B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘R&B Brewing

Winter Games ≠ Winter Beer

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“Our time to shine.”

“Showcase Vancouver to the world.”

These are just two of the pithy slogans Olympics boosters have come up with to get us to embrace an event whose overall benefit to Vancouver and the province are rather dubious. What does the general public have to endure in order to ensure official sponsors get unimpeded access to assault us with their advertising? That IOC’s reputation is not impugned by those opposed to its methods or who question its goals? Plenty.

Some argue that this is acceptable, given how we’re all going to do well by the Games. That’s a rather facile way of looking at it. Ask yourself if some will benefit disproportionately to others? By how much? Ask yourself if all this money were invested in some other fashion, would it result in greater good for the whole? Is this the beginning of a slippery slope where respect for our fundamental freedoms becomes optional?

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Iceholes Chill Out with a Brew

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R&B Iceholes Celebration Lager labelU.S. Speedskating sponsor, Stephen Colbert, launched a psyops campaign against his team’s arch-rival, Speed Skating Canada, calling Canadians syrup-sucking iceholes and claiming that his team was not being given a fair opportunity to practice at the Richmond Olympic Oval.

Recognizing that this is merely hyperbole stemming from the ultra-competitiveness that many Americans suffer from, R&B Brewing has come up with an appropriate Canadian response: chill out, Steve, and have an Iceholes Celebration Lager; may the best team win!

Barry Benson, co-owner of R&B Brewing Co., said, “We are proud syrup-sucking Canadian iceholes. In celebration of our icehole-ish behaviour, we have decided to get even rather than get mad. Canadians can wreak their revenge against Stephen Colbert in a truly Canadian way and have a beer.”

Iceholes Celebration Lager officially launches today, from 5:00-9:00pm, with events at:

Pumphouse Pub
6031 Blundell Road
Richmond

Capones Restaurant and Live Jazz Club
1141  Hamilton Street
Vancouver

Iceholes Celebration Lager is available in 650ml bottles at independent beer stores and Vancouver restaurants throughout February only.

Beer Wars: The Battle Rages Every Day

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CAMRA Vancouver is screening the beer industry documentary, Beer Wars, at 4:00pm on Sunday, January 31. Greg Koch of San Diego’s Stone Brewing will be in attendance, and entertainment will be provided by local muscians, Sun Wizard. Central City, Driftwood, Granville Island, Howe Sound, R&B, Red Truck, Steamworks, Swans, and Yaletown brewing will be serving BC craft beer.

This is an ideal event for a person looking to find out more about beer and the craft brewing scene in BC. Where else can you have a good brew and watch a movie at the same time, except at home!


Beer Wars is not a stupid, drunken, frat-boy romp, filled to the brim with crude humor and bad taste. It’s a film that looks behind the scenes of the American beer industry (also relevant to Canada), where corporate behemoths are being challenged by small, independent brewers shunning the status quo, and creating innovative new beers. The story is told through two of these entrepreneurs — Sam and Rhonda — battling the might and tactics of Corporate America. Interviews with numerous industry players fill in the big picture.

Beer Wars is also not a flick that was made for the beer geek. Filmmaker, Anat Baron (UBC alumnus), set out to make an accessible movie that would give the average, mass-market beer drinker a better understanding of how their beer is made, where it comes from, and how it gets to them.

Beer Wars Movie

Date: Sunday, January 31
Time: 4:00 – 8:00pm
Venue: District 319, 319 Main Street, Vancouver, BC
Cost: $30.00, $25.00 CAMRA members (includes entry & all beer)
Tickets: only 150; advanced purchase only

  • online at CAMRA Vancouver
  • Alibi Room: see Rick Green on Jan. 28 from 6:00 – 8:00pm
  • Dix: see Monica Frost at the bar on Jan. 28 from 6:00 – 9:00pm
  • Firefly Fine Wines and Ales: see Lundy Wed. & Thurs., 3:00 – 11:00pm; Fri. & Sat., 10:00am – 6:00pm
Beer Wars movie poster

District 319 is an exclusive venue that is only available for private functions. It was an abandoned Asian movie house that has been renovated into a stylish, state-of-the-art multimedia facility.

