Spirited Sips

Brewing Outside the Box: Ravens Brewing Company

April 6, 2023

Paul Sweeting knows his beer. A former liquor store owner, Paul took the leap into the craft brewing business before it became a hot trend. He now owns the very successful Ravens Brewing Company in Abbotsford.

“We were blazing trails in 2014. We were the third brewery to open in Abbotsford and weren’t sure how it was going to go. It sure has been exciting to see the rapid growth of the industry, especially locally.” Sweeting points out that the Fraser Valley now has its own ‘Ale Trail’.

Sweeting eventually sold the liquor store and forayed full-time into beer making. He now brews nine of his own beers under the Ravens Brewing label as well as contract brewing for five different brands.

The company is a small, close-knit family. Paul runs the business with his wife Jocelyn and eight regular employees.

They recently moved into a 12,000 square foot building on Sumas First Nations in a brand-new industrial development.  The new space has allowed them to efficiently set up production from brewing and canning to labeling and on-site tasting, and has enabled them to increase their capacity by 30 percent.

“We have streamlined production and are so much more efficient. At the old place we’d be canning in the tasting room and shuffling boxes around. This set-up is a dream.”

Success for the Ravens name means always diversifying and staying ahead of the trends.

The company also makes vodka and gin under the Ravens label and are currently exploring the European export market for their spirits while adding more liquors to their line.

“We’ve had some challenges with the supply chain. The cost of aluminum for the cans has skyrocketed, and we couldn’t source glass bottles for the longest time. So no spirits were being produced.”

Hopefully that challenge is behind them as they look to trying their hand at the next trend: non- alcoholic beverages.

Diversity was also how the business weathered the pandemic years. Sweeting admits Covid was good for the at-home beer-drinking crowd, but they had to scramble to find additional opportunities to maintain production and not lay off employees. They did this by thinking outside of the beer box! First they developed hand sanitizer and then Raven Rations; a line of pre-packaged sauces and then they entered into a coffee collaboration with a local coffee producer.

“Luckily for us, we never really stopped during Covid. People weren’t coming into the store, but we were running out to deliver beer and coffee in the parking lot!”

The Ravens Rations line now has coffee, mustards, hot sauces and cocktail bitters that is sold locally at small, specialty grocers, as well as on-site at the brewery.

Their new facility allows for further opportunities by bringing the Ravens Rations production in- house into their new kitchen, and they have plans to open a full-service restaurant in late 2023 which will feature the Ravens Rations products.

“We’ve done well here. We’ve got deep roots in the Abbotsford and family ties to the Indigenous community. I have no complaints,” says Sweeting. “We’ve raised our family here and grown our business here and we keep seeing growth potential. It’s a good place to be.”

Make sure to tag @tourismabbotsford and use the hashtag #ExploreAbbotsford if you’re having a sip of Ravens Brewing or trying out some Ravens Rations!

Article & Images: City of Abbotsford’s Innovation, Strategy and Intergovernmental Relations Department.