Covid Chronicles – Backcountry Brewing

What is the name of your business?

Backcountry Brewing

Tell us about your business pre-COVID-19.

We are a small craft brewery located in the Squamish Business Park.  We have a 50 seat tasting room that serves pizza to our local guests as well as tourists who come to Squamish or stop in on their way to Whistler. We also distribute cans and kegs to liquor stores and restaurants throughout BC.

Tell us about the impact COVID-19 had on your business.

Because of COVID-19, we closed our tasting room on March 16th which is approximately 40% of our total volume and our highest margins.  Also, as restaurants and bars are closed, we lost 55% of our outside distribution volume.  We are also working with our customers and took back kegs to help their cash flow while affecting ours.

Do you think your business will make it through this? How long can you hold on for?

I do believe we can make it through this but then again it depends on how long we are in Covid-19 procedures. If liquor stores and breweries are still considered an essential service then we should be able to ride out this storm financially, though mentally that is a different story.

What was the hardest part of temporarily closing your business? OR, if you managed to remain open, what has been the hardest part so far, for your business?

The toughest part was laying off 28 staff members who work in the tasting room and kitchen.  We currently have off sales and to go pizza (pizza started three weeks ago) which employs limited staff. Our salaried employees work half the tasting room shifts to keep down costs while they do their regular duties.  Our brewers are still working but at lower hours.  

Because of the drop in keg sales, we have had to work hard to work our retail channels to push can sales; this is tough as you can’t cold call/stop into stores and they don’t have time for phone calls or emails which makes selling a little tough.


Backcountry Brewing Squamish

How has COVID-19 affected you personally?

I thought I’d be ok but it is tough with some weeks tougher than others. Laying off staff was tough emotionally but was made easier by our staff being so awesome and understanding.

Keeping the brewery running and paying our bills is definitely stressful.  We worked so hard to open our brewery and be successful and trying to remain open and not lose money is quite the strain.  Also, being in a social industry, not being able to see people face to face, high five, mingle with customers, or give hugs is taking its toll.

How has your business innovated or pivoted to during this time?

We have made a strong push for home deliveries and can pick ups from our retail store.  We now have to go pizzas that customers can call in and pick up.  Our online ordering system allows customers to order online and we run it out to them which has helped.

For distribution, we are working hard to continue to push our limited releases into cans as we no longer have kegs to sell.  This is working as there is a scarcity with these beers.  We also let our customers know what beers are coming up in the upcoming months so they can pre-order which gives us an idea of what we can produce to match sales.

Do you have any tips that you can share that could help other Squamish businesses with the focus of keeping their staff and customers safe while delivering their products or services?

Engage as often and genuinely as possible.  If you have a store front, make sure it is safe for your staff to work in and for your customers to visit. We have a hand sanitizing station for customers when they walk in and only one person/couple at a time.  We have a sneeze card as an extra safety precaution and customers only pick up what they bought as our staff picks their order.

Something that has helped us is having new products almost weekly.  People want out of their house and want a reason to, I feel, as long as they feel safe and cared for. Having revolving one off offerings is a great way to push sales and give your customers something new in the Groundhog days we find ourselves in.

How can the community of Squamish support you and your business as we move through this unprecedented time?

Support and buy local as you are already doing. Reminding locals that is ok to go outside and be active but in a safe and responsible way; to be kind and respectful of others.  Keeping people’s spirits and moral up is key and I feel this will help all businesses in Squamish, though I feel you are doing a great job of this already.

Oh, and finding a cure with a sun gun or something, hahaha.

About The Squamish Chamber of Commerce

The Squamish Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in the Squamish community by actively supporting business, economic growth and diversification. The Chamber takes a leadership role in advocating for the interest of Squamish business and provides member services such as networking and educational events, policy positions and partnerships with other organizations.

Media Contact

Louise Walker
Executive Director
T: 604.815.4991