Postscript

As of February 1, Beer Wars is now available on demand, as a download, or on DVD.

Ocean Wise Seafood Chowder Chowdown

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Boundary Bay Smoked Salmon Chowder Having been very impressed with the Granville Island Brewing / Pacific Institute of Culinary ArtsWinter Ales and Fare” cooking competition, I’m pleased to announce another food and beer contest comes right on its heels.

On Wednesday, November 25, the Vancouver Aquarium‘s Ocean Wise program is hosting their 2nd annual Seafood Chowder Chowdown in conjunction with the Craft Brewers Association. The following ten Ocean Wise chef finalists will battle it out to be the BC Ocean Wise Seafood Chowder Champion 2009: Chef Wesley Young (C Restaurant), Chef Josh Wolfe (COAST  Restaurant), Chef Matt and Andrew Christie (Go Fish), Chef Chris Whittaker (O’Doul’s Restaurant), Chef Sarai De Zela Pardo (Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts), Chef Jasen Gauthier (Provence Marinaside), Chef Michael Carter (The Refinery), Chef Randy Jones (Whistler Blackcomb), Chef Myke Shaw (Vancouver Aquarium Catering & Events), Chef Nobu Ochi (Zen Japanese Restaurant).

Granville Island Brewing, Phillips Brewing, R&B Brewing, Tree Brewing, and Whistler Brewing will each be partnered with two of the chefs to come up with beer pairings for their chowder. These, along with the ten chowders and other beers from the breweries’ portfolios, will be available for guests to sample in the extraordinary setting of the Aquarium at night. At $35 per ticket, this is a phenomenal value.

You get to choose the People’s Choice Award, while five esteemed judges—Chef David Hawksworth, Jamie Maw, Chester Carey, Guy Dean, Kim Stockburn—will determine this year’s champion. Chef Quang Dang of C Restaurant was last year’s 2008 Sustainable Seafood Chowder Champion.

As wine is often an ingredient in chowder, I’m looking forward to seeing what the chefs will come up with in respect to beer. The Smoked Salmon Chowder pictured here is made by Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro in Bellingham. It paired wonderfully with Buy tickets!their Chinook IPA, an annual special release beer that’s sold to raise funds for the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association.

The Seafood Chowder Chowdown serves as a good model for other cooking competitions that also lend themselves very well to pairing with beer. Two that I can think of right off the top of my head are the Canadian Festival Of Barbecue And Chili at Eat! Vancouver and the Gastown Blues & Chili Fest. An IPA and curry cookoff would also be brilliant.

2nd Annual BC Ocean Wise Seafood Chowder ChowDown
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 @ 6:00 – 9:00 pm
Vancouver Aquarium, Stanley Park
Tickets: $35 / person

Gastown Cask Carouse

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Alibi publican, Nigel Springthorpe, pulls a pint of cask ale.

Alibi publican, Nigel Springthorpe, pulls a pint of cask ale.

CAMRA Vancouver is hosting a Real Ale pub crawl in Gastown this Saturday, featuring cask-conditioned ales from R&B Brewing at four of the neighbourhood’s best locations dedicated to craft beer.

R&B Brewing Alibi Room The Irish Heather Six Acres Steamworks

Gastown Cask CarouseParticipants will break up into four groups and hit the Alibi Room, The Irish Heather, Six Acres, and Steamworks. Each person will receive, respectively, a pint of R&B Hoppelganger IPA, Red Devil Pale Ale, Raspberry Sun God Wheat Ale, and Raven Cream Ale, along with an assortment of bar snacks.

People from CAMRA Vancouver and the craft beer industry will also be on hand to talk about cask-conditioned ale and answer any questions.

Gastown Cask Carouse
Time: Saturday, August 29, 12:30 – 5:00pm
Place: meet at Carrall & Water streets, between Koolhaus & Chill Winston
Limit: 80 people
Cost: $30, $25 CAMRA members
Info & Registration: CAMRA Vancouver Web site

The weather forecast for Saturday is sunny and warm, so be sure to register today to ensure your space.

