B.C. Beer Blog

The who, what, where, when, why, and how of B.C. craft beer

Archive for the ‘brewer’ Category

The Next Wave in BC Craft Beer

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Patrons enjoying the Driftwood beer dinner at Hapa Umi.

It was just over three years ago when I started this blog out of frustration over the lack of craft beer coverage in the mainstream media – virtually none. In fact, they were reporting the decline of beer in favour of wine when I knew it was a generalization that completely overlooked the ferment that was happening in BC amongst the microbreweries and brewpubs. Clearly, the MSM had no idea, given their wine obsession. At the time, craft beer in Vancouver seemed like an underground subculture whose workings were known to a select few. I had started getting the word out through CAMRA Vancouver’s newsletter, but needed a means for discussing issues and covering events in more depth than e-mail. The B.C. Beer Blog was born.

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Meet Your BC Craft Brewers

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A couple of years ago, I wrote about how what is considered to be the working man’s beer is anything but. Ironically, the worker is persuaded through multi-million dollar marketing campaigns that guzzling a multinational corporation’s industrial lager is more appropriate than buying from a local small business, a style of ale with a history pre-dating lagers by centuries. Craft beer is somehow “fancy,” even though a barley wine, bitter, or brown ale is still made, like lager, with water, barley, hops, and yeast.

It is actually quite easy to shatter this myth if you take the trouble to meet some of your local brewers. The best place to meet them is in brewpubs because they often work within plain sight and even hang out at the bar to eat or have a beer after work. However, if you happen to be shy or introverted, here’s a video produced for Vancouver Craft Beer Week to introduce you to the down-to-earth folks known as Canadian craft brewers:

As you can see, there’s nothing fancy about what our craft brewers do. They just make a good honest brew that doesn’t have to have micro-bubbles, be cold certified, filtered five times, called something it isn’t, or served with a lime in order to sucker you into drinking it. There are more flavours in beer than honey and lime waiting to be experienced. Meet a craft brewer, and they will be happy to show you the way.

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May 3, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Brooklyn Brewmaster’s Dinner

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Garrett Oliver with the Granville Rooms chef, Kye Agrios.

Garrett Oliver with the Granville Room's chef, Kye Agrios, holding a Mint White Chocolate Iced Parfait with Parisian fizzy fruit and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout.

We’re fortunate to be able to get beer from Brooklyn Brewery here because it’s not widely available south of us in Washington (although what they do have more than makes up for it). It also means that Garrett Oliver has an excuse to visit Vancouver and be able to expense the trip by hosting a brewmaster’s dinner and tastings.

It’s important that Oliver does come to evangelize craft beer and food pairing because B.C. is only starting to get an appreciation for both; the more people (high profile or otherwise), the better. Some in Vancouver are starting to listen, but for a so-called cosmopolitan city, I find it rather disappointing how slow the pace is. At the very least, every brewpub should be featuring a paired beer with each of their food items. Using their own beer in their food should be a standard procedure, wherever it makes sense. Beer with dessert? If the appropriate styles are brewed, absolutely! If not, I would have bottles available to offer it.

Garlic and Thyme Grilled Beef Tenderloin with duck fat confit potato, baby vegetables, and green peppercorn sauce paired with Brooklyn Local 2.

Garlic and Thyme Grilled Beef Tenderloin with duck fat confit potato, baby vegetables, and green peppercorn sauce paired with Brooklyn Local 2.

We have the potential for so much more. Just look at what food pairing has done for wine. If there’s a way to differentiate craft beer from industrial suds, it’s in that direction. It also appeals more to women who are not engaged by sexist macrobrew marketing. To ignore or alienate roughly half the population in your marketing is sheer stupidity. I assure you, women do like beer, even most of the ones that say they don’t. It’s just a matter of finding the ones they like. Who cares if it’s not a macho beer, it’s still beer!

The Brooklyn Brewmaster’s Dinner was hosted at The Granville Room. At first I was a little leery about this choice. It’s on the Granville entertainment strip which is geared to young partiers who are not known for their discriminating beer taste, if what’s typically on offer in these places is any indication. My suspicions were even further piqued when the bartender was serving the aperitif beer in the bottle! That’s fine when you are talking about a characterless lager purposely made to offend as few as possible. For a full-flavoured beer, however, that’s like eating a fine meal with your nose plugged. You lose a lot of the experience, don’t you? Smell plays a large role in taste, so it’s important to drink from a vessel with a wide enough opening to fully take in the aroma. Those who understood this asked for a glass. Those who didn’t, were conspicuous by the bottle they were drinking from. The point, though, is that this shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Time to go to Beer School.

Aside from a stumble using Sichuan peppercorns to encrust ahi tuna in the second pairing (they numb the palate), the dinner was a great success. Oliver was both informative and entertaining; the food was top quality; and we had the good fortune of sampling Brooklyn Local 2, which is not currently available in BC. Personally, I like it better than the Local 1.

