lead for Regional Craft Brands in Canada.
Can you describe how your operations have adjusted and changed during the COVID-19 lockdown and where your operations are now with restrictions easing?
During the early stages of the COVID-19 lockdown, we had many of our staff begin working from home the best they could, while putting in strict procedures around packaging beer, which had ramped up to meet the increased sales at retail. We isolated departments and teams, while introducing new cleaning regimes. We kept all our staff employed, with people jumping into other departments to help each other out, by the end of May, I think everyone had a hand in packing beer.
Can you speak to how your operation has been involved in the local community?
Given our 36 years of brewing beer on Vancouver Island, we’ve supported many businesses and community initiatives that still thrive today. Our most recent efforts have focused around the sustainability of the waters surrounding us and in particular the Pacific Salmon Foundation.
In 2019, we created the Pod Pack, a collaboration with 4 other craft breweries on the island to raise awareness of the challenges facing the South Resident Killer Whales and raise funds for the Pacific Salmon Foundation. We’ve created a special PSF Chinook Lager to continue this support and hope to return with the Pod Pack & Pod Fest in 2021.
Another initiative we took part in during the pandemic was supporting the demand for hand sanitizer. With all the bars and restaurants shutting down, thousands of litres of beer went to waste. We worked with a local distiller to convert our beer into hand sanitizer to support local needs on the island.
How has the local community supported your operation during COVID?
The community has been great supporters of our brewery since the beginning of COVID, as we saw significant sales from our new online store with direct deliver to customers in Victoria and surrounding areas. As well, one of our tour partners at West Coast Brewery Tours stepped up to support the brewing community with a “I Support Local Craft Breweries” t-shirt campaign, bringing all the island breweries together.
In your words, can you speak to the importance of supporting local (especially during COVID-19)?
The need to support local is very simple; many of the people in your neighborhood work at local & small businesses. The health of this sector directly effects the income for individuals and families within the communities you live in. This became more and more apparent as I frequently supported our restaurant partners each week by ordering takeout, but most importantly, went to the restaurant to pick it up. Many times, you’d meet the owners and families who were showing their resilience to survive this lock down. These are the people in your community. And everyone needs our help right now or they’ll only be a global community to live in.
Why did you decide to participate in the Canada United program?
There is strength in numbers and together, we can achieve much great things than thought possible. The Canada United program does just that. Everyone doing their part, as little as it may seem, will all total up to greater awareness and support of small and local businesses.
What results/success are you expecting to see from the program?
An awakening of the impact small and local businesses have on our communities.