Holy cow, 33 Acres Brewing Co. is turning ten years old! We’re looking forward to hitting their “10 Years & Counting” anniversary party in the alley behind the brewery (15 West 8th Avenue) this Friday, September 15th…
But first, we sit down with Founder & Creative Director, Joshua Michnik, to chat about running a small business, collaborations past and future, and the innovative brewing and branding techniques that have distinguished 33 Acres over the past decade:
A LOT of beer has been brewed at 33 Acres Brewing (and your ‘little sister’ 33EXP) over the past 10 years! Obviously, 33A has a solid lineup of reliable brews available on tap and to-go but, looking back, what have been your Top Ten beers brewed since opening doors? Top Ten… I can pick eight immediately as our core beers are exactly this. We’ve always stayed true to our vision: brew beers we want to drink. Life, Ocean, Sunshine, Darkness, Nirvana, Euphoria, and most recently, Mezcal Gose & Fluffy Cloud from 33 Brewing Exp. Every one of those beers has passed the test of time and will remain in our line up. As for the other two, the Spelt Saison 750ml we made in early 2021, we may just bring this back sooner than later; and also Cherry Nectar, a cherry b33r aged in Syrah barrels – basically just all cherries and oak!
Over the past decade, you’ve no doubt racked up a good stock of memories and customer interactions. What are some of the stand-out moments and people you’ve experienced, so far? I think the biggest stand out moment for me was the 15 minutes before the doors opened. My friends, my father Brian and I were all in the front room, still in the same work clothes we had been wearing the entire build (1.5yrs), but with nothing left to do. There was this moment of silence and my dad says, “So I guess we can take the paper off the windows now?”, and I looked around at the crew, smiled and started ripping the paper down. It was about 4pm on a Wednesday. The room filled so quickly. From that day forward, I was in the service industry. Well, until three weeks later when we had to shut down because we ran out of beer.
Fave collab to date? I’d have to say Savio Volpe. The team all care so much about what they’re doing. They have the same ethos as us in that way: Success through hard work. It was an amazing experience and the event day was so perfect. Both our teams are such pros, it was so fun to be a part of. A notable second was Thank You Pizza. Devon, one of the owners, was our first ever tasting room employee, and it’s been epic to see him taking on his own small business and killing it.
What about the person or local small business you’d love to collaborate with in the future? Future, more food partners. The release events we’re planning this year are going to be next level.
“I’ve learnt municipalities that support and value small business are where I’ll invest and go. I truly believe small business is the community builder in any city; without us, it’s Costco and Freshies… I don’t want that.”
33 Acres is more than just a brewery, you’re also firmly entrenched in the Mount Pleasant community. Vancouver is notoriously difficult on small businesses, and the retail/real estate landscape is constantly experiencing changes and challenges…What have been some of the most difficult challenges that you’ve faced over the years, and how have you gotten through them? Honestly, this is a very touchy subject for us. Commercial real estate is the most one-sided industry I can think of. Unless municipalities get on the tenants’ side sooner than later, we will constantly see small businesses eventually fail, stuff get thrown out, and neighbourhoods fall apart. IMO, if the city of Vancouver wants to be the greenest city in the world, the first thing they’d do is put restrictions on rental rate increases on commercial spaces, similar to residential. Our rent has come close to tripling since we opened 10 years ago. We were a major part of building up a neighbourhood we can no longer afford. Really weird feeling.
The BC/Pacific Northwest are central to your ethos and brand identity, but earlier this year, your first location outside of BC, 33C in Calgary, celebrated its one-year anniversary. Congrats! Why Calgary? Calgary was never really on the top of my list to open in, but it was just a smooth process and everything happened so quickly. Also, the space was too good to let go. My dream was always to open small tap rooms / brew pubs to support our wholesale growth. I tried for two years in 2016 to open in Toronto, but ultimately gave up after we got denied a license for the third time. The whole process was a complete joke and extremely frustrating. From that point on, I’ve learnt municipalities that support small business and value us are where I’ll invest and go. I truly believe small business is the community builder in any city; without us, it’s Costco and Freshies… I don’t want that. That all said, Calgary has an epic food & drink scene at the moment. Lots of new stuff is happening all the time. I’ve really taken to the city and enjoy the time I spend there so much.
Got your sights set on any other cities for new locations in the future? We’re always looking for new projects and spaces to grow. Covid was a major setback, though, and we need to be realistic with our vision. I don’t wish to take on the wrong partner, so for now, we’ll concentrate on what we have and what we do well: The beer.
Any words of wisdom for someone interested in starting up their own brewery (or general small business advice)? Work hard, play hard, but you’ll still be working while you play. I haven’t had a day off in 12 years… yes, I’m not at the brewery or on my computer 24/7, but I’m never not thinking about 33. I haven’t figured out how to turn that off, but I feel that is the major difference between a small business owner and everyone else. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not.
September 15th, 2023 marks the beginning of a new decade and, potentially, a new chapter for 33 Acres. What are you most looking forward to over the next year? 5 years? Decade? What I’m most looking forward to is seeing the 33 management team succeed to be the best they can be. All of our managers started at the bottom. Our current head brewer was a home brewer on the packaging line. Our GM was serving pints. Our PM was a brewer. And most recently, our current President started on the delivery truck. Watching this team grow into these rolls and creating systems that are so dialled, is so fun to be a part of.
On a smaller scale: Autumn is just around the corner. What’s your favourite fall brew? What are you eating with it? What music is playing in the background? Set the mood for us. I’m so heavy lager focused at the moment. Our ‘House’ lager program is my ‘go to’ for fall. We’re making these very small batch out of our experimental side, and fitted for the season. Food, anything that’s made with passion. Music, my wife Kleah is the vibe check. She creates all the playlists in our tap rooms and keeps me in line. I’m on a deep house kick at the moment. Our staff in the tasting rooms recommended changing up our playlist at night, so Kleah and I started putting together some more upbeat stuff for evenings. Go check it out and let us know what you think.
Fast forward to September 15th: What is in your glass? Ten years… crazy! Feels like three. I’ll be drinking out of a bottle of our 750 10yr 33A release. We’ll be dropping it at the event. Limited bottle release.
The 33 Acres Brewing Co. “10 Years & Counting” anniversary party is happening in the alley behind the brewery (15 West 8th Avenue) on Friday, September 15th, from 5-10pm. For a quick flashback to 2013, check out our first impressions of the Mount Pleasant brewery here and here and photos below. Then see you on Friday! DETAILS.