Wednesday, May 15, 2013

beer column

and here are my notes from yesterday's beer column on cbc radio's on the coast with stephen quinn:


Bridge Brewing, of North Vancouver, hosted a 10k run on Saturday morning – the first of what will hopefully become an annual event.  50 runners met at the brewery at 9:00 and went for a 10k run.  Nothing too exciting about that.  Proceeds went to the Harvest Project – a worthy cause to support for sure, but what made this run worth telling you all about is the growlers.  Of the 50 people registered for the run, a full half of them ran with two full growlers.  That’s about 10 extra pounds these folks lugged up hill and down for 10 kilometres.  I myself did not carry the growlers, but the people who did have my respect – it was not easy!  People carried them on their shoulders, laid them on their forearms and dangled them from their thumbs – and for their troubles?  Bridge Brewing is filling those growlers for them, two fills per week, for a month.  Oh, and they get bragging rights!  I do have to add though, that the growlers were full of water during the run, which a couple of runners poured over each other at the finish line!

Changing topics, do you really convert non-beer drinkers into beer geeks?  Will they all start running races with growlers?

“Convert” maybe isn’t the right word to use, that does make it sound like beer geeks are a cult, but the phenomenon is quite similar.  I love beer, we all know that, and I talk about it a lot.  Often I’ll mention beer to someone and they’ll tell me they don’t really like beer.  I ask them what kinds they have tried and what they don’t like about it.  Most of the time they’ve only had yellow fizzy beer.  Some don’t like how full the carbonation makes them feel, some cite the flavour as what they don’t like.  If they seem open to the idea, I suggest that I can help them find a beer more to their liking – that there is a whole world of other beers out there that perhaps they might like.  So far, everyone who has let me introduce them to that wide world of beers has found at least one style they like.  In fact, some of them got so much enjoyment out of finding a beer that they like that they went on their own beer journey and found others. 

Depending on what they say they do like, I try to find a beer that would be a good fit.  So for someone who drinks ciders or fruity cocktails, I usually suggest a fruit beer.  For someone who thinks beers are too heavy, I suggest a refreshing wheat ale or a crisp pilsner.  A coffee lover might find a coffee porter to be their gateway beer.  Its a challenge, but I really enjoy trying to think of a beer that would be similar enough to things they like to give them a positive experience of beer.

I have been very successful in introducing a few non-beer drinkers to beer.  In that I’m at 100%.  In introducing craft beer to a main-stream beer drinkers though, while I have been very successful there too, I’m not at 100% - there’s still one hold-out!  A friend who just won’t stray from her mainsteam lagers.  But you know what, she tried some craft beers and found that she prefers her beers.  And that’s okay.  It takes all kinds!  But in my experience she is the exception to the rule.  Everyone else I have introduced to craft beer has embraced it.  Sure, some of them still drink mainstream lagers, but not all the time!  And I love when they text me or call me to tell me about some new craft beer they tried and loved.  Or that they are turning into a hop head.  Several of my friends who started their craft beer journey with fruit beers are now drinking ipas and sours and barrel-aged brews and loving them.  And buying bottles to cellar.  They join CAMRA and have started to convert their friends to craft beer as well.  Which makes it sound like a cult again, but its not!  Its not about stats, for me its about sharing something I love with other people.  I can’t believe how many people profess to like beer and yet never try anything except a fizzy yellow lager – I just want to show them there are other things out there.  And for those who have only ever tried the fizzy yellow lager and not liked it, I want to make sure they know that not all beers are created equal and if they look a little further afield, they won’t have to miss out on the sociability of beer drinking.

Is there one “gateway” beer that converts people to craft beer in large numbers?  There is, and it is a surprising one because it is an ipa.  Normally a very hoppy beer is not one that you would give to someone you are trying to turn into a beer drinker because hop bitterness seems to be an acquired taste rather than an inherent one.  But Fat Tug by Driftwood Brewing in Victoria is an ipa that most people love – even though it is 80 ibus and 7% alcohol by volume.  There’s just something about its citrusy goodness, those notes of grapefruit, mango, melon and passionfruit that has turned all my friends who were not hop fans into hopheads.  I wouldn’t give it to someone who didn’t already like beer though – its not a gateway to beer, its a gateway to craft beer!

Beer Picks:
In honour of election day, I have four beer picks – a green one, a blue one, an orange one and a red one!
Green:  Nickelbrook Organic Lager
Blue:  Phillips Blue Buck
Orange:  Elysian Superfuzz Blood Orange Pale Ale
Red:  Elysian Men’s Room Red

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