A New Trend for Father’s Day?

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Mother’s Day brunch is becoming a fairly established tradition, but what is there for Dad? How about a Father’s Day brewmaster’s dinner? Thinking that’s a perfect way to show your appreciation for dear old Dad, Central City Brewing, Crannóg, and R&B are each hosting such a dinner this coming Sunday. Here are the details:

Diva Head Sous Chef Jeff Van Geest

Diva Executive Sous Chef Jeff Van Geest

Unforgettable Tastes For an Unforgettable Man

June 21 @ 6:30 – 9:30pm
Diva at the Met
645 Howe Street, Vancouver
Cost: 5 courses w/ beer $55
Info: e-mail diva@metropolitan.com or call (604) 602-7788

MENU
Local Oysters 3 Ways
Tempura with crusted edamame & wasabi
Fresh with green apple herb mignonnette
Smoke with rhubarb barbeque sauce
R&B Sun God Wheat Ale

Albacore Tuna & Pink Salmon Tartare
Classic garnish
R&B Bohemian Lager

Bacon Wrapped Sloping Hill Pork Loin
Confit shoulder, morel mushrooms & barley risotto with dried pear
Maple mustard jus & cream ale foam
R&B Smoked Raven Cream Ale Cask (specially brewed for this event)

Farmhouse Cheddar
Apple ginger crumble, garam masala gastrique
R&B Hoppleganger IPA

Blackberry and Dark Chocolate Napoleon
Morello cherry chocolate coulis
Stout ice cream and stout foam
Espresso gellee
Dark Star Oatmeal Stout

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Spinnakers Hosts First Cask Festival

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Speaking of culinary tourism, Spinnakers hosted their inaugural cask festival on March 14 from noon to 5:00pm. As they’ve been tapping a different cask every weekday since December, it was only a matter of time before they would have a festival. I got word that the planning was underway when two of their employees attended the X-mas X-treme Caskival at Dix on December 6 to take notes.

The timing of Spinnakers’ cask festival was somewhat unfortunate in that it coincided with Just Here for the Beer’s Wine & Beer Festival at the Plaza 500 Hotel in Vancouver. Forced to make a choice, I selected Real Ale and an excuse to get out of town. Even with a high chance of rain, a day spent indoors imbibing cask-conditioned ale from some of BC’s top breweries, in the company of brewers and the craft beer cognoscenti, is time well spent.

The event was held upstairs in Spinnakers’ pub, which meant a limited number of tickets were available. Demand seems to have greatly exceeded supply as they sold out rapidly. Perhaps for the next one they will consider a larger venue. However, I doubt they will close off the downstairs dining room as I’m sure they make a lot more money from regular diners than drinkers.

Nineteen beers were featured, so there was adequate space to stage the casks around the room. The lineup was:

Some of the brewers who contributed to the cask festival.

In comparison to the more freestyle nature seen at Dix Caskivals, these beers were fairly indicative of their respective styles. A little bit of experimentation was seen with Canoe’s stout, Granville Island’s Ginger Beer, Spinnakers’ Black Velvet, and Swans’ porter, but nothing as eccentric as Dave Varga’s Masala Pale Ale or Tariq Khan’s Chipotle Cream Ale that they brewed for Caskival. Canoe Habit Espresso Stout is a collaboration with a Victoria coffee roaster. I like both beverages; even better together! Granville Island Ginger Beer appeals to all those ginger lovers with plenty of Hawaiian ginger to spice things up — great food pairing beer. Spinnakers’ Black Velvet was a blend of Irish stout and sparkling white wine. This was my first taste of the fest and I found it tasty, light, and refreshing — somewhat reminiscent of Unibroue Chambly Noire. Swans Pod Porter was conditioned with organic Madagascar vanilla pods, giving it a nicely enhanced vanilla flavour that is a major contrast to Granville Island’s over-the-top, cloying Winter Ale. Lovers of the latter should compare the two in a side-by-side tasting.

