beer column

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

Coralee Oakes, the BC Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction announced last week that as of November 30th government liquor stores will be able to carry up to twelve local craft beers that are non-listed.  Being non-listed means that the products are not otherwise available at the government stores.

The new program is timed to coincide with BC Buy Local Week.  Buy Local Week is "an annual celebration of local business to promote the contributions that BC businesses make to our economy and our communities".  Craft breweries definitely fit that bill - they're contributing more and more to local economies and are changing the face of neighbourhoods, so you can't fault the Ministry on their timing!

There are currently 102 breweries in the province which qualify as microbreweries by the Province and can take advantage of the initiative.  To be considered a microbrewery by the Province you must brew 15,000 hectolitres or less a year.  By the BC Craft Brewers Guild's count there are currently 113 craft breweries in the Province, meaning that only 11 are larger than the Province's microbrewery definition - for example, Central City Brewing in Surrey, who brew over 25,000 hecs a year.

Just for fun, I looked up how much Labatts brews annually -  10 million hectolitres, over 650 times the microbrewery amount.  So even though some of our craft breweries have outgrown the microbrewery size, they're nowhere near the huge breweries.

As with all the government announcements, we'll have to wait and see how the plan is implemented before we'll know for sure that craft beer drinkers will actually benefit, but it does sound like small breweries who find it hard to get sku numbers for their beers will have the opportunity to have their local government liquor store carry their beers.  Competition for shelf space is fierce, so any policy that offers brewers a chance to get their product out to consumers is a welcome one. I have heard horror stories like only 5% of the 3,000 applications that are received each year by the LDB actually get a listing.  I don't have actual stats, but if that is even close to true, it illustrates how much of an impact an initiative like this could have for craft breweries.  

As for consumers, they will have the ease of picking up beer from several local breweries in one stop rather than having to visit each brewery when they're looking to purchase bottles. Tasters and growler fills will still require a trip to the brewery, which is the epitome of buying local, but for consumers outside the Lower Mainland and Victoria where breweries are fewer and further between, having local craft beers on government liquor store shelves should mean craft beer lovers have more options close to home.

So I guess I'm saying that I'm cautiously optimistic about it!

The BC Craft Brewers Guild, though, is very pleased with the announcement:

  • This is excellent news and two huge wins for our membership.The Guild has worked on this initiative since we first presented to the Liquor Policy review in order to raise the visibility of BC Craft beer in the BCGL stores and recognizing the local role craft beer plays in over 50 communities in BC. 
  • We are pleased on 2 fronts: First, a barrier to entry for our smaller members has been removed and second – the BC LDB Retail Stores (BCLDB) will be showcasing at least 6 of their local craft breweries within their stores
  • As of November 30th, craft breweries at or below 15,000HL in annual production will be eligible to participate at their local BCLDB without getting a full time listing at a GLS.
  • Getting listings at the BCLDB is a major concern for all our Guild members, and as of November 30, our members under 15,000HL will be eligible to present two non-listed products to their 6 closest BCGLS outlets and the store manager will choose which products to list at their local store. 
  • These products will be direct delivered to the store by our breweries. 
  • Like all products in the government retail system, these products must be achieving sufficient sales results after 90 days to continue in the store.To help achieve success, the BCLDB retail stores will create shelf space - and feature - the closest 6 craft breweries to the store. For many of our members, this will be their long-awaited first BCLDB listings in the six closest stores.
  • As the unprecedented growth in the BC craft brewing industry continues the BCGLS stores cannot keep up with the demand their customers have to support local breweries. This is due to their current retail store space layouts, product selections and distribution requirements therefore this program removes the barrier for the local breweries selected.
  • This is a great step in the right direction – it helps ensure additional support for all our members. We will continue to work for greater space and exposure for all our members (0- 200,000HL) regardless of size and hope in the near future consumers at local government stores will be directed to the BC Craft Beer Section with dedicated signage in the same manner BC wine is supported in the government store system.

Because the weather outside is frightful (for a summer lover like myself), I brought in a winter seasonal for us to taste.  I tried this one at the Burnaby Beer Fest the other week and fell under its hoppy, malty spell!  Beers like this almost make the cold weather worthwhile... Almost!

The Sleigh Booster by Bridge Brewing is an Imperial Red Ale that weighs in at 71 ibus - international bittering units - and 9% alcohol.  Because it comes in 650ml bottles, I suggest sharing with a fellow beer lover.  Fireplace optional.

It pours a really lovely red colour - so seasonal!

As I say all the time, I'm not a fan of vanilla winter ales, so I'm always on the lookout for a winter beer that emphasizes other flavours.  A well-balanced hoppy beer like this one is a real pleaser for me.

I want to encourage people to visit StrangeFellows Brewing on Clark Drive Wednesday night. They're hosting a Mo-vember Craft Beeard contest.  There will be chili, music and a special cask of Nocturnum, as well as the moustache and beard contests at 8:00 p.m.  I'll be judging the facial hair, alongside some experts in the field.  It is going to be a fun night, and it's for charity!

Beer picks:

Devilfish IPA from Old Yale Brewing - this limited release SMaSH beer (single malt, single hop) is available in 650ml bombers at government and private liquor stores.  The malt is Special Amber and the hop is Ella from Australia.

Townsite Perfect Storm Oatmeal Stout - this seasonal beer is 5.5% and available in 650 ml bottles at private liquor stores.

Brassneck Brewing Inertia Imperial Stout - 9% of dark and handsome with coffee and chocolate notes - available on tap at the tasting room and the Alibi Room

Further reading:


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