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.

 

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.

Craft Beer is going Pop-Punk

Before we get started pretend this page opened like myspace and you are now listening to “Ohio is for Lovers” by Hawthorne Heights… the colour scheme is black and red too… Alright lets do this, this article is not gonna be backed up by stats and references, no for this one I’m gonna ramble until I feel done.

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That’s not how Venn Diagrams work at all!

Years ago (this blog has been going on for years! that’s crazy) I wrote a blog about craft beer being Punk Rock, its one of my favourite things I’ve ever written, but it was years ago.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 6.18.21 PM           “As I mentioned craft beer is part of a punk rock diy counter culture, it represents a tangible way to reject corporatism, and it is a tangible affordable way to consume art and culture. So sit back and accept some learning.”

Whats the Deal with Craft Beer?

 

Well, just like Punk Rock found a market for their authentisism, and someone else found a way to mass produce it while maximizing profit… we now have the TAKING BACK SUNDAY of Craft Beer.

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Could there be a more timeless hair style?

It shouldn’t get to me but it does! I’ve spent a lot of time learning about the difference between Pilsner and Lager, and how Black Pilsner is not really a style of beer. I’ve enjoyed learning and realized there is more I don’t know about Craft beer than I will ever know. To be honest when new breweries show up with more money than sense I get kind of choked.

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Black Pilsner? https://www.bjcp.org/2008styles/style02.php

Now before some redditor on R/Vancouvercraftbeer tells me to shut up and “talk about a beer I like” or something chill.

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Wow, cuts deep.

I like some pop punk… Seriously, Fall Out Boy’s “DANCE, DANCE” is a banger, and I freakin’ love the early 90’s Simpson’s reference… just don’t mention that when I finally make it to see NOFX. I also like the beer these guys put out with a decent level of consistency.

Its just weird to me when I live in a world where both Storm brewing and 33 exp exist…

33 acres, its beer, not Star Trek The Next Generation’s First season.

 

its like wait… you know I really used to like D.O.A. but do I also like the Postal Service… wait is the Postal service better…?

The bottom line is who cares? Me, evidently, I think… Drink beer you like and pour one down for the 2nd wave of Craft beer in Vancouver (the first wave was blues or something in this metaphor).

Pacific Beer Chat goes to the BC Beer Awards

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Another BC beer awards and another night of perhaps too much imbibing… perhaps.

In any case I’m really stoked on this Pod Cast, it features a tonne of interviews with Men and Women who had just won awards and you can feel the excitement coming through.

Take a listen…

Episode 69 – BC Beer Awards & Festival 2018

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Brewers Row Grows Again

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The most tightly packed strip in all of Canada is about to get more tightly packed! Brewers Row is about to Grow to 5 breweries in 400m!

The new kid on the row is actually a sister brewery to Moody Ales, it will be housed in the former Calabria bakery building nestled between big sister Moody Ales and Big neighbour The Parkside Brewery.

The Bakery Brewery will focus on wild and sour barrel aged beers, and is aptly named for both the bakery that it replaces, and yeast being the most important ingredient in Bread and wild/sour beers.

The Brewery will house 50 seats inside and 50 seats on the patio giving it a grand total of 100 seats (and Brewers Row just under 300 patio seats)

The Brewery will also house a 5 BBL system which is more like a top of the line home brew set up than a brewery but fits this project really well.

The Brewery isn’t open yet, but initial offerings are available now at Moody Ales.Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 4.15.00 PM.png

 

 

 

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.

Port Moody Breweries

 

Name: Twin Sails Brewing

Address: 

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Established: 2015

Style: Progressive (NEIPA, Pastry Stouts, and an barrel aged sour program)

Tasting Area: Approx. 50 seats, Snacks, frequent food trucks, 30 seat patio (Dogs Welcome), Brick interior. Ciders yes

Core Beers: Dat Juice (Hazy Citra Pale Ale), Single Whammy (HAZY NE IPA)

Twin Sails is no longer the new brewery on the block, but they are producing some of the newest styles in beer today. Originally known as maker of traditional german style Twin Sails has more recently been known for its ultra progressive ales like Space Armadillo and Two Straws Milk Shake IPA-New beers usually drop every Saturday… but don’t stick around long.

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Name: Yellow Dog Brewing

Address: 2817 Murray St. Port Moody

Established: 2014

Style: West Coast

Tasting Area: Approx. 100 seats, outdoor seating, Small fare food, Frequent Food Trucks outside food ok, CIDER-NO.

Core Beers: Play Dead IPA, Chase My Tail Pale Ale.

Yellow Dog was the First brewery in Port Moody and burst on the scene winning best in show for their Shake a Paw Smoked Porter. Since then Yellow Dog has won a litany of awards and is arguably a top 3 brewery in BC.

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Name: The Parkside Brewery

Address: 2731 Murray St, Port Moody, BC Screen Shot 2016-12-28 at 11.02.42 AM.png

 

Established: 2016

Style: Contemporary

Tasting Area: Approx. 100+ seats, Outside food is OK, snacks, Frequent food trucks, video games, Front Picnic area (Dogs Welcome).

Core Beers: Dawn Pilsner, Dusk Pale Ale, Graffiti IPA.

Parkside is the newest Brewery on the Row putting out a range of contemporary ales and lagers to please just about everyone! Guest taps are also available so there is something for everyone.

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Name: Moody Ales

Address: 2601 Murray St, Port Moody, BC

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Established: 2014

Style: Eclectic

Tasting Area: Approx. 75 Seats, occasional live music, snacks, WINE & CIDER AVAILABLE, outside food is ok, front picnic area, frequent food trucks,

Core Beers: Hardy Brown Ale, Sociable Pale Ale, Affable IPA, Chipper Blonde.

Moody Ales opened mere months after Yellow Dog in fall of 2014. Their beer list is ever Changing and you are sure to find something you like on tap.

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UPCOMING – Bakery Brewing

See the new breweries page for more info.