Spinnakers Katie Zimmerman announces end of their inaugural cask festival.

Spinnakers Katie Zimmerman announces end of their inaugural cask festival.

Although Phillips did not bring a cask, they did do something out of the ordinary that I found most welcome, despite some people’s grumblings — they served their draught IPA through two randalls, one containing Cascade hops, the other Centennial. Basically, they were dry-hopping the IPA even more on the fly. Delicious!

This was the first opportunity I had to try the mysterious Lighthouse Riptide Pale Ale. It’s their first new beer in three years and I must say that it’s about time! Offering seasonal beers is a basic practice for improving marketing: at the very least, you have more to say to the public to get their attention. Naturally, I was curious to find out more about the Riptide — how is it different from all the other pale ales out there; what malt or hops did they use, etc. Unfortunately, they won’t tell me anything beyond their generic marketese: ‘choicest imported malts, mated with a unique hop blend…’ Doesn’t everyone say that? Actually, no. If you look at the festival programme, virtually all of the other brewers talk about the specific ingredients they used for their beer. No big trade secret. Without specific measurements and knowing the particular brewing techniques, it is highly unlikely a brewer will be able to exactly match another’s beer. There are too many variables. I find the secrecy rather silly. Riptide doesn’t have a je ne sais quoi that makes it truly unique. It’s just another pale ale aiming for broad drinkability.

Five hours of drinking means that you need to have something to eat. Spinnakers is a good place to be hungry. I ordered their pulled pork nachos and Highland Beef Burger. There was no need for dinner after! Nevertheless, as a lagniappe, complimentary handmade white chocolate saison truffles were served to sweeten the day’s experience.
I always find these festivals come to a reluctant end. There’s never enough time to talk in a lot of detail to all of the brewers and your craft beer comrades and still be able to taste all of the beers. Fortunately, if you wanted to stay around, Spinnakers honoured purchased tasting tickets and you could order pints of any of the remaining casks. I had a ferry to catch, so I made a hasty departure with my travelling companions, Spinnakers Barley Wine and India Pale Ale malt vinegars for souvenirs.

The Best of… Beer Confusion

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WE, the weekly formerly known as the West Ender, recently published its ‘The Best of the City’ readers choice awards. In their After Dark section, they had a couple of categories covering beer, so fewer issues for me to have than with the Georgia Straight‘s ‘Best of Vancouver‘ awards. Nevertheless, it is another canary in the coal mine to judge how beer-savvy their readers are. The verdict? Not terribly.

WE had two categories devoted to beer —Microbrewery and Brew Pub. What were the picks?

Microbrewery:

  1. Dockside Brewing Co.
  2. Steamworks Brewing Co.
  3. Granville Island Brewing

Brew Pub:

  1. Yaletown Brew Pub (sic)
  2. Steamworks Brewing Co.
  3. Dockside Restaurant & Brewing Co. (sic)

Problem? Dockside and Steamworks are not microbreweries They produce beer solely for sale on their premises, hence the term ‘brew pub.’ Microbreweries produce beer for sale outside of their premises. They’ve been allowed to have tap rooms to offer visitors a sample of their brews, but full pub service is not available.

So for next year’s ‘The Best of the City’ awards, let’s get what we’re voting on straight. In Vancouver proper, there are three microbreweries — Granville Island, R&B, and Storm — and four brew pubs — Coal Harbour, Dix, Dockside, Steamworks, Yaletown. If the boundary is actually Metro Vancouver, then the options extend from Lions Bay to Delta, Bowen Island to Abbotsford. That excludes Howe Sound Brewing, Whistler Brewhouse, Dead Frog, and Mission Springs. It also doesn’t include Whistler Brewing which doesn’t even brew in Whistler. Granville Island is a bit of an anomaly because the only beer they brew at the island is their seasonal releases. Anything that’s sold in a six-pack is made in Kelowna.

