Tales of The Vancouver Island Craft Beer Creep: Part 1
You may be asking yourself, what could I possibly mean by ‘craft beer creep’? Could I be talking about the guy at the bar leering from behind his chalice of porter? Perhaps this is the guy who scoffs at your choice as you stand in the liquor store line with a 12-pack of Bud? Or is this that irritatingly outspoken person on the internet, going off about how this year’s ‘hot beer’ isn’t nearly as good as it was last year? Or could it be something else, something completely different?
Pardon if I go a bit geeky on this next bit, but anyone who has played the Zerg in the globally popular game, Starcraft, will have seen the term ‘Creep Colony’. For the uninitiated, a creep colony spreads out ‘creep’ on the play surface, making it able to place new buildings on it, and spreading out the species’ (the Zerg’s) influence on the game. (For more on ‘creep’ see the Starcraft Wiki.) I’m using this analogy for craft beer because of a trend I am starting to see develop on Vancouver Island.
I live in Campbell River, roughly three hours away from Victoria BC, the undeniable epicentre of the Vancouver Island Craft Beer scene. (While there is quite a lot going on in Nanaimo and Tofino, Victoria is still where it is at). Growing up in Campbell River and the Comox Valley, it felt as though this place was light years away in terms of craft beer acceptance. The Comox Valley (Cumberland to be precise) has the dubious distinction of having the highest per capita consumption of Lucky Lager. And believe me, Campbell River is not too far behind. That said, something is telling me that a change is in the air. The creep is growing, and it brings good craft tidings with it.
Allow me to explain. Last week, @CascadiaLQ announced via Twitter that their new location was being built in Comox, of all places. Cascadia is a must stop for me every time I visit Victoria due to their excellent rotating selection of craft beer. To think that there will be one only 40 minutes away from me is heavenly. Add to that, a steadily rising population of various craft beers, both seasonal and new breweries, are showing up on Campbell River liquor store shelves (Merecroft Village Liquor Store and Oyster River LQ, to be precise). To this casual observer, the winds aren’t changing soon, but it has already begun.
The true cap on my rationale fell into place the other night when I went to Merecroft Village to pick up a bottle of Evergreen Ale. As you may (or may not) know, Phillips just released this beer in very limited quantities. Literally having been on the shelf for about 12 hours in a previously conceived craft-complacent market, it was already two bottles away from being sold out. While you may be thinking, “Well that sucks! What about the others who wanted to try it?” I say, think about this. The more we as a community embrace these limited releases of craft beer, the more will be produced. It is basic supply and demand. The more we snatch up a limited release beer, the more limited releases we will see here.
Nearly all Vancouver Island craft breweries have a seasonal release program. I, for one, want to taste them all. Hopefully this voracious response to the Evergreen ale will bring even more small batch beers to the north island. I say yes to the creep; yes to the growing influence, acceptance, and consumption of craft beer on Vancouver Island. May the creep continue to make this area a more fertile place to grow craft beer culture. And who knows? Maybe another north island craft brewery. One can only hope.
I’m planning to follow this closely and report back more as things develop. Thanks for reading.