New ideas, old spaces and the microbrew renaissance

Sometimes new ideas need old spaces. I think Jane Jacobs coined that phrase. The evolution of cities and the use and re-use of space is fascinating. It also reflects the economic era.

Take the microbrew renaissance in many cities. Old, low-ceiling, unwanted industrial space in almost-forgotten pockets of cities such as Portland Oregon and Vancouver BC, has incubated dozens of craft breweries. The creativity of flavour blending is impressive–and very tasty.

The rise in popularity also tells us something about the economies of these and other cities with a strong brewery sector. They have a “lifestyle industry” around relaxing and appreciating creativity. (The new East Vancouver cliche is becoming one of sitting in a microbrew tasting room in Lululemon pants, and a rain-soaked gortex jacket; bike helmet on the counter). Both Portland and Vancouver have been evolving from only serving a natural resources extraction sector, to having more diverse economies including lifestyle industries and companies, from Lululemon to Nike, as well as hipster technology companies in Vancouver’s case like Hootsuite and Electronic Arts.

THe Microbrew expansion in these places also tells us that broader government policy supports small scale innovation. In places with a thriving industry can sell their wares in mainstream liquor distribution as well as smaller creative options such as farmers markets, specialty stores, or their own brewpub.

Thanks to this article today, I figured out why Toronto has such a limited craft beer scene and therefore mediocre options at the pub. The government favours foreign breweries through the distribution monopoly and the Beer store. Come on Ontario, free the beer distribution. Toronto has lots of older real estate that would incubate craft breweries, and other free thinking, that just might help the economy grow from within. And, it contributes to the evolution of neighbourhoods, which bring new investment and economic growth.

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