Super Bowl Super Duds

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A Province article on February 1 explained how their sports department attempted to discover “the best refreshing brew to enjoy” while watching the Super Bowl. Naturally, given the sports orientation of the exercise, this year’s “ultimate Super Sud” was to be determined by a “knockout-style bracket.” The contenders? BC’s eight top-selling beer brands and eight “lesser-known but still tasty” ones. The tasting panel was comprised of six males and one female. (Do we detect a bias?) For the results, read on and weep.

The provincial top eight sellers are:
1. Corona
2. Molson Canadian
3. Kokanee
4. Budweiser
5. Coors
6. Stella Artois
7. Miller Genuine Draft
8. Alexander Keith’s

Notice that seven of the eight are mass-market lagers. All eight are heavily advertised — ergo, the power of media in brainwashing the public. Many would call these everyday beers for the working man, but think of what really is the working man’s brew. Is it beer’s equivalent of Wonder Bread, a product mass-produced by a large corporation to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to maximize profits? These contenders strike me as the equivalent of trying to find the tastiest meal by comparing McDonald’s with Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway, KFC, Panago, Tim Horton’s, and Denny’s. Because the food can be had fast and cheap, notwithstanding the ultimate high price paid, people are persuaded they are, somehow, good.

The remaining eight were:
9. Sleeman’s  (sic) Honey Brown
10. Carlsberg
11. Grolsch
12. Innis and (sic) Gunn
13. Bowen Island Pale
14. Phoenix
15. St. Ambroise
16. Yanjing

“Phoenix” is actually Phillips Phoenix Gold Lager. St. Ambroise could be any one of eight beers produced by Montreal’s MacAuslan Brewing; in this case, it happens to be their Apricot Wheat Ale.

In the first round, the match-up was between Corona & Yanjing, Canadian & St. Ambroise, Kokanee & Phoenix Gold, Budweiser & Bowen Island, Coors versus Innis & Gunn, Stella & Grolsch, MGD & Carlsberg, and Keith’s & Sleeman. Going on to the next round were Yanjing, Canadian, Kokanee, Budweiser, Innis & Gunn, Grolsch, MGD, and Sleeman. Except for the I&G, all the remaining contenders are lagers.

In the Province article’s commentary, there were some interesting remarks. Corona was characterized as “bland” and “distinctly unimpressive.” So why is it the top-selling beer in BC? If you are what you eat/drink, what would that say about the people here? Of course, being the top-seller doesn’t necessarily mean that the majority of people here buy it. Those that like it may guzzle it a lot, but the rest of us may be justly satisfied with drinking less and drinking well.

Naturally, the St. Ambroise was deemed a girly beer (“This isn’t a Super Bowl beer…”), so the female panelist was rapidly slapped down. But Innis & Gunn proved Kevlar to the Silver Bullet, keeping her in the game as it was her clear favourite. Kokanee trumped Phoenix Gold because it’s “a good, standard, hoser beer.” That clearly deserves a replay. Budweiser dominated Bowen Island, but all of the latter’s tasters were polished off. Sound like the game was rigged? Next to Grolsch, Stella was exposed as “swill,” “rancid and awful.” Better beer does tend to do that. The Sleeman Honey Brown was mischaracterized as an ale. I guess the panel didn’t think a lager could have such flavour.

I was a Kokanee whore. Now I’m changing my ways.
- Rose Weir, The Whip Restaurant & Gallery

The second round pitted Sleeman against Yanjing, Canadian vs. MGD, Kokanee & Grolsch, and Budweiser vs. Innis & Gunn. Given the trend so far, one might expect Sleeman, Grolsch, and Innis & Gunn to get knocked out. Not so. Going on to the semi-finals were Sleeman, MGD, Kokanee, and Budweiser. Comically, Grolsch was characterized as a “Dutch ‘Budweiser.’” Nevertheless, the competition started getting serious. A former CFL player on the panel was reduced to cursing when Bud advanced.

Now at this point, even when you’re drinking swill, the beer can start going to your head. The panel’s choice of sustenance to keep moving the ball forward? Pizza and chips — two of America’s favourite food groups.