As the diners vacated The Granville Room for after-dinner drinks at the Alibi Room, the twenty-somethings were already lining up outside. And while I doubt they would see any benefit from Garrett Oliver’s previous appearance, I’ve still reconsidered my previous hesitation about The Granville Room. In fact, this is exactly the sort of place that needs to have beer events like this. There’s no point in preaching to the choir. It is the “great unwashed” that need to be reached, employees especially. If even a small ray of light can be beamed into their minds, it sows the seed of curiosity that has the potential to germinate into something much greater. This is why there’s a need for a “constant gardener.”

Garrett Oliver Returns to BC

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Brooklyn Brewing brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, with Rick, Aly, and Barry of R&B Brewing

Brooklyn Brewing brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, with Rick, Aly, and Barry of R&B Brewing at The Whip

The Brewmaster’s Table author, Garrett Oliver, will be in B.C. from August 13-16 to host two beer pairing dinners in Victoria and Vancouver. While the cities’ beer aficionados will leap at this opportunity to dine with one of the foremost authorities on the subject, I hope the hospitality industry and the media will also take the time to attend and find out why beer also deserves a place at the table.

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Brewing Up a Biz: Money Hunting

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I feel like the proverbial son returning to the blog after a trip to the top of the mountain.  Unfortunately, the “mountain,” in my case, was a trip to the doctor’s office to find out if this flu really was going to kill me. It was not the swine variety.  Doc assured me I would live.  (I really think they should start naming these animal viruses after their respective food groups, i.e. not avian flu but chicken soup flu; not swine flu but bacon flu—much more appetizing.)

So although I have been plugging along on “all things business,” thankfully, my illness did somewhat coincide with “the end of the business plan.” I had a chance to convalesce in peace, not that the business plan will ever be “finished,” per se. But there comes a point after weeks and months of sitting at the computer—working and re-working charts, facts, and figures (and, yes, a little BS, although I prefer “colourful motivational detail”)—when you say, “Hey, this thing just might get the job done.”  And by  “get the job done,” I mean “convince someone to give me money.”  Because in spite of all of my drive and desire to make the best beer EVER, the ugly truth of a lack of capital keeps rearing up. Read the rest of this entry »

Brewing Up a Biz: Doppelganger Decision

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I had some key decisions to make. I decided to do two things at once: I would have to educate myself on the craft of making beer, as well as a bit about the business side of brewing simultaneously. First, I would have to teach myself to brew in order to determine whether I even liked performing the process. As sexy and exciting as researching a startup might be, once things eventually got rolling, I’d be a “beer-cook” on a day in, day out basis. So, were I to discover that I hated sanitizing equipment, couldn’t care less about the science behind yeast strains, my back couldn’t handle moderately heavy lifting, and I passed out working around hot kitchen elements, now was the time to realize it. As it turned out, I really enjoy all of the precision (and lack of precision) that these processes require. I find brewing in my home kitchen rather Zen-inducing.

The second key decision before me was that of approach. Would I open a small production brewery or a small brew pub? (Magnitude was never in question —  it was always going to be “go small or go home.”) At first, I just plain wanted a brewery. I thought I might be able to perfect recipes at home, then replicate them in a small brewery setting. Plus, I have a really cool pair of rubber boots to slosh around in. I would be able to walk into any local tavern or restaurant with my Corny kegs full of amazing (not to mention local) beer and owners would welcome me as the saviour they had been waiting for. Now, although this is still a dream I’m not quite ready to abandon, I’m relatively certain it wouldn’t work out just that way.

The big breweries are smart. They can’t legally command a monopoly, but they can dangle incentives in front of bar owners’ noses to encourage them to not let any other little kids play in the sandbox. (Not quite sure what — perhaps shiny beer ornaments for the Christmas tree, beer bangles, or the like — but I know they’re out there.) So, as the unknown small guy with kegs in the back of his pickup, it would be very difficult; not impossible, but difficult.

Although I knew even less about the restaurant business (save for the statistic that they often fail) than the brewing business, it wasn’t long before I saw the merits of a brew pub operation. As with most “business” decisions, this one, too, is a double-edged sword. I’ll talk about the pros and cons a little later.

An early key decision that I had to make was how to spend the very little cash I had thus far accumulated. Would I blow it on a small commercial brewery or would I spend it on some rather expensive brew training?  I only had enough coin to do one or the other. I did like the shiny high-tech mini-brewery. At that moment, I actually I had a childhood memory flash of an encyclopedia (pre-wiki) salesman sitting at our kitchen table, regaling my mother with the story of Abe Lincoln sharpening his axe for eight hours in order to cut down a tree in only one, or some such legend. So although I’m usually impulsive, and my credit card finger was itchy for the shiny tanks, I decided to go with the education.

