Vancouver Restaurateur Insults Craft Brewers, Belgians, Beer Drinkers
A few months back I met with someone from the wine camp. Over a few beers, we had an excellent discussion about issues common to both the BC wine and craft beer industries, successes the wine lobby had realized as a result of advocacy, and how craft beer consumers could better organize to help them realize similar successes. During this discussion, it was pointed out to me that craft beer advocates and the craft beer industry as a whole have a major problem. It has nothing to do with the quality of beer being brewed or the lack of industry organization. This is a problem that is playing a major role in the lack of support given to craft beer by the government and the hospitality industry.
“You (craft beer consumers/industry) have an image problem,” I was told. This was not news to me, and should not be for the majority involved with the craft beer scene in BC. It is a reality and a hangover from the Dark Ages of Beer. This was when, with few exceptions, the majority of beers available from coast to coast in Canada were generic, mass-produced lagers meant to be swilled for effect, not taste. During this Dark Age, beer had no place in the finer restaurants about town, did nothing to enhance or compliment food, and was considered a beverage almost exclusively downed by down-and-outs and working men. Thankfully, due to the explosion of the BC craft beer scene and the amazing beers being brewed locally, those days are long gone. Or are they?
A few weeks back, my family and I walked into one of our favourite Commercial Drive eateries. I noticed, what looked to be, a fairly casual wine tasting in progress. I went over to introduce myself, hoping to score a sample or two of primo vino, and strike up a conversation with others who share a passion for good food and drink. Quickly, the conversation shifted to the recent Bring Your Own Wine legislation. I mentioned my desire, as a consumer advocate of local craft beer, that the laws be further changed to include beer. That’s when I came face-to-face with the reality of the “image problem” facing beer drinkers.
I was told in no uncertain terms by one of the people at the tasting, that no restaurant owner would be interested in beer being included in BYOB legislation. This fellow, who told me several times he was the owner of five restaurants, therefore knew what he was talking about. He went even further and asked who, in general, would be interested in such a ridiculous idea? He dismissed the fact that craft beer consumers would be very interested in this concept. He scoffed at the idea that a beer of any style or quality could compliment, never mind elevate, food if paired properly. He told me he had no interest in enticing the craft beer crowd to his restaurants because beer drinkers “only order yam fries”.
Wow! Behold the wine snob.
This restauranteur wanted to hear nothing of the fact that he was actually sitting in an establishment that supported including beer in BYOB legislation. He pooh-poohed the notion that, like wine, people cellar and age certain beer; ignored my point that there were a multitude of fine dining, beer pairing dinner events that sell out on a regular basis around the city; that craft beer lovers are often also equally into their fine wines, single malt scotches, and gourmet food. Quite simply, he could not fathom that those who enjoy good craft beer come from diverse backgrounds and have varied tastes and interests, just like those who enjoy wine. He offered no solid argument, other than the idea that wine is more refined than beer, wine drinkers more sophisticated than those who prefer a fine ale, that selling craft beer was not profitable.
It was quite obvious to me that Mr. Wine Snob was actually quite ignorant of what great beer is all about, especially when he ordered a macro lager to enjoy with his food, instead of the craft beer option that paired very well with the style of food being served. Luckily, my wife was there to drag me out of the conversation, as the condescending and patronizing tone of Mr. Wine Snob triggered my inner Surrey.
There will always be restaurants and bars that cater to wine lovers, just as there are now places like the Alibi Room, St Augustine’s, and Biercraft that cater to the craft beer crowd. There are also fine dining establishments, like Vij’s and Chambar, with great wine menus that also offer great beer for a reason… because they understand flavours and taste without prejudice. They offer consumers choice.
But Mr Wine Snob is not alone. This is part of the response I received from Rich Coleman, minister in charge of all things alcohol in BC, when I wrote him about Bring Your Own Beer to restaurants:
While we appreciate the evolving nature and uniqueness of craft beer, it is not in the same category as wine.
Behold the wine snob. (More on Mr Coleman at a later date…)
As a side note, I don’t have time for the beer snob either. If someone gets pleasure from sipping a sleeve of Molson 67, good for them. You won’t find it in my glass, and what is in your glass does not impact my drinking experience. I do not assume that those who drink these types of beer are inferior to me, or have no clue about good food because this, quite simply, is not true.
And if you want to know, Mr. Wine Snob, otherwise known as Chris Stewart, is co-owner of the very successful Vancouver restaurants La Buca, Pied-à-Terre, Cafeteria, Commissary, and The Sardine Can. I introduced myself as the President of CAMRA Vancouver and presented my card on the table. Therefore, he should have known I was on the side of the craft beer consumer. Yet, he felt it necessary to insult beer drinkers and make it clear to me, they were not good for his restaurants. After he did so, he gave me his card without his name but listing his establishments; at which time he, once again, warned me that they were fine dining, wine-oriented restaurants, places yam-fry-eating beer lovers like myself may find lacking, even though I had told him several times that I had a great love for wine after living in South France for almost three years.
I am not telling you to boycott or avoid his restaurants. As I have said, I have heard they are excellent. But if you want a great plate of yam fries or a good beer, please take the above into consideration.
~ originally published on the VanEast Beer Blog on September 28, 2012, as Behold the Wine Snob.