B.C. Beer Blog

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

A Beer Style of Our Own

with 15 comments

British Columbia coastline north of Vancouver.Some places are known for distinctive beer styles. In fact, some styles are even named after the places where they evolved, e.g. Bock (Einbeck), Kölsch (Köln), Pilsner (Plzeň), Vienna Lager. In BC, the craft beer renaissance is reaching ever greater heights. However, is there anything that we can point to as being distinctly BC? When people think of beer and British Columbia, is there anything that differentiates us from our neighbours? The rest of Canada? Not as such.

There is still a lot of experimenting going on in BC as more and more people join the excitement that is craft beer. For a BC style to be adopted, it would require the co-operation of our craft brewers and the support of the drinking public to succeed. As we’ve seen with the Cascadia Dark Ale debacle, the former is already a messy thing. In fact, it might make more sense getting the public behind such an idea. Because if there is an obvious market, what brewer would pass up such an opportunity?

So with that in mind, dear reader, I propose British Columbia becomes known for evergreen ales. While that might seem rather esoteric, recall that a mere five years ago, not all BC brewers were producing an IPA. Yes, you read that correctly. And how popular were pumpkin ales at that time, never mind Storm’s lambic being available anywhere outside the brewery? Things can change quickly when enough people are on board the bandwagon. The media then hop on and create that necessary feedback loop for building steam.

Phillips Evergreen Ale labelWhy evergreen ales? Having lived outside of the province in places far less lush than the Wet Coast, I can tell you that one of the first things people notice when they come here is the verdant landscape. And if you have ever tried Tofino Brewing’s Spruce Tree Ale, you will immediately associate BC’s greenery with what you are experiencing in your glass. Love those resinous, piney notes in your IPA? Of course you do, lupaholic!

What I am proposing isn’t actually innovative. Do some historical sleuthing and you’ll find it is merely über retro. Containing vitaminc C, spruce beer became all the rage in North America after Canadian natives helped Jacques Cartier save his men from scurvy when he was exploring the St. Lawrence River in 1535. The British Royal Navy then adopted spruce beer, spreading it around the world. In 1778, when Captain Cook first arrived here in Nootka Sound, he brewed a spruce beer from a mixture of molasses and fresh Sitka spruce needles. This was the inspiration for Phillips Brewing’s Evergreen Ale, which they released last year.

So if we can persuade Gary Lohin, James Walton, and Graham With to also play around with evergreen ales, maybe we can get something started. I can imagine a time when people will come from far and wide to enjoy BC evergreen ale. Perhaps, one day, Tourism BC may even adopt it as the province’s official beer, directly tying together our landscape with one of the world’s most popular beverages. People travel for beer. Offer something distinct, they will come here for our beer.

15 Responses

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  1. I’ve been toying with idea of dry hopping with Hemlock needles. Definitely the kind of thing I’m hearing more and more about.


    June 26, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    • If you do, I’d love to hear what you did and what the results were.


      June 27, 2013 at 8:05 am

  2. I like the way you think! Let the games begin. Oh ya and get pestering!


    June 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm

  3. Looks like Evergreen Ale is more suitable to be brewed in Evergreen State rather than in BC…


    June 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    • Marketing term. Just the same, go for it and see who wins!


      June 26, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    • BC has more evergreens than the evergreen state so why not? There are probably twice as many evergreens here.


      June 30, 2013 at 3:54 pm

  4. I like where you’re going with this, however it’s not only a BC thing. In 1773 when Cook arrived in New Zealand he brewed a similar beer with Manuka (a native tree similar in flavour to Spruce): http://www.musselinn.co.nz/Capt%20Cooker%20notes.htm


    June 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    • Obviously not if Cartier learned it from the native Canadians. I’m not suggesting this is something exclusive to BC. However, if it is popularized in BC and gains wide acceptance amongst the drinking public and craft brewers, it is something that we can become known for.


      June 26, 2013 at 9:32 pm

  5. For another excellent example, though not BC, get down to Port Angeles and try Ed’s Spruce Juice at Peaks Brewpubt. It’s a double IPA with spruce tips – delicious!


    June 27, 2013 at 2:55 pm

  6. Québec attempted to do the same about 2 years ago with Balsam Fir and called the style Annedd’ale, from Annedda; the tree of life. I wasn’t able to find too much information online in english but here’s a few links:


    • Thanks for the reference, Patrick. It will be interesting to see how far Annedd’ale develops in Québec. It will take a sustained promotional effort and, as I said, co-operation from the brewers and support from the public. In fact, government promotion would also be a helpful boost. But if the majority of messaging is in French, I think this will handicap the effort internationally in reaching beyond the francophonie.


      June 27, 2013 at 7:05 pm

  7. I like the idea. Expect something heading into winter. There is however already a unique beer style you’ll only find in BC. The BC cream ale is vastly different then a traditional cream ale. It’s kind of a strange anomaly that probably started with shaftesbury cream ale. Now quite a few brewery’s make one.

    Graham With

    June 29, 2013 at 9:15 am

    • Looking forward to it, Graham!

      As for the BC cream ale, it’s an option, although less attractive from a broader marketing perspective. How about an evergreen cream ale?


      July 4, 2013 at 1:06 pm

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