The Stanley Park Story

Craft beer is about more than just beer, it is a story about how David stood up to Goliath and won.

In the industrial era the primary purpose of a factory (brewery) was to keep capital equipment at full capacity and to realize economies of scale and scope, which when done right should make the factory owner rich. When the industrial revolution began, brewers got bigger and bigger, competition increased as did efficiency, but margins were squeezed and compromises were made, beer became nothing more than a widget in a macro economics model. This was not the high water mark for beer. Industrial beer did not taste good, but the story does not end here.

We fought back. We fought with our dollars, wallets in hand. With our fists defiantly raised skyward, we said no more to factory beer – we spent our hard earned cash on quality products, local products, a beer that was anti-corporate. Quality and flavour were the key drivers behind the craft beer movement. But there is more to the story than a fight for flavour – we also wanted to know who was brewing our beer, we wanted a relationship with people, with brewers, local businessmen making a difference in our communities, not corporations. Integrity before profits was as much a part of the movement as the beer itself.

Some craft brewers get the later part of the story all wrong. They hire talented brewers to make tasty beer, create a story that they are sure is going to impress, go to market and… Surprise! The people who they expected to be their biggest fans, are now their foes. What happened they ask? Why don’t you like me?

Small brewers, with little marketing budget, cannot create stories in the same way corporations do – they just don’t possess the fire power to sell a brand. All that the small guys have is authenticity – their people, and their product. The people who work hard to brew a beer that they love are the brand. The employees and owners who work at small craft breweries are part of the new food movement – this ever growing food revolution is about people who work hard to make the food we eat and the beer we drink, not corporations selling nutrition. Anyone who considers themselves to be part of this food revolution finds corporate rhetoric off-putting. We want our neighbours making our food, even if it means we pay more for it.

I was invited to a beer dinner at CRAFT last week featuring Stanley Park Brewing. The beer was good to okay, as were the pairings. But this is relatively standard in the world of beer dinners. In the past I have been very critical of Stanley Park’s smoke and mirrors approach to branding. I have been to Stanley Park and I have yet to find the brewery. I understand that in 1897 a Belgian immigrant made beer in Stanley Park, but I fail to see the connection between the two. Many beer drinkers saw what I saw, and we pointed our collective finger at this new brewery and said – you are one of them! No matter how good the beer was (it was just okay), Stanley Park was the bad guy. Consumers felt lied to, we were sold a story that lacked authenticity, which is exactly what the industrial brewers do. But if we let the story end here, we would be doing the beer community a disservice.

Stanley Park has hired a new Brewmaster – Todd. He is a good guy, same goes for all of the Stanley Park staffers who joined me for an evening of food and beer. Todd’s newest release, a mild aromatic Pale Ale (by West Coast standards), is a notable shift from the mild and slightly Belgian beers that have traditionally been on offer. The entire team at Stanley Park wants nothing more than to brew good beer – they could care less about 1897. They are locals, working hard to make something they are proud of. Sure, they haven’t done themselves any favours by building their brand on a false story. But we all make mistakes.

Stanley Park’s story is slowly changing, and they no longer claim a connection to the 1897 brewery. Stanley Park Brewing doesn’t aim to be the craftiest craft brewer, they just want to make good tasting beer that people enjoy drinking.

Is there a conclusion? Not really, but here goes. When in doubt tell the truth, and spend your time making something you are proud of. But most of all, don’t listen too much to the critics, they’ll just drag you down.

Cheers,

Erik

Sartori Day!

I’m not 100% certain, but I’m quite sure that today is the day Driftwood’s Sartori Harvest IPA hits liquor store shelves in the lower mainland. Driftwood themselves posted this on Facebook yesterday:

What does this mean for you? Well, if you want some, setup a Twitter search and/or like all your favourite liquor stores on Facebook. When you get the word, run, don’t walk, to your beer purveyor of choice and buy as much as they’ll sell you. Sartori IPA is the only beer produced in BC that causes this kind of mad dash, and I kind of like it. While it’s upsetting to show up as the last bottles are being sold (happened to me last year at Brewery Creek), the rush of knowing you and your fellow beer nerds are flying around the city to grab up as much as possible is pretty fun.

