Hopscotch Scotch, Whisky and Beer Festival
With six days of festivities that include more than 25 events and upwards of 250 products to sample, this year’s Hopscotch Festival is boasting to be the biggest yet, rallying enough sweaty, over-stimulated men to form a small army.
And though the majority of the 1,000 people attending the first night of the Grand Tasting Hall – the premier event of the Festival – were indeed men, a respectable amount of women attended, adding to the throngs of people navigating their way from booth to booth.
And throngs they were. The sold-out event, taking place this past Thursday in the cavernous Rocky Mountaineer Station, was tightly packed with people representing all levels of booze knowledge, from the bewildered liquor novice to the staid scotch expert.
Catching up with Festival Director Adam Bloch, who was darting around the venue, I asked him who Hopscotch’s target demographic is. “Everyone who loves craft beer and whisky” he said. “It’s about bringing people together to enjoy quality products. Vancouver sees itself as a classy city that prides itself on quality”.
This desire for quality was duly reflected in the products; most notably, a single tasting of Remi Martin’s Louis XIII cognac went for $85. That said, interspersed among the more refined products sat old standbys such as Granville Island Brewery and Jack Daniels.
Even with the scope of products running the gamut, attendees were generally paying a good deal less than they would at the bar, with most product tastings costing between 1 and 4 chips (at a dollar each). The goal, however, wasn’t to get hammered (though that didn’t stop people from doing so). Tasting a variety of top shelf liquor without breaking the bank – that was the heart of the event.
As you might expect, experimenting with more exotic drams, bizarrely infused liqueurs, and unconventionally brewed ales was also a highlight. Of note was Indian Distillery Amrut, who proudly displayed their South Asian-inflected whiskies, including their Fusion Single Malt, rated third best whisky in the world.
Canadian, Irish, Welsh and Tasmanian whiskies also made an appearance. Tasmania Distillery’s Sullivan’s Cove Single Malt, aged for eight years in both Port and Bourbon barrels, effused a chocolatey, complex taste that still had a good kick.
Meanwhile, mainstay drams kept the scotch puritans happy, with the rich, complex “Classic Malts” of Dalwhinnie, Talisker, Cragganmore, Oban, Lagavulin and Gelnkichie all available.
B.C.-based Whistler Brewing Company showed off an impressive selection, including the premier of its Winter Dunkel, a chocolately roast peppered with orange zest and coriander. To be sure, wintery beers seemed to be a highlight of the event: Cannery Brewing showed off both their Blackberry and Chocolate Cherry Porter, Tree Brewing premiered their Vertical Winter Ale, and Russell Brewing exhibited their Black Death Porter.
The number of brewers increased from last year – as did the whiskies and other spirits, and while there was scotch (whisky specifically brewed in Scotland), it seemed as though the Festival’s focus was moving a bit further from scotch to encompass a larger array of spirits and beers.
Regardless, Adam Bloch seemed excited at popularity of whisky and scotch: “Whisky has become a young man’s game – it’s cool now”.
Bloch would know, he’s been running the Festival for the past seven years and has seen it grow in both breadth and depth. Young, energetic and stylish, Bloch represents the new alcohol connoisseur, whose numbers are hopefully significant enough to keep Hopscotch growing. It’s a tough game - keeping drunks from spoiling all the fun, but it’s worth it, even if it’s just for a few nights a year.