I Was Offered Free Beer, I said “Yes”

A while ago I wrote an article explaining why I had said no to a brewery’s offer of free beer.

It came off as high and mighty, it wasn’t my intention but it did. Well, since then I have been offered beer a few more times and said no thank you a few more times.

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How I felt publishing that article

Recently, I said yes.  So how did I fall off my high horse? Well its simple really. I don’t have as much beer as I once did.
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Whereas, before my main reason for saying “no” was that I simply had too much beer and there was no point in taking beer that I might not be completely interested while other beer rots in my fridge. Its just not cool.

The fact is I’m getting married this summer and although I have wonder family helping my income is being stretched and I cannot afford to consume as much beer as I have in the past.

Craft Breweries are trying to make a living and offering beer to bloggers and the like is one of the great ways they can keep the beer-intelligensia writing.

So I have swallowed my pride, said “yes, thank you”, and you can probably expect to see it on my instagram.

That said you can also expect to see my honest opinion too.

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Believing the Hype is OK… Usually, well sometimes… Definitely Not Never

The Growler recently published a great article by Dageraad Brewer/Owner/Professional Cool Guy – Ben Coli, where Ben makes a great argument for Mainstays being better than the flavour of the week.

While I appreciate the article and agree in large part I noticed many friends and colleagues applying the argument against Hazy beers en masse. Well as avowed Hazy apologist I have yet another article no one asked for.

Concern 1

Dead on Arrival

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Ben makes a great point to start, many one off beers are ill-conceived. He’s right. There are quite a few beers that should have been aborted long before the ever reach your local’s shelves.

That said a lot of main stays make it to shelves when they shouldn’t. Many breweries including some of your favourites have let main stay beer hit the shelves that has been clearly flawed. So, while main stays have had time to be perfected, they don’t always hit the shelves in their perfect state.

Concern 2

No time to test batch

Here’s the thing… You think Sierra Nevada Pale ale or for that matter Even Steamworks Flagship’s recipe hasn’t changed since its initial sale? Beer recipes often change incrementally, its experimenting in the search of improvement. This happens with Hazy beer too…

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Most breweries have a few go-to basic Hazy recipes, and they tweak for each release. A hop variety here, a different grain there, and an extra hopping addition every so often. It’s not unlike how people incrementally changed their pale ales back in the day, the major difference is whereas in the past the label would never change, these days each release is a new piece of art from a graphic designer whose work spaced is littered with succulents.

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Why? Well the craft market is super crowded and craft brewers don’t have the money to advertise to you and me like the bug guys. Where they can punch above their weight is on the shelf where brewers can quickly pivot their branding to catch the latest craft punter (you)>

I gotta ask, what is the harm in that? More work for artists, more excitement for you and I, and more competition for macro-beer.

Concern 3

If it was any good you’d keep making it.

Early into Twin Sail’s pivot to their White Can Series (following their all german beginnings) they released Space Armadillo. This beer sent shock waves through the community and for some reason it wasn’t released again for nearly a year.

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Don’t you think Twin Sail’s would have loved to follow that rich sales vein? The fact is new breweries can struggle to get consistent supplies for brewing and are often forced into the spot markets. Whereas more established brewers can sign contracts with producers to ensure steady shipments of special hops or adjuncts, new brewers must use spot markets for one time sales.

The fact is Twin couldn’t secure the supplies they needed to make Space Armadillo a core beer.

 

So while by and large I agree in the merit of breweries main stay beers, I think we can agree that one offs serve a purpose and can be great.

VCBW and the Leading EDGE… Or “Why I’m Not So Sure Craft Can Do Lager but We Should all Enjoy VCBW Anyways…

Alright, So VCBW is quickly approaching! What is VCBW? It’s the best beer bash in Vancouver, or really BC! Just take a look at some of the offerings:

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VCBW 2018 Festival Highlights 