Now, I don’t actually think that there is a “right” or a “wrong” choice. If I happened to live near a small craft brewery (which I did not) and I was able to convince them to allow me to apprentice with them on a weekly “wage-free” basis, I might have exercised this option and bought the brewery instead. But this didn’t exist for me. I believe I made the right choice or, at least, the best choice considering the factors affecting me at the time.

I enrolled in the “Concise Course of Brewing Technology” at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago: neither an easy nor an inexpensive place to get to from Prince Rupert, BC. But in just two weeks, I learned a ton. I’d highly recommend the training they have to offer. They aren’t the only institution through which to engage in professional brewing studies (UC Davis and the American Brewers Guild are other options that I know of). But seeing as virtually every major professional brewery in the world employs someone who has been there, it’s not a bad choice.

The Siebel Institute was more than brew training. It also allowed me to sneak in through the backdoor of the “beer business” world. I was rubbing elbows (and clinking mugs) with a range of people: from those with zero experience (like myself and Rick, the crazy Australian) to advanced homebrewers, small- to large-scale professional craft brewers, up to and including a bottling manager from Heineken and three executives from Modelo, whom I mostly communicated with by smiling, nodding, and in whose direction I would raise the occasional mug.

Although very intimidating at first, the rank structure soon came down and we were all just “classmates” with a love of a common career path. This degree of camaraderie (and the clinking of glasses) helped reinforce the notion that I had chosen the right business world. Although it has become somewhat of a cliché, this industry really does seem to support each other, unlike others. Refreshingly, cooperation before competition seems to be the underlying mantra. I still call and e-mail some of these people and share both brewing and business questions and insights as we each progress at our respective stages.

I hope to one day drop in on Rick’s brewpub Down Under and I’d be glad to hoist a pint with him at mine on the shores of PR.

~ Rod Daigle, Triple Island Brewing Company

Brewing Up a Biz: Brew-U

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HOW EXCITING!  Here I am, essentially doing my first “remote” blog (or is that technically an “on location”?)!  I’m currently in Chicago, about half way through the “Start Your Own Brewery” course at the Siebel Institute.  I had my third blog installment virtually complete, about to start talking about my past brewing education decisions, but I figured that could handle being back-burnered a bit, favouring instead to discuss being on the road for the biz.

This is my second trip here to Siebel, and I’m finding (as I did on previous Concise Brewing Tech course — more on that next week) the education both inspiring and extremely applicable. With the likes of Ray Daniels, Randy Mosher, and John Moffatt as presenters, I can’t complain about the lack of relevance to the industry. These guys helped define the craft brewing industry.

On a tangent note, I am, at this moment, being inspired by the top half of a 650ml Imperial Gemini Blended Unfiltered Ale by the Southern Tier Brewing Company of Lakewood, New York.  The reason I bought this particular bottle (aside from the reflective green background and space man on the bottle)?  The degree of detailed information provided on the label!  10.5abv.  22° Plato.  Malted white wheat.  Cara-pils malt.  Red wheat.  Kettle hops:  Columbus, Chinook, and Cascade. Aroma hops: Amarillo. Hop back: Styrian Golding. Dry hops: Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, and Columbus.  Virtually the temp and and time of boil is all that is missing!  In my opinion, this shows an attention to detail that respects the consumer.  I appreciate that.

As a Canadian, it almost chokes me to say this, but the US in general (and these days, Chicago specifically) really has it all over us when it comes to beer.  Go ahead, start typing up your hate mail now.  I can take it.  The quality here is outstanding, not to mention the creativity (in both brewing style and marketing). The selection is out of this world (not just the space man on the bottle; that reference was purely coincidental).  Not to take anything away from some of the amazing breweries we have up north (several Quebecois, BC, and Ontario breweries are coming to mind). But a trip through the aisles of any number of specialty “warehouses” (community liquour stores are more like a “Home Depot of spirits and brews” down here) is enough to silence any die-hard objectors of this view. There is swill and there is quality, but there certainly is choice. And that, in my opinion, is a driving element of the craft segment. It’s what scares the pants off of the macros.

The nice thing is it’s a collaborative business. As a relatively new micro owner/presenter stated today in class, “I’m not competing against the micro across town. I’m competing against  _____-________” (insert favourite conglomerate macro name here).  And I really believe that this outlook transits the border.  Great beer, techniques, and appreciation don’t need a passport.  I don’t feel a “north and south” or an “us vs. them” division (as in hockey, which, incidentally, we will always win hands down) in regards to craft brewing.  It’s simply an upper-case “US.”

Okay, enough touchy-feely.  The bottom half of the pint of Gemini is calling my name…

~ Rod Daigle, Triple Island Brewing Company

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