B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Canada

A Great Canadian Long Weekend on the Victoria Ale Trail

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Poster for The Great Canadian Beer Festival 2017.

Most of the 3.6 million annual overnight visitors to Victoria – city of my birth and capital of the province of British Columbia – are drawn to its charming island setting, British colonial character, mild climate, and outdoor activities. Each time I visit Suzhou’s sister city, however, I rarely find time to stroll the lush grounds of Butchart Gardens, explore the hidden alleys of Canada’s oldest Chinatown, or join a waterborne whale watching adventure. It’s the craft beer I come for.

One of my favourite times to enjoy Victoria’s fermented delights is in the second week of September when the Royal Athletic Park plays host to the Great Canadian Beer Festival (GCBF). More than 60 breweries participate, attracting approximately 8,000 people. With so many brewers and craft beer enthusiasts gathered in a city of only 86,000 residents, you can feel the excitement.

This year was special. It was July 11, 1992, when the forerunner to Canada’s longest-running beer festival was held at George Pearkes Arena with eight participating breweries. Twenty-five years later, the GCBF has grown substantially from its humble origins and survived many challenges. Its founding organizers continue to serve as directors of the festival society. Needless to say, there was no way that I would miss the opportunity to celebrate this remarkable achievement. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vancouver Licensees Beware the Pint Police

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Falconetti's Signboard

A sleeve is not a pint, or even close to one, so don’t call it one! In Canada, a pint = 20oz, nothing more, nothing less.

by WanderingPaddy

I don’t know about you, but I am getting fed up with being misled, whether intentionally or not, by bars and restaurants who advertise pints but serve sleeves.

Twice in the last few weeks, I have seen restaurants on Commercial Drive advertising “pint” specials when they were serving sleeves, which are 20-40% less in volume, depending on which version of the hated glassware is being employed. This pisses me off to no end, as it is misleading at best and downright dishonest if the misrepresentation is knowingly advertised.

A few Mondays ago, I notice Falconetti’s tweeting about an all-day “pint” special. I tweeted back a few times, asking if they were, in fact, serving 20oz pours. I was met with silence. Later in the day, I walked past the restaurant on my way to the park with my kid, and noticed a “pint” special advertised on their sidewalk chalkboard. Curious, I stuck my head in the door, and there was not a pint glass to be seen. Just to be sure, I called to enquire, and was told “pints” were a part of the Monday special. When I asked if it was actually a 20oz pour or a sleeve, the response was, “Technically, I guess you are right. We serve 16oz sleeves.”

Technically? Really?

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Why Grapes are Being Freed While Hops Remain Shackled

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by WanderingPaddy

Over the past month, BC wine consumers and the BC wine industry have had several reasons to pop champagne corks in celebration of changes to both federal and provincial laws which have benefited both groups. First Bill C-311, a Private Member’s Bill introduced into the House of Commons by Okanagan-Coquihalla MP, Dan Albas, prompted an amendment to the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (IILA) of 1928. Federal law now allows wine, and wine only, to transported or shipped across provincial borders by consumers. Spirits and beer are still illegal to ship or transport across provincial boundaries, as they have been since the introduction of the IILA.

Next, the provincial Liberals got in on the act by allowing consumers to buy direct from Canadian wineries. As an added bonus, they do not have to pay the BC Liquor Distribution Branch’s (LDB) 123% mark-up! Even though the feds now allow cross-border wine shipments, it is the provincial governments that ultimately have control over what alcohol gets imported into their jurisdictions. So this move was critical to give Bill C-311 some meaning. Again, these allowances were made for wine only, leaving laws unchanged in regards to spirits and beer.

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

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A Vancouver Sun article yesterday about a Statistics Canada report on the sale of alcoholic beverages in Canada talked about beer being the top choice of Canadians, albeit with a declining market share, while red wine sales have doubled since 2000 (article had a photo of a blonde drinking white wine!). This, however, doesn’t tell the whole story of beer consumption in BC because only generalized statistics categorizing beer into domestic and import are being reported.

