Vancouver Craft Beer Week comes to a bittersweet finish
Vancouver Craft Beer Week finished similarly to how it started: a room full of craft beer lovers ready to get their drink on. Reputably a good time the closing party was actually split in to two separate events in order to accommodate everyone, with one Friday night and the other Saturday afternoon. Both were held at the Salt Building at False Creek and sold out before some newcomers to the festival even had a chance to find out what it was all about.
Upon arrival each guest was given a VCBW glass with three tokens inside of it. With these you could buy either two or three beers depending on your preference, as local beer was one token and imports were two tokens. After using those tickets there was the option to purchase either four more tokens for $5 or eight for $10. I have a feeling that most people that only purchased an additional four ended up going back for more as with the variety of beers in the room it was hard not to want to try them all. Beers as expected ranged from toasty stouts and ESB’s to honey lagers and IPA’s.
Breweries from all over the world including England, Germany, the Yukon, Toronto, Portland, Belgium, Vancouver Island, and the lower mainland were showcasing a handful of beers each and were represented by friendly and knowledgeable staff. Many I had tried before either at other VCBW events or on other occasions, but there were a few that I’d never heard of, let alone tasted. These ones proved to be my weak spot as I’m a sucker for the unknown. For example, Storm Brewing was pouring a Basil IPA. Although not alien to brewmasters, herbs seem to be rarely used; I was surprised though at how well basil could work in a beer. It was prominent in it’s nose and it’s mouthful with the hops being toned down by the herb flavour.
Raspberry and apricots are often used in beers but until the closing party I had never seen huckleberries in beer. What the Hock wheat ale from Fernie Brewing maintained it's wheatiness while adding a hint of huckleberry flavour without tasting syrupy or sickenly sweet.
Hoyne Brewing, based in Victoria, offered fantastic customer service the entire night, chatting with everyone as they approached their booth. My friend was lured in by a science reference and tried the Dark Matter while I opted for the sassy Big Bock beer that displayed a rooster (aka Cock) on its label.
Another I decided that I must try was Mill Street’s Lemon Tea beer because I recently tried Coors Light Iced Tea and was perplexed by the idea of beer and tea together. Clearly hesitant the gentleman pouring the beer eagerly boasted a hundred ways in which their beer is superior to Coors, starting with the mass amounts of tea steeped for it, the pure cane sugar that sweetens it slightly and the pureed lemon that finishes the flavour; it was an easy sell. And the best part about the beer? It wasn’t half bad, and definitely something I could see myself drinking on the patio in the summer.
My favorites of the night were the porters though and I was particularly fond of St. Peters Honey Porter and Fullers London Porter. Both had bold flavours and a complex tasted to them and although darker beers they were still easy drinkers. It’s no wonder they’re so popular in England and now explains why my friend would ensure that he brought some back from his recent visit there.
Because the weather boasted gorgeous weather the small patio was a popular spot during the event. Many people would go in to the room, do a lap, and come back with a few beers while their friend or partner held the table due to lack of seating. No one seemed to mind sitting on the deck or standing as long as they had a beer in their hand and the sun on their face. Not to mention that half of them were waiting in line to get a tasty bratwurst from Beer Brats. I had a chicken version and it was well worth the wait and the $7.
For some, like Susan and Medhi, this was their first Vancouver Craft Beer Week event while for others it was their sixth or seventh. I met a couple who were clearly fans of the event as around their necks were knitted beer cozies that perfectly fit the VCBW glasses and hung around their necks like lanyards. Apparently Merle knitted them specifically for the week.
Whether new to the event or a veteran, people ended the week (actually 9 days) with a more experienced palate and hopefully a higher appreciation for craft beer. In a discussion with Rick Green, the president of VCBW, about people’s awareness of what they eat versus what they drink, he summed it up nicely. “You wouldn’t eat an Oscar Meyer bologna sandwich with Wonder Bread and French’s mustard would you? So why would you eat a cheap, generic beer?”