On March 1, the long-awaited Andina Brewing Company finally opened its doors on Powell Street, much to the relief of the Amaya family. After years of red tape, false starts, construction delays, and permit after permit after permit, the family-owned brewery was allowed to begin pouring pints of its South American-inspired craft beer.
Despite the ever-crowded Yeast Van brewing district in which it’s located, Andina’s bold style and unique take on craft beer are sure to set it apart. Think British Columbia meets Colombia Colombia.
The brewery itself is gorgeous, and has clearly been worth the wait. The glitzy brewhouse and spectacular two-storey facade that adorns the front of the banana-yellow building are hard to miss – but don’t be fooled. Andina is very much a family operation with humble roots.
I talked to co-owner Nicolás Amaya about the long journey to now, and the real work that is to come.
Tell me a bit about the process that led you to where you are now. What were some of the unexpected twists and turns you encountered along the way?
It was a long process to get to what we are now. From the initial idea to opening day has been almost five years in the making. First, it was hard finding a suitable location big enough for our needs now and in the future. We spend a lot of time looking, and once we got it, we encounter some hurdles related to the age of the building. Finding three floors of concrete exactly where our tasting room is took us a long time to dig. Next, we found that the main water pipe to the building was corroded – we had to replace it, which delayed us for an additional two months and blew out our budget, since we had to take care of the upgrade ourselves, without the landlord’s help. Also, ensuring that the building had the correct power to run a brewery – it was fun trying to rebuild the wiring. And, of course, all the delays related with permits and inspections from the city. We also made some rookie mistakes, like hiring a design/architect company that didn’t have experience with breweries. Again, we lost time and money!
Why beer? What got you interested in craft beer enough to open your own brewery?
My brother, Andrés, and I have been craft-beer lovers for many, many years. Andrés has experience in the hospitality industry, and also loves to cook and eat great food – especially seafood. We wanted to open our own business, and I came up with the idea of opening a brewery one night after drinking really nice local craft beers. What could be better than working with something that you really love? And on top of that, knowing how the local craft-beer industry is here, it was an even better and easier choice. We found out pretty soon that the support of other breweries is amazing, so we are happy about this decision.
East Vancouver is becoming a busy craft-beer destination. What makes it a good place to brew?
I think the whole area is very eclectic and culturally diverse. I feel that Andina fits really well in the neighborhood, not only because it’s already known for the craft beer as a destination, but also because we’re bringing something new to this community, which is the South American touch to our beers, décor, food and music. Just look at the building facade!
What are you doing differently that sets you apart from some of the other breweries nearby?
Our [Colombian] heritage is used as the theme for our brewery – the fact that we’re the first brewery in Canada to import malts from Chile. We’re also committed to reducing our environmental footprint: Andina will be the first brewery in the world to implement the Piranha, a self-contained heat pump that extracts thermal energy from wastewater. We’re using an ozone sanitation system to save energy and water. We also source our local and foreign ingredients responsibly, making it a point to partner with certified sustainable [and] fair-trade suppliers that meet our environmental guidelines. Even our spoons are biodegradable.
What’s the craft-beer scene like in Colombia?
The craft-beer movement started in Colombia relatively recently. There was a microbrewery that started the whole movement in Bogotá, but it got bought out by A-B InBev. The other one in Medellin also got bought out by a big beer corporation. It’s small, but every day more and more microbreweries are popping up.
How has the local response been so far?
It’s been incredible! We knew there was some interest around our opening, but we could never have imagined how many people wanted to come and try our beers and food. It has been amazingly overwhelming, exciting and humbling. We hope to be able to meet expectations and give everybody a great experience when they visit us.
Andina Brewing Company
1507 Powell St.