IF you're visiting relatives in Vancouver or Toronto this Christmas and feel like a taste of home, Half Pints Brewing has you covered.
The Winnipeg brewery is about to start shipping bottles of its Little Scrapper IPA, Sweet Nikki Brown and a seasonal bock-style beer called Isolator to beer stores in the two cities.
Nicole Barry, CEO of Manitoba's only locally owned brewery, said it had dabbled in B.C. previously but pulled back on its exports so it didn't experience any "growing pains" in its home market.
The six-year-old brewery is continually operating at capacity and its beers are in high demand in Manitoba, so Barry said she doesn't need to seek out other markets. But because she's part of Canada's craft beer community, she wants to share what she and Half Pints brewmaster, David Rudge, have created.
"We want to put our beer in front of people's faces who are just as passionate about beer as we are. It's similar to the indie-movie scene. They don't need to tour around the world, they do because people love what they're doing," she said.
"We don't need to ship out of province, it's not going to make us any more money. It's about sharing. We want that back-and-forth with the craft beer community."
Barry is also a fan of much of what is coming into Manitoba, such as beers from Great Lakes Brewery out of Toronto, Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge, Ont., and Central City from Surrey, B.C.
The out-of-province focus won't be to set up alongside the Budweisers of the world in every liquor store but to focus on specialty beer stores and higher-end beer bars, she said.
Half Pints isn't looking to carve out a huge market share in non-Manitoba markets. (It also ships to Saskatchewan and Alberta.) Sure, Barry wants it to sell but it's more about satisfying Half Pints' fans around the country.
"I get tweets and emails all the time from people saying, 'I would love to try that beer. Could you please send out a case?' " she said.
Barry said there has been interest in Half Pints shipping into other areas of Canada and even the U.S. but she's not looking at any further expansion at this time.
One of the biggest challenges for microbreweries is capacity. They need to have enough tanks to be able to satisfy demand but it's a fine line: too many tanks and their overhead cuts into their profits, too few and they're not able to meet demand, which can lead to angry customers.
Barry said Half Pints has a capacity of 34,000 hectolitres -- there are 1,000 litres in a hectolitre -- and she's hoping to add a couple of 4,000-hl tanks in 2013.
"We have lots of plans just to get us by next summer," she said.