One gets a more complete picture from sales figures reported by the BC Liquor Distribution Board. From April 2008 to September 2008, bottled beer sales in BC increased by 4.16% overall. Figures for the different sales categories are:

Large: 1.24% +
Regional: 2.06% +
Cottage: 32.49% +
Import: 13.2% +

So while mass market beer sales are rather flat, craft (cottage) beer sales in BC are growing much more than all other segments. Gerry Erith, manager of Brewer Creek Liquor Store in Vancouver, sees a divergence in the beer market: the price conscious and the quality conscious. Those looking for cheap beer will be attracted to products from Pacific Western Brewing, Bowen Island, Shaftebury, Molson, and Labatt. Those more interested in flavour & variety will opt for Cannery, Howe Sound, Phillips, R&B, Tree, etc. They are willing to pay more for a better beer, but don’t need to drink as much to be satisfied. Hence, as more people buy craft beer, I expect per capita beer consumption to go down, which is what has been happening. The difficult segment to be in is mid-market as those products are more than what the price conscious are usually willing to pay but not interesting or flavourful enough for the aficionados.

Could craft beer do better in the market? Aside from the perceived health benefits of red wine, I think there are a couple other factors that explain why beer is losing market share to wine — knowledge and marketing.

There is a lot more coverage of wine in the mainstream media than beer. The major newspapers have weekly wine columns; not one has a beer column (not that there is a lack of anything going on in the craft beer world). As an example of how slim the coverage of BC beer is, a new brewery opened in Comox recently. While it was covered in the town’s local paper and in this blog, there was not a word of it in the Victoria Times Colonist, The Province, or The Vancouver Sun. This is no piddly brewery either. With an investment of $2 million dollars, they aim to sell their beer throughout BC. It also is a good story of an entrepreneur finding a way out of the forest industry sinking boat without laying off all his workers. I doubt the opening of a new winery would escape notice.

So with the average person getting next to no information about their own craft breweries, beer styles, beer & food pairing, and the industry’s movers & shakers, how could one become interested in the possibilities of beer, never mind even knowing that there are any?

And of the information widely available, the majority of it is industrial beer advertising. Is it any surprise, then, that BC’s top-selling brands closely correlate with those most heavily advertised? And what is the substance of the majority of that messaging? Beer, sports, and men. What a great way to limit the appeal of your product, especially if the imagery is blatantly sexist. This doesn’t appeal to a large number of women, so they will choose something that has a more sophisticated, inclusive image. That’s a shame because it isn’t as if women don’t like beer. Many think they don’t, but actually haven’t gone beyond the beer that they didn’t like to find one that they do. That’s typically a fruit beer, wheat beer, or chocolatey stout to start off with. (I actually had a woman kiss me after trying an Old Yale Sasquatch Stout for the first time.)

Given people’s growing interest in gastronomy and the hospitality industry’s efforts to put BC on the global culinary map, it’s no surprise our wine industry has progressed so tremendously over the last two decades. We’ve seen the same with an evolving coffee culture and, recently, a nascent cocktail revival. Therefore, it makes sense people have a growing interest in BC craft beer. Given the myriad of styles available beyond American lager and pale ale, there’s a lot of scope for discovery. Let’s hope our media start catching on and get people excited about what our local brewers are doing. This is an opportunity being missed.

Beer Festival in Wine Country

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Patrick Cumisky serving up some Central City Red Racer IPA.

You may be surprised to learn that it takes a lot of good beer to make a fine wine. That might explain why Penticton’s Cannery Brewing sells more beer in Naramata than all of Alberta and why Silverado Brewing operates a burgeoning brewpub on the grounds of a winery in Napa. It may also explain why the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale in Penticton has no problem still selling out in its fourteenth year.

This year was the first time I attended the OFOA. I had heard the festival was starting to get on the rowdy side in recent years (from the perspective of older beer geeks like myself). My suspicions were aroused when a half-dozen twenty-something males in the lineup in front of me started whooping and hollering even before the venue doors had opened! They were not already drunk. I guess the OFOA must be their biggest event of the year — combine drinking and two-dimensional food (pizza) with skirt-chasing and brawling et voilà, Christmas in April.

How about some Paddock Wood London Porter?

How about some Paddock Wood London Porter from Saskatoon?

I expected, therefore, to see plenty of young bucks drinking themselves into alcohol-induced belligerency, rather than taking the time to learn about and appreciate the beer. However, festival organizers seemed to have taken note of the downward trend and made some changes. Tickets were reduced by 1,000 for each of the festival’s two days, the cost was increased, and sales were strictly limited to before the event. It was also suggested that the music, for the most part, was chosen to coax a more mellow mood than feed the fire. These measures and vigilant security seemed to effectively keep a lid on things. A number of vendors expressed to me a resulting improvement.

