Vancouver Craft Beer Week opener unites local beer lovers
Once you dapple in craft beer, it’s hard to drink anything else; mass produced and generic beer begins to taste lacklustre and meek in comparison to the bold flavours and heart in craft beer. One might wonder why heart matters in a beverage that many consume on a regular basis, and how it can even be gauged. Just as your mom’s carrot cake that’s made with love, tastes better than a supermarket cake, craft beer can offer the same satisfaction.
Take a moment to speak with a Brewmaster and have them explain the beer you are drinking, and you’ll understand. With careful thought and precise words, the descriptive notes will begin to make sense the more experienced with craft beer you get. As a sommelier can explain wine, a cicerone can explain beer. Vancouver Craft Beer Week offers Vancouverites a chance to explore what’s out there and in the case of the opening night of VCBW, an opportunity to sample many different breweries in one night. With the expanding amount of micro-breweries in Vancouver it’s easy to find a beer that suits your taste, whether a chocolate porter, a raspberry wheat ale or a hoppy IPA.
Limited releases of beer, of which there were a few of that night, offer an opportunity to adapt to seasons and trends while testing new flavours. They even provide grounds to pay tribute to a loyal dog, as Red Truck did for their brewery’s mascot Ruby. Ruby da Dawg beer is in homage to her on her 4th birthday and represents her strength and sweetness in its flavour with its vanilla and bourbon essence.
But if that’s not your flavour, there’s no need to fret, as there is a wide variety of craft beer during Vancouver Craft Beer Week. The week offers a series of opportunities to explore what Vancouver has to offer in terms of craft beer with the opener being a preview of the events to come.
Beers at the event ranged from Belgian style amber ales, to hefeweizens and fruit ales. Biercraft was there pouring a broad spectrum of beers including Liefmans Fruitesse, an effervescent fruit beer, DeKoninck, an amber ale, and Duvel a hearty and high alcohol beer. Howe Sound was pouring their new 4 Way Fruit Ale, one of my favorites of the night, with their King Heffy, an unfiltered ale.
The Donnelly Group was pouring beer cocktails, one of which contained White Bark, fresh muddled strawberries, hand-pressed grapefruit juice, lemon, lime, a bit of Chartreuse and Cointreau. I was impressed by the well thought about combination of ingredients, the labour (480 muddled strawberries) and the knowledgebase and passion from the bartenders. I wasn’t surprised that when I came back at 8:00, three hours in to the event, that they had long run out of that particular cocktail and had moved on to their second, slightly more citrus-tasting beer cocktail. Although often quite skeptical of beer cocktails, having had some terrible ones in the past, this example of craftsmanship made me excited for the Beer Cocktail Competition happening on Tuesday as part of VCBW.
In the middle of the night, Rick Green, the President of VCBW, thanked the sponsors, the breweries, and those attending, as well as John Mitchell, BC's first craft brewer. John tapped the keg from Russell Brewery, raised his glass and “Cheers’d” the crowd. Then, as if there wasn’t already enough beer, a line formed for the newly tapped keg.
Lighthouse’s Deckhand and Nk Mip’s riesling were used in a pairing as part of the sommelier vs cicerone preview. We were told to sample each alone and then with a crostini canapé consisting of roman salami, an apple and quince Italian mustarda with drunken goat cheese. This station was a crowd favorite as there was very little food at the event, other than the quickly “vultured” Darby’s sliders, pretzels from Yelp, and chips from Biercraft.
The Benton Brother’s also supplied snacks, pairing a selection of their cheese with the beer each individual was drinking. Their knowledge base, as usual, was outstanding as they offered suggestions such as the Lighthouse’s chocolate porter with their blue cheese or their four year old Gruyere.
Because there was a limited amount of food at the event, the beer-filled patrons who were feeling peckish were given the option of purchasing burgers from the Street Meet Truck that was parked outside. Although the shortage of food left many wondering how a five hour, $55 event could not supply more snacks, ultimately it was about the beer, for which there were no complaints. For many this event resulted in a new appreciation for craft beer or potentially a new favorite beer. For me, it boosted my excitement for the upcoming events in Vancouver Craft Beer Week, making me wish that I could be in three places at once so that I could attend all of the beer and dinner pairings and beer competitions.
For more high resolution pictures click here.