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Burnaby U-brewer in business peril wants change to B.C. law banning samples

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Business isn’t looking too good at a Burnaby-based U-brew where customers can pitch in to make their own beer.

According to Burnaby Brewing Company owner Jesse Shepherd, it’s because he’s not allowed to give out samples.

“Before you bought your car, you test drove it. Before you bought the pair of pants you’re wearing, you tried them on,” Shepherd said.

“How am I supposed to sell six flats of beer to somebody who’s never tried it? U-brews are closing down left, right and centre right now.”

READ MORE: B.C. brewery gives old bread a new life as craft beer

Shepherd said his U-brew has been running successfully for 25 years. According to him, the “art” of making your own beer has always appealed to people.

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But now, business is suffering, thanks to a B.C. liquor law that prevents him from letting customers try before buying.

At the U-brew, customers choose a beer they want to make and pitch the yeast — but they have to buy 144 cans at once at a cost of about $150. Shepherd said in the age of craft breweries and tasting rooms, people aren’t willing to do that.

“Every new customer we get in the door, first thing they ask is, ‘Can I get a sample of something?'” Shepherd said.

“So when they come here and we’re not able to offer any samples, pretty much 80 per cent of them walk right out the door.”

READ MORE: Another new addition to Vancouver’s brewery community

Shepherd can’t offer samples because the U-brew is classified as a grocery store rather than a brewery. 

He said the law stopping him from giving out samples is outdated, so he is trying to get local politicians to change it.

He says the people he has spoken to, including Burnaby North-Seymour MP Terry Beech, are all for it.

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Global News has reached out to Beech and B.C.’s Liquor & Cannabis Regulation Office for comment.

 

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