B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Sleeman

The Sh*t Has Hit the Fan

with one comment

by WanderingPaddy

The shit really hit the fan on Thursday, splattering all over the BC Liberals and their plans to fast-track the sale of the LDB warehouses and warehouse distribution system.

NDP MLA, and my favourite BC politician at the moment, Shane Simpson, flung the poop when he dropped a bombshell, producing 39 pages of documents indicating that the BC Liberals, as recently as June 2011, had no plans to privatize liquor distribution. Yet weeks later, after then Solicitor General Shirley Bond was approached by Exel Logistics VP, Scott Lyons, the government had a change of heart. They decided to privatize, despite having no business case.

After Simpson released the documents accessed through a Freedom of Information request, a media frenzy erupted. I especially enjoyed Vaughn Palmer’s grilling of Labour Minister, Margaret MacDiarmid, on CKNW. MacDiarmid’s comment that “governments do change their minds”, is ridiculous under the circumstances. Consider that last June, LDB privatization was not on the table. But after the meeting with Lyons on August 25, privatization was alive and moving forward. It recalls BC Liberal claims that the HST “was not on their radar” prior to the 2011 election, yet weeks after being voted back into government, Gordon Campbell’s Liberals were ramming the hated tax down our throats.
Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

The Next Wave in BC Craft Beer

with 4 comments

Patrons enjoying the Driftwood beer dinner at Hapa Umi.

It was just over three years ago when I started this blog out of frustration over the lack of craft beer coverage in the mainstream media – virtually none. In fact, they were reporting the decline of beer in favour of wine when I knew it was a generalization that completely overlooked the ferment that was happening in BC amongst the microbreweries and brewpubs. Clearly, the MSM had no idea, given their wine obsession. At the time, craft beer in Vancouver seemed like an underground subculture whose workings were known to a select few. I had started getting the word out through CAMRA Vancouver’s newsletter, but needed a means for discussing issues and covering events in more depth than e-mail. The B.C. Beer Blog was born.

Read the rest of this entry »

Creemore Springs Buying Granville Island

with 7 comments

Creemore Springs BreweryIt was announced yesterday that Creemore Springs Brewery (a Molson Coors Canada subsidiary) intends to acquire Granville Island Brewing from Andrew Peller Limited. No changes in Granville Island’s operations are currently anticipated. According to the press release, Creemore’s primary reason for buying Granville Island is to offer a broader portfolio across more markets in Canada. This offers the potential for both to become national brands.

Craft beer aficionados are concerned about what role Molson Coors may play in this. However, according to Ontario beer writer, Greg Clow, “Molson has taken a very hands-off approach to Creemore, similar to the way that Sleeman basically left Unibroue alone. The beer is still brewed in the same place on the same equipment by the same people.”

Granville Island BrewingThere is some irony in this deal. The raison d’être of craft brewing in British Columbia—begun by the likes of Horseshoe Bay Brewing, Spinnakers, Granville Island, and Vancouver Island Brewery—was to offer more choice to British Columbians than the Big Three, whose mass-produced lager dominated the market to such an extent that it was synonymous with “beer.”

What role did Molson, one of the aformentioned triumvirate, play in this? How hands-off will they remain? Won’t it be better for Granville Island to be owned by brewers, rather than winemakers?

The best-case scenario is that Molson Coors will remain behind the scenes and merely provide Creemore Springs/Granville Island with the financial means to expand craft beer consumption across Canada. This allows them to profit from beer’s fastest growing market segment without generating nearly as much controversy and suspicion from beer aficionados that creating faux craft beer brands and fictitious breweries has done.

Should Molson Coors decide to become more involved in the day-to-day brewing with Creemore Springs/Granville Island beers suffering as a result, they will just be further examples of craft beer compromised by the corporate mentality. The customer base will shift with the more quality conscious moving to, perhaps Phillips or Tree; they will be replaced by industrial lager drinkers who have discovered their taste buds and want to move towards something more interesting.

However, one thing is certain. Regardless of what happens, craft beer in B.C. is here to stay. With three new microbreweries starting up in the last year, there is no shortage of those wanting to offer us a better brew. Seeing what is happening in the U.S., there is ample room for growth in Canada.

For the original Creemore Springs/Granville Island press release, see Canadian Beer News. You can also join the discussion on this deal at The Vancouver Sun, The Globe and Mail, and the CBC.

Building a Bridge

with 5 comments

This is the first guest post from Victoria craft beer enthusiast and B.C. Beer Blog reader, Kris Constable. He is trying to organize a Victoria group to study for the BJCP certification: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=144492600065. We hope to hear from him, from time to time, reflecting on his experiences from an Island perspective.

I just got back from Vancouver Island Brewery’s release of Spyhopper Honey Brown. I’m normally not a big fan of honey browns, as I usually find they don’t have much honey flavour and have a slightly bitter aftertaste. This honey brown surprised me. You can taste the honey, which is from Babe’s Honey Farm here on the Island. Not to mention, it’s got an amazingly smooth finish that leaves you wanting another gulp.

