beer column

my notes from yesterday's beer column on cbc's on the coast
wherein i extolled the virtues of craft beer in vancouver stadiums
and patted the pne and pacific coliseum on the back for being the first in the city to go craft:

The PNE opened on Saturday. There are new food vendors this year, new exhibits... and new beer on tap!  And it's local craft beer!

Craft beer at the PNE? Is this the beginning of a whole new era for the City?  Oh yes, please! 

People have been lobbying the stadiums for the past couple of years to start carrying craft beer and the PNE / Pacific Coliseum is the first to make the switch. Parallel 49 signed a three year deal with the fair. You can get Gypsy Tears ale at the fair, which should pair very nicely with the mini donuts! And the Pacific Coliseum will be carrying Gypsy Tears as well as several other Parallel 49 offerings at all their events, including the Giants games. There will be a Gypsy Tears tap at every concession stand in the coliseum and one area that will carry five other Parallel 49 taps. This is great news for Parallel 49 who will be introducing their beers to a wider market, and for the PNE as they get to supply the crowds with truly local beer, brewed just down the street.

It certainly looks like some of the other stadiums in town are moving to craft beer. The Canadians announced earlier this summer that they will be doing renovations over the off-season which will include the building of a "craft beer corner" down the third base line. Vancouver Canadians President Andy Dunn says that they want to "give everybody as many options as they want and whatever they want to wash down that two-foot hotdog". The Canadians currently sell Granville Island (not craft beer) and Whistler beer (arguably not craft beer), but they are the only venue in town that doesn't carry Budweiser. Which beers will be on offer in the new craft beer corner has yet to be decided.  May I suggest you make sure you put in a good word for your favourite?

The Canucks currently sell Budweiser and Alexander Keiths at Rogers Arena. President Trevor Linden has said they are looking into adding craft beer to that line-up and Jay Jones, an award-winning bartender who is the team's new director of beverages tweeted me that "Vancouver Canucks fans deserve quality & selection - craft beer will be part of their new experience #changeIScoming" which I am taking to mean that this hockey season will taste better to craft beer lovers!

I haven't heard anything about BC Place jumping on the craft beer craze, unfortunately. (And they didnt respond to my email to PavCo or tweets to the Lions and WhiteCaps.)  Part of the reason I gave up my seasons tickets a couple of years ago was due to the lousy beer options at Empire Stadium and the newly renovated BC Place. I don't want to drink Budweiser in the first place, let alone spend $8.50 or more for one. I'd rather go watch the game at a craft beer sports bar, or take craft beer to a friend's place and watch the game there.

It should be noted that there are fans who want to keep some macro lager options at the stadium. Like Rob Guthrie of Vancouver who commented on a VancouverSun article about craft beer coming to Nat Bailey. He wants at least one concession to carry "Kokanee, Canadian or even Pil[sner] to cater to a crowd that's been supporting your team since day one!" Which sounds fine to me. I don't need all the beer offerings to be craft, I just want a choice other than macro lagers like Budweiser and Canadian. And if there are, I will be far more likely to go to games, because watching on tv just isn't the same as being there.  But, there are plenty of great craft lagers out there, I'll bet any macro lager fans out there would enjoy those too.  Can you imagine how different the beer landscape could be if craft lagers were available at all the stadiums in place of macro lagers?  I bet the masses would never go back!

Hurdles to having craft beer at stadiums?  Yup, there are a few:
The Exhibition Grounds and Pacific Coliseum is a very large contract.  Rogers Arena, that would be a huge contract.  Are there local craft breweries that could provide that volume of beer?  Hmmm, Phillips from Victoria and Central City from Surrey could... Russell did have a contract at BC Place for a couple of years.  I don't think there are very many craft breweries who could bid on an exclusive contract.  But sharing space?  That's totally do-able.
It shouldn't be a problem for most of the craft breweries in town to supply beer to Nat Bailey or to a similar "craft beer corner" situation at Rogers Arena. There is also the new sports bar going in the new tower next to the stadium that would be smart to include craft beer in their plan.

I have heard in the craft beer world that the Aquilini's are looking to purchase a brewery and have beers contract brewed there for Rogers Arena. Since they've terminated their food concession contract with Aramark and purchased a winery in an effort to keep everything in house, I wouldn't be surprised if that brewery rumour proves to be true. Why not own the whole supply train and have complete control over the products offered?  Only time will tell if that would classify as "craft" beer though.

Then there are the concerns about quality.  I definitely have concerns about the handling of the beer on that large a scale. I have heard horror stories from people who work at the big stadiums about how far the beer travels from keg to tap, and about lines not being cleaned. I try to avoid drinking draft for just that reason. I prefer to drink from a bottle at a stadium. But even from a bottle, if the beer isn't kept cool and out of the light it can go off. I hope that with craft beer coming to the stadiums there are also best practices being negotiated and made part of the contracts.
And lastly, existing exclusive contracts.  These must come to an end before the stadiums can change their beer options.  Hopefully as these expire new ones will not be signed and there will be room for choice.

Liquor Control Policy Directives affecting stadium liquor sales came out in June 2013 and April 2014
I asked via twitter which craft beers people would like to see at Nat Bailey and Rogers Arena next season.  Here are the responses:
Parallel 49 Gypsy Tears
Central City - the whole Red Racer line-up
Russell Blood Alley Bitter
Dead Frog Nut Brown
and perhaps a more wistful than wishful vote for imperial stout... in 32 oz servings
Local blogger Lynne McIlwee, aka Hops Canary, has a petition with 464 signatures on it that she sent to Trevor Linden on Monday, with an open letter suggesting Rogers Arena ignores craft beer at its economic peril.  If her stats are right, they are losing at least a million dollars a year by not having craft beer at the stadium.

And just for fun, here's a link to a list of the top 10 craft beer stadiums in the United States, including Seattle's Safeco Field where Canadians flock to watch the Blue Jays every year.

Beer Picks:

Parallel 49 Gypsy Tears - have some when you're at the PNE!

and two beers I would like to see available at Nat Bailey next season:

Parallel 49 Tricycle Radler - this would be the perfect beer to sip in the hot sun

Main Street Session IPA - at 4.8% this session ipa would also be perfect to quaff on a hot sunny day


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