What is this magical beer you speak of? Well, it’s a fresh hopped IPA and it can only be made once a year, right after the hop harvest. The fresh hops give the IPA a coincidentally fresh taste that many quite enjoy. The name Sartori comes from the hop farm the hops are grown at.

Sartori hop harvest, lifted from Driftwood's instagram page

Sartori hop harvest, lifted from Driftwood’s instagram page

Is Sartori IPA worth the hype? Kind of, it’s a fun seasonal release and a very tasty beer. Is it the best beer every? Not by a long shot. Is it better than Fat Tug? Not necessarily, but it’s a different sort of IPA and delicious. I’ll be buying 6-12 of them and will have them consumed with the week. Drink it fresh for best results.

Cheers,

Chris

Beer at the World Cup in Brazil

I’ve just arrived in Brazil to take in the World Cup! As a soccer fan, this is one of those bucket list things I had to do. As a beer drinker, I did some advanced scouting to figure out what to expect down here. Turns out Brazil has a bit of a craft beer scene in the bigger cities like Rio and Sao Paulo; there’s even a Delirium Cafe related to the Brussels one in Rio. Also, a fair number of Germans migrated to Brazil over the years and the town of Blumenau has the second largest Oktoberfest in the world, after Munich.

So Brazilians do drink a fair amount of beer, and some quite good beer at that. However, they don’t drink at soccer/football games, because alcohol is banned at stadiums country wide. Not at the World Cup though, since Budweiser is a major FIFA sponsor. FIFA sent me a food and beverage guide for the stadiums ahead of time. Bud and Brahma will be available, so not great, but at least it’s relatively affordable by western stadium standings (R$2 ~= $1 CDN)? I do like that FIFA has added some local specialties to the menu, if not local beer.

Beer at the world cup in brazil

Who cares though? I’m in Brazil for the mother effing World Cup!

Cheers,

Chris

Finally, Beer on TV is good

Yesterday CTV featured local craft beer on their morning show, link here. This happens from time to time; local beer gets featured on TV, usually by somebody not quite in the know. What’s different this time? The beer they featured is all really good beer with serious beer nerd credibility! We’ve finally made it, craft beer is just regular beer in Vancouver now.

Craft beer on CTVThe beer they talked about:

  • Steamworks Pilsner
  • Four Winds Saison
  • Driftwood Fat Tug IPA
  • Central City Imperial Porter

That’s a lineup that I’d dive right into, and it was featured on regular mainstream TV. Happy Vancouver Craft Beer Week!

Cheers,

Chris

VCBW Tickets On Sale Monday

The fifth annual Vancouver Craft Beer Week is coming up, this May 30th to June 9th 2014, and tickets go on sale Monday, April 28th at noon. While most events don’t sell out immediately, Hopapalooza at the Alibi Room surely will. I think it sold out in under half an hour last year, so you’d be better be ready. What’s the deal? Well, it’s just the best annual beer event in BC. It’s at a civilized hour, It’s not crowded since they only let a certain number of people in, there’s food, and you don’t have to bother with tokens. Oh yeah, and there’s 50+ amazing beers. It’s the best and I’m going to be there.

vcbw logo

There will also be many other rad events that take place during the week. There’s usually an opening event and a big closing festival. The closing festival is a riotous good times that can be enjoyed by non beer nerds, so that’s a great one to take your “normal” friends to. Keep an eye on the website this weekend, as surely all the events will be announced. Also, judging by the logo, there’s another theme this year. I can’t tell what it is, maybe douchebag or gangster rap? I don’t care; I just want to go to Hopapalooza.

Cheers,

Chris