VCBW is Upon Us and It’s Time To Take Stock.

I am a big fan of Vancouver Craft Beer Week. It’s fun and it brings the whole community together.

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With nearly all the Lower Mainland Region breweries in one place it is  a really great opportunity to consider the Craft Beer trends moving forward. Of course this can’t really be done in advance of VCBW. Even so it is fun to project or guess what the trends will be, and I’ve always thought that the VCBW beer gives us a hint of what is to come.

Two years ago Brewers brought us a Hazy Pale ale which to me announced to the community that Hazy beer was a major part of the industry and here to stay. Secondarily it might have also signalled the success of the suburban and regional Craft beer communities.

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Last year, we had the Sea to Sky breweries affirm the rising prominence of regional craft beer communities, and perhaps surprisingly they made a Lager. To me this signalled that our craft beer industry was ready to move past the anti-establishment roots and include all beer drinkers.

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This year, the 10th anniversary of VCBW we have Four Winds, in collaboration with Powell Beer and Dageraad brewing brewing a dry-hopped table saison.

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I typed that beer style in lower case, because to my mind it is an understated style in the often violently reactionary world of craft beer.

What I take from this, and what I would predict as a major trend in the Vancouver and wider region is a push for higher quality.

It is no secret that I have been fairly vocal about beers that don’t mean my expectations but after the proliferation of craft breweries throughout the lower mainland comes a more competitive period where brewers are selling to an inclusive mature consumer base who are able to tell the difference between OK and great craft.

I believe the choice of three of the Lower Mainland’s 3 most respected breweries in Four Winds, Dageraad, and Powell beer and their choice of a simple yet dynamic style signals to the community at large that things are about to get more competitive. If you are a brewery who wants to stick around you better commit to quality.

With more breweries comes more competition, and since the backbone has of craft has always been its improved quality over macro the competition amongst Craft Brewers will hopefully yield ever high plateaus of quality.

We might also look at the expansion of high quality production in the region to consider the arms race in quality.

-Twin Sails sour program intentionally does not include Kettle Sours. committing to higher labour and cost methods of souring.

-Whole breweries committed to specific styles like Bakery, House of Funk, and Temporal.

-The commitment to high quality Lagers including Foudre and barrel aged versions like those created by Four Winds and Strange Fellows.

We might also consider the results of mistakes

-Riot Brewing on the brink of closing as sales don’t add up

Clearly all of this is guess work and conjecture bused on anecdotal evidence, but if i was forced to hazard a guess… I’d expect your average beer to rise in quality this year.

 

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My First Beer Pairing Dinner

First of all no pictures, I enjoyed the food too much. That said what an experience! This dinner by beerazi standards was entry-level, a chain pub making use of Parallel 49’s wide catalogue. But despite being devoid of Four Winds Nectarous or Old Cellar dweller (both of which I had this past week and both of which were delicious) it was still an eye opener. A roommate works at the pub in question and asked if I was interested in going. Considering the reasonable price of the ticket and the fact that it fit my schedule I thought “why not?” As we sat down we were greeted by a sleeve of Salty Scot which still surprises me in that the apparent salt flavour works with the beer rather than hinders it. This was a nice touch, most people were coming off work and its nice to unwind with a glass. The starter was a sweet butternut Squash soup paired with gypsy tears. Now let me stop here and say I didn’t expect anything. I was ready to enjoy good beer, and good dinner, I didn’t think I had the palate to see how these things paired, but I was very wrong. First of all the gypsy tears i had this night was far and away better than i had out of the mystery case. The sweetness of the malt was more apparent when sipping the sweet soup, together they emphasized the common flavours. Next was a beat salad with goat cheese couli (sp?) paired with hopparrazzi. This one didn’t fit as well but was nice none the less. The salad which was crisp mirrored the crispness of the lager back bone of hopparazzi which was interesting. From here we hit the more substantial plates, a delicious salmon strip with a brown sugar mustard sauce. This went with Toques of Hazard, my favourite Parallel 49 beer, and together… well… you know what? i simply don’t have the ability to explain but it was genuinely awesome experience. The last course before dessert was braised lamb paired with East Van Lager… East Van lager? Yea kinda weak I know. The food in this case was great and the beer did cleanse the pallet well… but… it wasn’t as good as the past courses. Finally desert, a salted caramel cheesecake paired with Salty Scot. This was on point! I don’t really enjoy cheesecake but the salt had the effect of balancing the sweetness and made it so much better. Wow this was such a great experience that I can’t wait to find my next pairing dinner and I recommend it to anyone considering it.