beer column

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

Get out your calendars and mark down these beer festival dates!

There are beer festivals all year round, but right now is a particularly rife season, just thick with festivals here in BC, and it is not entirely due to Oktoberfests!  There’s the Great Canadian Beer festival in Victoria, the BC Beer Awards, Whistler Beer Festival, Yaletown Brewpub's Caskival, Harrison Beer Festival, Powell River Oktoberfest and Bomber Brewing’s Oktoberfest just to name a few.

There are definitely elements that are common to all beer festivals – drinking beer for starters – but there are differences, which is why you can’t just say you’ve been to a beer festival and now you’re done.  Some beer festivals have a theme – like Oktoberfest or casks – some are big, some are small, some are about beer and food pairings – like Vancouver’s Brewery and the Beast meat and beer feast – some are held on a boat – like the recent craft beer cruise in Vancouver, some are held indoors, some out of doors, some are a couple of hours long, some are weeks long.  If you can think up the variation, I would bet that at least one beer festival exists to fit that niche.

The real joy of a beer festival, besides the camaraderie of drinking with so many fun people, is the opportunity to try many different beers in small sample sizes.  It’s the time to be adventurous and drink outside your comfort zone.  Try that style you’ve been too afraid to spend $8 on.  At a beer festival you just get a small pour so there’s no big investment.  I have discovered many a wonderful beer this way.  Last year’s Great Canadian Beer Festival stand out for me was Moon Under Water’s Red Wheat Wine, the first I had ever heard of this beer style – and I loved it. 

But omg, what are you going to wear?  Will a beer tshirt do?  I mean they are pretty much the entire contents of a beer geek's wardrobe...I have lost count of how many beer tshirts I own...

I have yet to attend a beer festival that had an actual dress code.  Many people go in their best leiderhosen to oktoberfests and there are some great costumes at the Great Canadian Beer Festival every year, including leiderhosen.  If costumes aren't your thing and you happen to own a beer tshirt or three, those are always a good bet to wear to a beer festival. 

You can also tell a beer geek by the rest of their festival gear.  Do they have a lanyard around their neck with a taster glass hanging from it?  Beer geek.  Do they have a notebook and pencil?  Beer geek.  Are they wearing a pretzel necklace?  Not their first beer festival!

In no particular order, some beer festival survival tips: 

- Go early.  The festival may last for several hours but the rare beers will sell out quickly, so if you want some, you have to be there when they open the doors or gates. 
- Read the beer list.  Find beers you haven’t tried before and have those before settling in for old favourites.  Some beers are only available in BC at festivals. 
- Talk to the person pouring your beer.  If they’re the brewer they can tell you all sorts of interesting information about the beer. 
- Stay hydrated.  I like to do a water cycle after each beer sample.  I don’t always succeed, but it sure beats forgetting entirely and hitting your threshold too early on. 
- Pace yourself.  There are more beers than you can possibly drink.  You won’t get to them all, so don’t try!

And on to the list of upcoming festivals:

September 5 and 6 (i.e. this weekend): Great Canadian Beer Festival in Victoria.  Mostly beers from BC, but there are beers from elsewhere in Canada and the United States.  Saturday tickets are sold out but a few Friday evening tickets remain.

September 11-14 – Whistler Village BeerFestival, the tasting fest is on Saturday the 13th from 1-5 and tickets are on sale for $35 general admission or $45 gate-crasher early admittance

September 27 – Yaletown Brewing Caskival – from 11:30 a.m. $20 to taste all 11 casks

September 28 - Bomber Brewing Back Lot Oktoberfest Party – from 2-6.  Bavarian BBQ, music by the Creaking Planks, beer steins and Oktoberfest lager. Tickets on EventBrite for $38.09 – 2 glasses of beer, treat from the grill and take home stein, prizes for dressing up.

October 4 and 5 – Powell River Oktoberfest.  There is a CAMRA bus trip planned for this fun festival.  Tickets available through Eventbrite.  $30 for Oktoberfest, $120 for the CAMRA bus transportation (discounts for CAMRA members)

October 24 and 25 – Harrison BeerFestival.  Cask night on Friday, beer tasting festival Saturday afternoon followed by an Oktoberfest party Saturday night, and yes, people do dress up for the party.

October 25 – BC Beer Awards at the Croatian Cultural Centre in Vancouver – hosted by none other than OTC’s Stephen Quinn, this is an awards ceremony for the best in BC beers and a tasting festival for you to try those same beers.  Tickets are $27 currently, and will go up to$32 on October 10th.

Beer Picks:
In honour of the upcoming oktoberfests, some tasty lagers are my picks this week:

Main StreetPilsner – available at the tasting room to drink and have growlers filled, as well as on tap around town.

Red Truck lager – available on tap around town and in cans at the liquor store

Brassneck Klutz kolsch – available at the tasting room to drink and have growlers filled.

And be on the lookout for Oktoberfest beers over the next month.  Refreshing and usually lower in alcohol content than the pumpkin beers we shall be inundated with soon!


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