Ontario brewery owner buys Vancouver Island Brewery

Vancouver Island Brewery has been sold to an Ontario businessman who is a partner in Muskoka Brewery.

New owner Bob MacDonald, of Oakville, is a partner in the Ontario cottage brewery and is also the founder of Wakefield Canada Inc. of Toronto.

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Wakefield is the Canadian distributor of Castrol motor oil and lubricants. It has 220-plus employees and offices in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Coquitlam, its website states.

Barry Fisher, who bought into Vancouver Island Brewery in 1986, said the changeover was official on Wednesday.

The price was not disclosed.

“It is time to move on and pass the torch to a successor who will carry on the quality beer legacy that Vancouver Island Brewery has accomplished,” Fisher said in a statement.

“All operations and decision-making will remain on Vancouver Island, and the brewery will continue to operate independently.”

The Victoria-based brewery also has a new president — Tim Barnes, formerly of Central City Brewers of Vancouver.

MacDonald’s long-term vision and interest in investing for growth will be “welcome news to our longtime employees, many who have been with the brewery for 20 to 30 years,” Fisher said.

Vancouver Island Brewery, 2330 Government St., has 34 employees. It has been in that location since 1995.

Matt Phillips, of Victoria’s Phillips Brewing and Malting Co., said it is too soon to know what the sale will mean to the local brewing sector, adding: “Welcome to Bob. We wish him the best.”

The 32-year-old Vancouver Island Brewery was launched in a warehouse in Central Saanich, where it produced kegs and barrels. A group of local businessmen invested in the company.

Vancouver Island Brewery is well known for products such as Hermann’s Dark Lager and Piper’s Pale Ale. It has been active in festivals and special events, sponsored many non-profit organizations and won numerous awards for its products.

It bills itself as the “Island’s original craft brewery.”

The sale comes at a time when craft beer popularity is exploding. The B.C. Craft Brewers Guild said sales of craft beer have doubled in the past four years.

Beer is big business in B.C., especially domestic products.

A total of $1.18 billion in beer was sold in this province in the 2014-2015 year, up by 3.1 per cent from the previous year, Statistics Canada said.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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