BEER IN LONDON WAS JUST OKAY
When I moved to London in early 2010 I thought I was going to a beer mecca. I mean, what beer nerd doesn’t hold the English ale in high regard? While London does have a fantastic social pub scene and numerous epic historic/cosy pubs, the beer itself wasn’t what I expected. In Vancouver, we revere cask beer, but then the cask beer we get here is almost always incredibly fresh and of very high quality. In an English pub, there are always at least three beer machines pumping cask ale, but how long has it been sitting there? I’ve consumed enough stale english ale to last me a lifetime.
BUT THEN IT GOT REALLY GOOD
I did my best to find cool beer stuff in London, seeking out highly regarded pubs, hitting up GBBF, and otherwise searching for good beer (Uto Beer had the only good selection in town). Then BOOM! three new craft beer joints opened up within two miles of my place. It just goes to show you that people are starting to demand craft beer, even in a place like London where lager is consumed by the bucket-full after work. Craft, The Euston Tap, Brewdog, and The Kernel all started up in London after I got there, and these are epic places.
AND IT’S GOOD OTHER PLACES TOO
While in London I travelled to other places in Europe as much as I possibly could. I loved the traditional beer cultures of Germany and Belgium, but I also noticed that other countries are starting to forge their own craft brewing traditions. I had an incredible time checking out awesome beer places in Amsterdam, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and even Rome, among others. What’s interesting is that craft beer establishments all have something in common, they are very young. The idea of craft brewing is relatively new and it’s spreading throughout the world. We can trace the roots of craft beer back to the CAMRA movement in the UK during the seventies. Strange though that the Americans really took craft and ran with it, showing us the way. We on the west coast are lucky to be situated so near epic beer towns like Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco. Even in these places, craft beer didn’t get going until the eighties.
BEER IS EXPLODING IN VANCOUVER
Now I’m back in Vancouver and BOOM! doesn’t do the local beer scene justice. Beer has exploded all over the lower mainland. It’s tough to find a restaurant worth eating at that doesn’t serve craft beer. My non beer nerd friends have impressive selections in their fridges. The Big Ridge Liquor Store in Surrey has a selection that rivals Brewery Creek. I went to a Belgian Beer pairing dinner at Uli’s in White Rock last night (in White Rock! that’s crazy). We have a Vancouver Craft Beer Week (coming soon, buy tickets now) and a BC Craft Beer Month. There are all sorts of new BC breweries like Hoyne, Tofino, Parallel 49, Townsite, and Coal Harbour, not to mention beer bars sprouting up all over the place. It’s not just the Alibi Room anymore, though it’s still the best in my opinion. Then there are numerous cask nights and events listed every week in the CAMRA Vancouver newsletter (which you should subscribe to). And when I left there were only a few local beer blogs kicking around, but now there are at least twenty. There are too many cool things to list, but I think you get the idea.
Craft beer is becoming mainstream around these parts.
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
I think there are quite a few reasons craft beer is taking off. Most importantly, craft beer tastes better. It’s probably healthier too, though I can’t prove it. Craft beer tends to be made with just the four key ingredients, whereas many macro lagers aren’t even vegetarian (so what else is in them?). Craft beer is also relatively local in that it is brewed locally by locals and hops and water come from here (barley comes from the prairies). After the financial crisis, I know I’d rather buy beer from that guy I saw at the pub than a giant international purveyor of piss water like AB InBev. Vancouver is also lucky to be a laid back place where creativity flourishes. The craft beer influence from nearby Seattle and Portland surely doesn’t hurt either.
What I like best about craft beer is the passion. Erik summed up his passion for craft beer perfectly. Making beer is hard work and not all that lucrative hereabouts. To brew beer you haver to absolutely love it, and our brewers do. This shines through in the local community and I think people appreciate it. I sure do.
I’ve noticed some people getting really worked up about beer lately. I think it’s important to remember that beer is an extracurricular activity in our culture. It used to be food, but now it’s just fun. When I saw CAMRA’s FUSS Campaign (which I do agree with in principle), I wondered why people care more about serving sizes than helping people who actually need help? In the grand scheme of things, beer isn’t a real issue. That being said, BC has the stupidest liquor laws on the planet. In Germany, everyone drinks in parks and it’s considered civilized. I want that.