What I realize this beer provides is a craft product that can still be, what I call, a lawnmower beer — a few of which you can easily quaff back while cutting the lawn. This is an essential bridge to build with those who are megaswill drinkers (Labatt, Molson, et. al.), bringing them into the craft brew scene. What people don’t often realize is that if your beer is not a craft beer in Canada, it’s not Canadian any longer. That’s right, Molson, Okanagan Spring, Sleeman — none of these are Canadian. So if you want to support local, there is no better time than now to switch to craft beer.

Often craft brews are geared for beer nerds, those that appreciate a 50+ IBU beer or a wildly exotic flavour profile. Someone trying their first craft beer, though, will often be put off. Spyhopper crosses this boundary. Recommend it to any friends you have that are used to drinking the same old, same old. This, to me, is the bridge that needed to be created. As with anything that is a learned experience, once they learn and appreciate the value of local craft beer, there is no going back.

~ Kris Constable, Victoria.

Written by BCbrews

April 9, 2009 at 8:52 am

2009 Tarnished Plate Awards

with one comment

Love them or loathe them, the Georgia Straight‘s Golden Plate Awards are out. Either way, it would be foolish to ignore them. Consider them a gauge of The Straight‘s readers’ preferences. If, as a business, you are targeting that demographic, then the awards will give you an indication of how successful your efforts have been to date. From the perspective of CAMRA Vancouver, it tells us how much more work we still need to do.

On the beer front, this is an opportunity to measure progress since the Best of Vancouver 2008 awards. Although there were fewer categories offered than the Golden Plates, my accompanying article in that edition covered more ground. I was hoping, at least, it made a few people curious to try something other than what they’re constantly being bombarded with in advertisements. The results are mixed, but I see some progress being made.

In terms of beer, readers are clearly influenced by advertising. The Local Microbrew category certainly limits the choices (thankfully, there were no daft awards, such as Molson Canadian), but all the beers chosen are actually brewed in Kelowna. The Granville Island beers that are brewed in Vancouver are only their Limited Releases. The majority of people still need to discover R&B and Storm, it seems. Sorry, folks, per a previous post, Steamworks is not a microbrewery; they are a brewpub. Outside of this category, only one craft brewer made the cut — Phillips, which just reinforces what I said in my last post about the need for craft brewers to collaborate.

In the categories of B.C. Beer (brewed outside Vancouver) and Canadian Beer (not B.C.), people have a reading comprehension problem since a number of choices were breweries, not actual beers. I find the import category to be the most disappointing of all. Given all the beers available at the establishments chosen in the Imported Beer Selection category, you would think there would be more of a mixture of choices other than mass-market lager and mass-market Guinness. There is a much greater diversity available here that people are completely missing out on. A visit to Brewery Creek, Firefly, Libations, or Viti would quickly put that to rest.

On the pub front, I see more progress. All the pubs are actual pubs; all the brewpubs are pubs that brew beer for consumption on their own premises (Granville Island Tap House not being a pub). The majority of the chosen pubs also have good beer. I’m heartened by the fact that The Straight‘s readers do not equate ‘best’ with the Granville guzzling galleries. On the food side, I don’t think enough people have eaten at the Alibi Room. Their commitment to local and seasonal is deserving of attention. Chef Greg Armstrong formerly worked at Habit Lounge, so he’s no slouch.

Finally, I’m curious about the inclusion of Fogg N’ Suds. Are people voting for them based on reputation? Their beer selection today is nowhere near that of their halcyon days in the mid-eighties. For B.C. beer, no one in the entire province beats the Alibi Room for the quality of their selection — there is simply no crap on tap. For imported beer, I think Fogg N’ Suds has been succeeded by Six Acres, the Irish Heather, and Stella’s. I wouldn’t call Chambar‘s selection the best from a comprehensive point of view, but it is very good from the perspective of matching their beer with their food, which no one else in Vancouver has done. I’d like to see them replace their gueuze, though, with Oud Beersel. If we can get anyone to import Cantillon, its inclusion would be essential.

Finally, here are the beer results from the Best Drinks section of the 2009 Golden Plate Awards:

Local Microbrewery
1. Granville Island Brewing
2. R & B Brewing
3. Steamworks Brewing Company

Local Microbrew
1. Granville Island Lions Winter Ale
2. Granville Island English Bay Pale Ale
3. Granville Island Lager

B.C. Beer (brewed outside Vancouver)
1. Kokanee
2. Okanagan Spring
3. Phillips Brewing

Canadian Beer (not B.C.)
1. Sleeman
2. Alexander Keith’s
3. (tie) Molson Canadian
3. (tie) Moosehead

Imported Beer
1. Stella Artois
2. (tie) Corona
2. (tie) Guinness
3. Heineken

Best Pub
1. The Irish Heather
2. Yaletown Brewing Company
3. Steamworks

Brewpub
1. Yaletown Brewing Company
2. Steamworks
3. Dix BBQ & Brewery

Pub Food
1. The Irish Heather
2. Yaletown Brewing Company
3. Kingston Taphouse & Grille

B.C. Beer Selection
1. Fogg N’ Suds
2. Alibi Room
3. The Whip Restaurant Gallery

Imported Beer Selection
1. Stella’s Tap & Tapas Bar
2. Fogg N’ Suds
3. Chambar Belgian Restaurant

On the Brews Traveller Map?

with one comment

Granville Island Brewing sponsored the Culinary Tourism Society BC Conference.

