beer column

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

It’s that time of year again – Vancouver Craft Beer Week tickets are on sale!  
Among this year’s events is a new awards ceremony.  I had the honour of helping to judge the beers in Vancouver Magazine’s inaugural International Craft Beer Awards last week.  The winners will get their prizes at the opening night of VCBW, May 29th at Craft Beer Market.  The event runs from 6-10 pm and tickets are $60.  You'll get to see, and taste, the best beers available in British Columbia year-round.

As for how we chose the winning beers, there were 18 judges doing a blind sampling of beers in 14 categories.  I have been sworn to secrecy about most of the process, but I can tell you that I was in a pod of three judges and we judged beers in four of the categories. Once all the pods were done choosing the gold, silver and bronze in their assigned styles, we all got together to choose the 'best in show' from among the 14 gold medal winners.  All the tasting was blind, so none of us know which beers we were judging, nor the identity of the winner.  We'll find out with the rest of you when the magazine comes out.

As opposed to the BC Beer Awards and other judged beer awards, these International Craft Beer Awards were not judged entirely by accredited beer judges.  There were accredited judges in each pod, but the rest of us were chosen for our devotion to the drinking of beer. Which is not to say that we didn't take the judging seriously, just that we were judging on sheer enjoyment of the beverage rather than how closely it matched style guidelines. Which made for a very enjoyable day!  I am looking forward to seeing which beers we judged the most drinkable - and I hope the folks at Vancouver Magazine choose me to be a judge again next year!

Back to VCBW, three events have already sold out.  Of the remaining events here are some recommendations: 

- The two-day tasting festival is always a good bet.  This year it will be held on June 6 and 7 at a new location, the PNE fair grounds.  There will be 100 breweries pouring 400 different beers, and Timbersports competitions for you to watch.  Tickets are $40.

- Back for the fifth year in a row is the battle for the ultimate beer cocktail, Battle of the Bartenders, where 8 brilliant bartenders make 8 different beer cocktails using the same 2 base ingredients – this year Driftwood New Growth Pale ale and Pernod.  That will be held at Blackbird pub on June 3rd.  Tickets are $20.    

- New this year is an ode to fruit beers called "Forbidden Fruit", on June 4 at Devil's Elbow.  $30 gets you 8 samples and tapas.

Craft beer week isn't until the end of May, what if you just can't wait that long for a beer event??

Luckily for us, there are beer events daily in the Lower Mainland.  It’s a great time to be a craft beer fan… so long as you don’t suffer from ‘fear of missing out” as it would be impossible to attend all of the events!  Craft Beer Week definitely bumps it up a notch or two, but it is starting to feel like every week is craft beer week in Vancouver.  Cask nights, beer dinners, tap takeover, tastings – these are no longer rare events.  But still they sell out, like Steel Toad's Soiree Dieu du Ciel on Sunday.  It would have been a great chance to meet the brewer of these fantastic beers, while sipping on them.  But alas for all of us without tickets, it has sold out.

- Showing just how much beer tastings have become part of everyday life, Fluevog shoes is turning 45 this year and they’re celebrating with in-store beer tastings.  On April 16th you can sip on Postmark Brewing beers at the Gastown Fluevog location.  But you've got to rsvp!

- On April 28th Craft Beer Market is hosting a beer pairing dinner with Old Yale Brewing from Chilliwack.  A four-course menu will be created to pair with four beers.  Tickets are $60.  First beers poured at 6 pm.
- From April 24 - 30 Strange Fellows Brewing will be holding their monthly strange tradition festival.  This month's theme is burning the witches - a tribute to spring and a banishing of winter, the victory of good over evil and community revelry, all celebrated with beer.
- The Great Okanagan Beer Festival will be held May 7-9 at Kelowna’s Waterfront Park.  Over 40 breweries will gather to pour beer from around the world.  There are also beer dinners and cask nights.  Check their website for more details and tickets.
- For daily cask events you can check the CAMRA website for updates. 

Beer Picks:

Strange Fellows hefeweizen – Strange Fellows’ take on the beer of summer is now on tap at the brewery.

Bomber Brewing Superpest – their beloved double ipa is back, for a limited time.  Available on tap at the brewery and in 650 ml bombers.  This beer won bronze at last year’s BC Beer Awards.

Old Abbey Ales is now open on Fraser Highway in Abbotsford.  You can taste their beers at the brewery, and two styles are currently available at private stores in 650 ml bombers:  a Belgian Quad and a Belgian Tripel IPA – watch out though as these are 10% and 9% beers, respectively!


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