With the carbo loading out of the way, the taste of victory was in the mouths of the remaining competitors. Down to the five yard line? MGD and Sleeman! Who’s going to kick the winning field goal? The five times cold filtered contradiction (hint: draft means it isn’t in a bottle) or the beer of colour that’s actually a lager? Potential spoiler: the writer notes that Sleeman comes in clear bottles and “some have said that the taste can be affected by the exposure to light.” However, the panel didn’t seem to think so. I imagine it’s because their bottles weren’t light struck (thus, it’s conclusive this is a myth!). Ever wondered why beer bottles are mostly brown?

Despite the handicap, Sleeman Honey Brown is voted the Super Sud. Why? “…having slogged through so many lighter-tasting beers, they all began to taste the same. But not Sleeman’s.” Wow! A sports-centric group tiring of beer monoculture? We may be starting to get somewhere. But given the glacial rate of progress, I’m not quite prepared to hold my breath. Calling beer “suds” doesn’t indicate to me an appreciable degree of respect for the beverage. Would you catch a writer referring to wine as “plonk?” Only if it were meant to indicate derision.

The first problem with this competition is that the goal was to pick a single beer to imbibe for a whole eight hours. Why do you have to drink just one for the entire duration? What a bore! The other problem was the selection chosen to begin with. Twelve lagers out of 16 evaluated? That’s a distinct stylistic bias. The rabble have yet to discover bocks, porters, dubbels, tripels, quadrupels, saisons, lambics, alts, barley wine, bitters, milds, IPAs, Scotch ale, bière de garde, Rauchbier, Roggenbier, Koelsch, wood-aged ales, red ales, brown ales, Trappist ales, spiced ales, Russian Imperial stout, sahti, Berliner Weisse, Australian sparkling ale, etc. It’s kind of like the Titanic hitting an iceberg: the extent of what exists is not visible from what is merely in the surface.

I’m always puzzled by the strong association of light lager with American football, as epitomized by the Super Bowl beer commercials. If football is such a macho sport, then why do jocks think it is très cool to drink such wimpy, characterless beer? Something more fitting would be a chewy IPA or stout. When faced with the latter, however, the sport nuts are scared of the dark and want the light turned on. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate their image.

In the meantime, stay tuned for periodic beer evaluations from the Thinking Drinkers tasting panel. They will be more even-handed evaluations with an even split between male and female participants. For inspiration, my “first-down” this evening is going to be one of the last bottles of R&B’s Hop Goblin’, which will be replaced with a new brand: same IPA, different name. We can thank the litigious limeys at Wychwood for that.

Tree Goes Hop Head to Hop Head with Green Flash

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In yet another case of lupulin litigation — or the threat thereof — Kelowna’s Tree Brewing served notice on San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing Co. to cease using the name “Hop Head” in BC.  Since August 2008, Green Flash has been selling its Hop Head Red Ale in select private liquor stores, mostly in the Lower Mainland. Tree brews Hop Head India Pale Ale.

This is the fourth case in two years in which BC craft breweries have been involved in legal disputes over trademarks. In 2007, Vancouver’s Mark James Group demanded Victoria’s Phillips Brewing stop using the name Blue Truck because it was too similar to its Red Truck brand. Last year, England’s Wychwood Brewery threatened punitive action against Vancouver’s R&B Brewing as they felt the market would be confused between the latter’s Hop Goblin’ India Pale Ale and their Hobgoblin Ale. (Memo to Wychwood: we aren’t confused and are pissed off you think us to be that stupid.) Also last year, Sleeman took Aldergrove’s Dead Frog to task over use of clear bottles. Dead Frog isn’t backing down and will battle it out in the courts.

Lawyers Win, Drinkers Lose

Tree President, Tod Melnyk, said Tree was obligated to protect its trademark, otherwise they could lose it. He felt the onus was on Green Flash and its agents to perform due diligence before entering a market. Since he received no telephone call from anyone representing Green Flash, he instructed Tree’s lawyer to send notice to Green Flash. Green Flash, being a small brewery, will not contest this in court. British Columbia is a small market for them, therefore, they will discontinue shipping Hop Head Red Ale here.