On the tasting side, the majority of the festival was devoted to craft beer. There were 17 microbreweries directly represented, including four Washington breweries; two importers poured five beers from four foreign craft breweries; two mass-market beers squeaked in over the bar; and a smattering of alcopops and a macro-cider were there for the females who think they don’t like beer and will continue to think so until their menfolk graduate from drinking macro lager as their everyday beer.

Crannog brewmaster, Brian MacIsaac, accepts the Peoples Choice Award for his Back Hand of God Stout.

Crannog brewmaster, Brian MacIsaac, accepts the People's Choice Award for his Back Hand of God Stout.

Molson Canadian managed to weasel in a pseudo presence at the Boston Pizza booth, unofficial sponsor of unhealthy eating and, by extension, unhealthy drinking. Nevertheless, the food offering was actually better than the Washington Cask Beer Festival. The Barking Parrot took it for best value in my books. (How can you beat a cheeseburger for $1.00?) The Kettle Valley Station Pub offered a decent Louisiana Chicken Burger for $2.00. However, the best eating was easily from Salty’s Beach House — Thai Mini Meatballs, Scallops Remoulade, and fresh-shucked oysters. How civilized! The majority of festivalgoers seemed to agree too as Salty’s won the award for best food.

While there were seven hours on Saturday to make your way through the 60-odd beers worth trying; between drinking, chatting with brewers & fellow CAMRA members, eating, and taking in some of the entertainment, I didn’t manage tasting them all. Mind you, I’d had a number already. Things especially slowed down later in the day when the crowd got much thicker and lineups were ten deep in places. I mostly concentrated on trying what was new to me and found myself quite satisfied by the end.

The festival finale was the announcement of the Industry and People’s Choice awards. The people chose Crannóg’s Back Hand of God Stout as the festival’s best beer. A panel of judges, including my editor at Northwest Brewing News, Alan Moen, selected Pyramid Apricot Ale as the best macro beer, while Shuswap Lake’s (aka Barley Station) Sam McGuire’s Pale Ale was their choice for best micro beer. And that’s what I would call a successful conclusion.

For more OFOA photos, see my Flickr Beer Festivals Set. I also have some photos from my tour of Cannery Brewing the day before.

New Stout from Cannery

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New maple stout from Pentictons Cannery Brewery.

Penticton’s Cannery Brewing has released a new beer, a 5.5% maple stout. It is smooth and sweet with the maple in balance—not overpowering the base beer. This is Cannery’s first seasonal beer, so it will only be available for a limited time. They intend to release two seasonals per year, following this up with another in the spring.

Most beer with added maple syrup is, naturally, brewed close to the source in eastern Canada and New England. Here in B.C. there is Granville Island Kitsilano Maple Cream Ale and Phillips Draught Dodger Maple Cream Ale, which has since had the maple dropped and warranted a renaming to Slipstream Cream Ale.

Dark beers—such as bocks, brown ales, porters, and stouts—are the preferred styles to add maple syrup to, but some have tried lager and wheat beer, the success of which I cannot personally attest to.

I can see this beer going well with the heartier fare one hankers for during colder weather. A baked, maple-glazed ham just might do the trick or beef ribs with maple barbecue sauce. Stout and bay scallops also pair well which can be emphasized with a stout glaze and some maple-smoked bacon.

Sweet stouts are always a winner with dessert—tarte au sirop d’erable, maple cheesecake, maple pecan pie, maple chocolate cake, or even maple walnut ice cream. This should give you plenty of scope for sampling Cannery’s Maple Stout over the winter.

November is Moustache Month

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Actually, it’s prostate cancer awareness month and Phillips is supporting research by donating fifty cents from the sale of each six pack of Blue Buck to the Vancouver Island Prostate Cancer Foundation. Special packs of Blue Back have a fake moustache inside.

Prostate cancer is the leading form of cancer afflicting Canadian men. Some 24,700 are diagnosed with it each year. Of those, 4,300 will die of the disease.

In addition to drinking Blue Buck, you can raise money for prostate cancer research by joining the Republic of Movember, growing a moustache, and taking pledges from your family and friends.