by Andru McCracken
It may be the vibrant heart of the community, but during its second year of operations, Valemount’s Three Ranges Brewing Co. had to weather a perfect storm in order to survive and the impact of that storm continues to this day.
After five years of operations, the enterprise still isn’t paying the owners a living wage, according to Michael Lewis and Rundi Anderson who started the brewery in 2013. A series of setbacks, a computer virus, a rogue beer-destroying yeast and a bad deal on a massive capital purchase have soaked up the couple’s capital and savings.
The problems started in their second year, when they decided to buy a canner to increase production. Lewis found a canner for sale through an online brewer’s forum from Carson City, Nevada. The canner was still being fabricated, but Lewis contacted the manufacturer to determine that the selling party did in fact own it. Then Lewis and Anderson borrowed money to pay for it. The canner, worth $45,000, never materialized.
The seller disappeared.
Ultimately the seller was brought to civil court and was ordered to pay back the money and damages, however they have not received the money.
The impact on the brewery was substantial. The missing money meant Anderson and Lewis lost the opportunity to purchase a home in Valemount’s heating housing market and it left the brewery under-capacity, underfunded and unable to meet growing demand.
In many respects the brewery is wildly successful. Anderson and Lewis say as much in a sit-down interview at the Goat office. However, it’s clear both are also worried about the future.
The brewery is a popular spot for locals to gather. They have established brand recognition throughout the province and this fall the company’s Tail Slap IPA won top prize in a British Columbia competition for the best ‘North American Style’ IPA. However, without the production capacity to sell more and with increasing costs, the brewery is at a standstill.
Looking for new investment
Now the pair is considering taking new investment to increase production.
“The limitations and challenges we’ve had along the way that put us in this predicament,” Lewis said. “I’m just working towards figuring out the next steps.”
Lewis said the business stands on its own, but it is not able to grow.
“Everything that we’ve built this business on has been about organic growth and trying to do everything we can with it,” said Lewis. “Our first step outside that was the canner… which obviously hasn’t paid for itself yet.”
“I don’t believe in infinite growth, but I believe in building it to a very sustainable point.”
“I think we’re doing very well,” said Anderson, “But we’re kind of at the point where we could just continue to spin our wheels or we could try and figure out at what point do we stop spinning and have a sustainable business.”
Lewis chimes in: “A sustainable profitable business. It doesn’t have to be a huge profit, just kind of be something that we can eventually take our natural paychecks off.”
Anderson said that unless they take on investors, the foreseeable future is same.
If you are fan of the brewery and want to help, Anderson and Lewis have the solution. Drink more beer, especially in the winter. Anderson said that if their winter sales paralleled their summer sales the would have a thriving local business.