  • 100 + breweries and cideries pouring more than 300 beers and ciders
  • Festivalgoers can create a list of must-try breweries and favourite standout beers in advance through the VCBW website
  • More food trucks
  • BC Ale Trail-er pouring 8 or more craft breweries from the furthest reaches of B.C.’s Ale Trail
  • Craft Beer Market lounge and games area
  • BC Farm Crafted Cider Association’s cider row featuring 10 cideries pouring 16 different ciders
  • United States Brewers Association has chosen the VCBW as their exclusive Canadian festival partner three years in a row. They are crossing the border to pour 30+ beers, many of which have never been poured in Canada
  • Live interactive painting with Vancouver Mural Festival 
  • Floral leis and crown-making from the Leis de Buds solar powered flower bus
  • Dedicated Evo valet parking
  • Live music lineup includes DJ Hebegebe, Dakota Pearl, the Prettys, Youngblood, Mark Woodyard & Friends, the Great Speckled Fritillary, the Spillionaires, Tanglers and GI Blunt

 

VCBW 2018 Festival 

  • Saturday, June 2 from 2p.m. to 7p.m., and Sunday, June 3 from 12p.m. to 5p.m. at the PNE Fairgrounds, Vancouver. Single day, weekend passes and VIP tickets available now at VancouverCraftBeerWeek.comstarting at $39.

 

Why do I love it so much? Because with so many Breweries in one spot you really begin to see where the leading Edge is in Vancouver Beer, you can taste the trends, ride the flavour wave, and vive en vogue (I don’t speak French so I really went out an limb with that one).

For example, Hazy beer really made a splash at the event last year, not only were several breweries pouring the stuff, The VCBW beer (A collab amongst Brewers Row) was a delicious Hazy pale ale with passion fruit and guava.

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This year I’ve heard over and over this is the year of the Lager… I’ve heard this before too, but people are saying it again so lets address it.

Craft breweries have started putting out a lot of Lagers lately, lets list some: Slow Hand Pilsner, Haus Lager, Good Company Lager, Sneaky Weasel, P49 Lager, Back to Basics X 2, there is some older one’s too like Pixel Pils and various Granville Island offerings. Hey Even the next VCBW Collab Beer is a Lager (which I honestly can’t wait to crush at the Opening Night Crusher.)

(Respective instagrams: @goodcompanylager, @slowhandbeer and @haus.beer)

       Even so a lot of releases a trend does not make, here is why:

  • People need to actually want it.

Yes everyone who drinks craft beer wants to convert all their friends to craft beer. We all think that finding just the right transition beer is gonna be the trick, except why would it? If I’m trying to get my friend to enjoy a bison burger instead of Mcdonalds, does it make sense to take out all of the flavour from that bison burger, and make it really thin? Nah because what makes that bison delicious and what makes craft beer delicious is the flavour. If they don’t want it, they don’t want it.

  • Macro Beer is probably better at making Lagers.

Yea so here is the crazy thing about making craft beer, craft beer brewers have no comparative advantage relative to Macro Brewers in terms of production. Macro Brewers are much more efficient, or in other words make beer much more cheaply. The reason we love craft beer isn’t because its cheaper but because its of higher quality… I know you all know this. But Macro Brewers can probably make better lagers, here is why:

  1. Lagers need to be aged (or lagered) much longer than ales. Usually around 6 weeks… That is often double what a craft brewery does with ales and thus makes it much more expensive to produce, so often lager is released young by craft brewers.
  2. Lagers have nothing to cover up flaws and thus really need to be flawless to be good. Craft brewers are great but not perfect, often times those ales we all love have minute problems overcome by hopping or malt or more emphasized flavours. This cannot happen the same way with a Lager, and most craft breweries don’t have nearly the same depth of knowledge to get it just right.
  3. Macro Brewers have a lot of resources in order to get it right. Macro breweries have huge teams to ensure quality (relative term) and consistency. They have sensory analysts, bacterial scientists, and they can afford to dump a tank (something few craft brewers will do).

So am I saying go grab a Coors or Bud Light? No (but some of Vancouver’s best brewers would happily enjoy a Coors), But do check out Pilsner Urquell and Czechvar if you are interested in High Quality Lagers. Unlike American Macro’s who use substandard ingredients (rice) these European behemoths still seem somewhat committed to the craft… maybe I’ll explain why someday (communism and stuff… maybe another live video?)

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GREAT PEOPLE: @Seatoskybeerguy and @andinabrewingco, photo by @bcbeerguy

To end this thing I will say Hopped lagers have a chance. The hops may cover some imperfections and make them more flavourful to new drinkers. The key will be imbibing at the right time, maybe 6-12 weeks. In any case I’ll be first in line for the VCBW hoppy Lager.