Granville Island Brewing was one of the sponsors of the Culinary Tourism Society BC Conference.

I recently attended a culinary tourism conference at The Sutton Place Hotel put on by the Culinary Tourism Society BC. This is one of the fastest growing segments in global tourism, but BC is still a ways off from achieving its full potential. A lack of budget, co-operation, and co-ordination is holding us back.

This is also true when it comes to BC craft beer and the tourist. What are the chances that a visitor will only drink Canadian, Keith’s, Kokanee, Sleeman, or even Bud their whole time here? Given that these are amongst the top ten selling beer brands in the province, chances are great. Even beer aficionados have trouble finding convenient, comprehensive, up-to-date information. I just received an e-mail today from someone in Honolulu, asking what BC beers I would recommend his colleague bring back from a visit to Vancouver in the next few days. I have also gotten e-mails from CAMRA UK members looking for Real Ale.

It shouldn’t be this hard. While many individual craft brewers don’t have a lot of money for marketing, never mind the time to implement promotional activities, the word still has to get out somehow. It is harder to do this on an individual basis with a limited budget. This is why American craft brewers formed associations and guilds, pooling their resources by collaborating, not competing against each other. In BC, we’re still working on this primary step.

Meanwhile, the World Police & Fire Games are coming this year and the Olympics in 2010. Have the craft brewers organized the means to make the participants and spectators aware of their beer? What about a BC craft beer mixed pack that visitors can buy as a souvenir or as a gift for their beer-loving friends back home? Have the brewpubs and craft beer-friendly establishments come up with a handy reference that tourists can easily carry with them?

Sporting events, holidays, and festivals, however, are fleeting events. Erik Wolf, President and CEO of the International Culinary Tourism Association, one of the conference speakers, reiterated the importance of collaboration when faced with limited funds. He also emphasized the point of turning locals into ambassadors. Early adopters, if they enthusiastically embrace a product, will evangelize it for free. If craft brewers more closely involved their closest followers in product testing, events, etc., their promotional reach would extend much further and be more readily accepted, coming from friends or family members. In Washington and Oregon, the brewers guilds actually have their supporters organized — WABL, SNOB.

To be on the brews traveller map, B.C. doesn’t necessarily need to do anything that costs a lot of money. What money we do have, should be invested in those channels that are the most cost-effective, have the greatest reach, and achieve sustained exposure for locals and visitors.

Hopscotch Hop Homogenization

leave a comment »

Vancouver’s upcoming Hopscotch Festival will be the 12th year it showcases Scotch, whisky, and beer. Unfortunately, unlike Victoria, the city continues to struggle in developing a festival that highlights a diversity of quality craft beer.

Part of the problem seems to be a money issue in that the craft brewers don’t have the marketing dollars the macros do to participate in these events. Therefore, organizers default to a beer lineup that would be familiar to the average mass-market beer consumer. In this case, Big Rock, Granville Island, Lighthouse, Molson (Rickard’s), Okanagan Spring, Pacific Western Brewing, Red Truck, Sleeman, Tree, and Unibroue. Lighthouse, Red Truck, Tree, and Unibroue are for the “more adventurous” punters, largely because they are less well-known and not because they are particularly challenging to drink.

The “exotic” beers are supplied by the importers, many of whom are wine agents with a token beer or two in their portfolio: Anchor, Dos Equis, Grolsch, Kirin, Krusovice, Kulmbacher, Palm, Pilsner Urquell, and Tiger. Most of these beers, however, are macro lagers in their respective countries that are available in the majority of liquor stores here. Ho hum.

The Autumn Brewmaster’s Festival at the Plaza of Nations was a step in the right direction; regretably, it expired. Now, the best that Vancouver can do is the cask ale festivals at Dix BBQ & Brewing and Central City in Surrey. Otherwise, when it comes to beer, you’ll find more interesting offerings at The Alibi Room, the Irish Heather, Six Acres or buying your own at Brewery Creek, Firefly, or Viti.

Hopefully, some day, we’ll have a respectable beer festival in Vancouver that doesn’t have mass-market brands (they already get plenty of exposure in the media) or needs to disguise the thinness of its offerings with alcopops and wine. It shouldn’t be a carbon copy of the GCBF either. I think Victoria has earned the right to its current format. Vancouver ought to come up with something else that distinguishes itself from others so as to present us with a greater opportunity for celebrating craft beer, not competing with others.

Postscript: in the fall of 2009, I gathered a team of friends & acquaintances to plan a “beer week” festival, after coming across San Francisco Beer Week on the Web. The following year, we hosted Vancouver Craft Beer Week, Canada’s first “beer week” festival. The City of Vancouver officially proclaimed May 10-16, “Vancouver Craft Beer Week”. Mayor Gregor Robertson opened the festival by tapping the first cask of VCBW Collaboration Ale at the Alibi Room.