After the merger, and his partner Craig Nicholls made a break. “It was kind of like a ‘get out of jail free’ card,” laughs McAdam. “So we diffused our relationship with Columbia and feel more comfortable going forward with a smaller distributor, where we’re going to get more attention.”
For Charles Finkel of Pike, the beer biz is not all that different than any other industry: success is built on loyal relationships developed over time.
“Much as I might meet a woman ideally suited to my fantasies,” he reflects, “the reality is that I’ve been married for 40 years.”
With that colorful analogy in mind, Finkel renewed his pledge of fidelity to Columbia, already his distributor in Oregon, but chose to go with Click Wholesale Distributing in Seattle, a company with which he had already made a commitment.
Welcome to Canada, eh?
Deciding how to distribute his craft beers in British Columbia, Canada, was actually much simpler for Finkel, because in BC, the government oversees the movement of all beer. He says it took years to get a repertoire of Pike brewing styles onto the shelves of BC stores.
“Even though it’s still onerous,” Finkel offers, “they have loosened their laws considerably in the last several years.”
That’s due largely to the government issuing the first licenses for private liquor stores in the early part of the decade. That significantly opened the market for both domestic and imported craft beer. Today, alcohol sales are pretty evenly split between the 200 government retail stores and the more than 900 privately owned stores in BC.
A keen awareness of craft beer culture in BC can also be attributed in no small measure to the lobbying by Vancouver Island’s preeminent brewpub owner, Paul Hadfield. Twenty-five years ago, Hadfield and partner John Mitchell opened the near-legendary Spinnaker’s Brew Pub in Victoria. Hadfield soon found himself embroiled in legal battles with provincial authorities over brewpub’s right to package and sell its product in BC liquor stores. He prevailed.
Kurt Larson, vice president of a private export and import company that manages the Pike and several other U.S. craft beer accounts, lauds Hadfield for introducing the world of craft brewing to British Columbians.
“Paul basically allowed everybody in the province to know what real beer is like,” says Larson. “He’s done for BC what Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing and Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada did for the craft industry in the States.”