While Melnyk is correct in wanting to protect his trademark and that Green Flash ought to have done their due diligence and contacted him, it doesn’t necessarily indicate any hostile intent on the part of Green Flash. A phone call might have straightened out any misunderstanding or oversight, and an agreement reached so that consumers could continue purchasing both beers. Unfortunately, we won’t know if this could have happened. Tree’s decision was to initiate communication through their lawyer, which is rarely conducive to friendly dialogue. Now we have one less award-winning craft beer to purchase in BC.

Craft Brewers’ Code

While one expects corporations to speak to small businesses through their lawyers, the cases of Mark James/Phillips and Tree/Green Flash are different. All four are craft brewers. And whenever they employ corporate tactics without attempting to speak directly to each other, we all lose.

In the case of the Red Truck/Blue Truck tiff, Phillips conceded to avoid costly legal expenses. However, this raised the ire of craft beer drinkers in southern Vancouver Island, spawning “Better Dead than Red” t-shirts. In the process, the publicity of the case raised the profile of Phillips and the experience prompted them to release a new beer, their Accusation Ale, to emphasize the pettiness of it all. Had Mark James employed a more co-operative approach with Phillips, they could have worked together to improve craft beer’s market share vis-a-vis industrial lager, but the opportunity is probably lost. Red Truck will likely face a higher barrier to entry across the strait if they ever decide to make a go of it.

One reason why craft beer has grown considerably in the US is because they have craft brewing guilds where the brewpubs and breweries support each other in the fight against the beer behemoths. Case in point: Collaboration not Litigation Ale. Avery Brewing and Russian River Brewing both brew Belgian-style ales called Salvation. Rather than square off against each other in the so-called halls of justice, their respective brewers sat down together and decided to collaborate by blending their two Salvations for a special annual seasonal release, CNLA. So instead of one company forcing both to contribute to the lawyers’ welfare fund, they profit from each other’s good will.

This is much less the case in BC. Some microbreweries are not above poaching another’s taps because it’s the low-hanging fruit. All this does is cannibalize the beachhead craft beer clings to in the province. From the perspective of the big boys, the divided will remain conquered and the multitude will continue to swig soulless swill. Guess who the winner is. Hint: it isn’t you.

Market Mayhem

As in the Mark James/Phillips case, being legally right doesn’t always mean coming out ahead. One needs to consider the market’s dynamics before going such a route.

With the current state of beer in BC, it’s the conglomerates that have a huge advantage. Their deep pockets mean they can afford to deliver a constant stream of brainwashing to the uninitiated and the oblivious, never mind being able to buy shelf space and tap handles. It’s impossible to compete head to head, therefore, a different approach is required.

For the craft brewing underdog, a more fruitful avenue is to focus on early adopters. If they enthusiastically embrace your product, they will evangelize it for free. It will then influence those around them because the message comes from a more objective authority, not a self-interested business entity. The more the message is verified and accepted, the wider the circle radiates from friend to friend. With today’s technology and the power of social media, this process can proceed very rapidly.

It also works the same for negative news, but even faster. The average BC beer drinker who doesn’t care for craft beer isn’t affected by the legal manoeuvres of matroyshka multinationals. The conglomerates will fight it out in court with their legal legions and their products will still be around at the end of the day. In the case of craft brewers, however, a legal loss may mean the demise of a beer or even the brewery. Deprive early adopters of a quality product, prepare to incur their displeasure and have that spread through their network. This is similar to what spawned CAMRA in the UK.

Another potential cost to Tree is if they ever intend to enter the US market. As part of the craft-brewing fraternity, they may have been able to count on the support of their American brethren to establish a foothold across the 49th parallel. Given the choice that was made, however, they may be treated as a hostile competitor and find the going much tougher.

I hope Canadian craft breweries will give more serious consideration to how they relate to each other and their neighbours in the future. We still have a long ways to go before we gain a share of the market for craft beer comparable to Oregon and Washington. We can only hope we’ll get there.

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