Thirst for craft beer can't be slaked -- British Columbia (BC) Canada falling for all-natural brew and its vibrant community
Thirst for craft beer can't be slaked -- British Columbia (BC) Canada falling for all-natural brew and its vibrant community

Thirst for craft beer can't be slaked

Jan Zeschky pours a pint at Pat's Pub in Vancouver, one of many venues across B.C. that offers a broad range of local craft beer.

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG File , The Province

British Columbia's brewed awakening continues. The province's craft beer scene, sleepy for so long, has let out a mighty yawn, rubbed its eyes, and is now stretching and flexing its long-fermenting strength.

It's three years since I began writing about craft beer, and in that time it's been so exciting to witness the thirst for all-natural beer grow.

By year's end, B.C. will boast more than 60 independent brewery operations, be they microbreweries, nanobreweries or brew pubs.

Craft beer, posting double-digit growth year on year, is approaching a 20-per-cent share of the province's beer marketplace, formerly the dominion of Molson, Labatt and Sleeman.

More bars and restaurants are offering a well-thought-out beer list alongside their wine and cocktail menus. Craft beer has become - whisper it - fashionable.

But there are many indications this is more than a passing fad.

Canadians' eyes can't help drifting south, and the view from B.C. has always been of vibrant beer scenes in Washington and Oregon. Now we're catching up.

Thanks to pressure from crusading bloggers, brewery and venue owners and the Campaign for Real Ale advocacy group, steps to overhaul the province's out-of-date liquor laws have begun. Already, a loosening of regulations around brewery tasting rooms is seeing the rise of beer tourism.

But most of all, people are learn-g that craft beer is fun.

The variety is vast, the range of flavours dizzying. Experimental styles push new boundaries. Festivals, beer-pairing dinners and cask nights offer different ways of enjoying beer. Fans get together for bottle-sharing parties, or discuss the latest release at the bar.

This sense of community extends to the brewers themselves, who inspire each other to become better. Bags of malt or hops are loaned or traded. They often go out for a pint together.

They collaborate as well - for example, to brew the official beer for Vancouver Craft Beer Week.

It was in this spirit that Jeremy Sibley, head brewer at Chilliwack's Old Yale Brewing, contacted some other B.C. breweries last autumn to make a series of beers based on the names of Canadian bands.

The original idea wasn't his - that came from a CBC Music challenge to listeners to come up with beers punning on band names - but the idea to make it reality was.

So from mid-May there was one release a week: D.O.Ale by Old Yale Brewing; You Say Barley! We Say Rye! by R&B Brewing; Said the Ale by Townsite Brewing; and Pink Mountainhops by Cannery Brewing.

The CBC Band Beer project comes to a head next Tuesday with a tap takeover at the Three Brits pub in Vancouver. All four beers will be on tap, and there'll be an exclusive dinner of four courses to pair with each one. To top it all off, Joe Keithley of D.O.A. will perform a solo show on the night.

Beer, food, music, community and collaboration: If you're not yet acquainted with craft beer, it's as good an introduction as you're going to get.

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