Craft Beer, proud patron of the arts

Move over wine and cheese—nothing pairs better with arts and crafts than, well, craft.

Imagine, if you will, a world with no music, no galleries, no appreciation for beauty—and no words to describe the crushing disappointment of such a mundane existence. Shudder. That, friend, is what a world without the arts looks like. Visual, performing, literary or culinary, the arts play a vital role in making our everyday lives a little more interesting.

It’s no surprise, then, that craft beer and the arts are natural bedfellows with breweries increasingly becoming havens for the arts community, showcasing emerging artists and lending support to initiatives that help the arts thrive. And, let’s be honest, finding innovative and creative ways to marry water, barley, hops and yeast is nothing short of poetry, right?!

From live music and comedy shows, to rotating galleries and even knitting circles, craft breweries have become vital to the arts. This symbiotic relationship begs the question: what is craft beer’s overall impact on the arts world?

“It seems that there is a new craft brewery every 15 seconds and you need something to differentiate yourself from the next guy,” explains legendary radio broadcaster and musicologist Alan Cross. “One of the ways you can do that is by adopting a position within the arts world.”

He cites, in dulcet tones, Steam Whistle as having led the sponsorship charge by allying the brand with Toronto’s music scene. “You’re seeing a lot of craft breweries copy that model because there is something about craft brewing and independent music that screams authenticity and realness and non-corporate.”

Here in B.C., Gibson’s Persephone Brewing is a prime example. It joined forces with the Vancouver Folk Music Festival this past year as its official beer partner, a relationship that Persephone CEO Jenn Vervier says was unprecedented and came about organically.

“We haven’t done an event of this calibre before and it was a great opportunity to connect with our consumers and to show off Persephone in front of a wide audience,” she says. “I think that craft brewing and arts have a lot in common in supporting the non-economic aspect of our lives. What do we want to do when we’re not working? Be with our friends, drink craft beer and create culture.”

Vancouver Craft Beer Week recognizes the importance of the two working in tandem as well, with its presence at the Vancouver Mural Festival and the Punk In Drublic craft beer music festival. VCBW has integrated more art into its own programming and even changed its tag line to Music, Food, Beer and Art.

“I think that people who are in the arts world are realizing that craft beer is an art in itself, so it pairs really well with a local art theme,” says festival director Leah Heneghan. “It’s a brilliant partnership, really; quite a natural one.”

Main Street Brewing has also worked with the Vancouver Mural Festival to showcase new works by creating a canned VMF series. Owner Nigel Pike says that the festival has been of huge benefit to Mount Pleasant and inspired local businesses to fill their spaces with art. “The mural fest itself has brought a different focus to the arts, especially within the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. It’s made the streets a lot more walkable and brought people to areas that they wouldn’t necessarily go before.”

strange fellows art
Strange Fellows Brewing’s Strange Art Sessions seeks to “make art accessible in unexpected places,” and is one of many examples of how craft breweries are embracing the creative arts. Olga Zwart photo

He adds that craft beer’s support has opened up accessibility to the arts in the community and given artists a host of new venues in which to display their work.

“I think more ability to showcase people’s work in environments where people can have a beer is a good thing,” Pike says.

With a built-in gallery, the impact of Strange Fellows Brewing has been invaluable. Corey Robinson is the curator of the Charles Clark Gallery and is tasked with connecting and showcasing local emerging artists.

“It’s hugely important for the arts community to have some kind of alternative spaces to exhibit in,” he says. “There are some really fantastic galleries in the city, but not everyone feels comfortable to just go into a fine arts gallery; to have a middle ground for anyone to come in is really massive, in my opinion.”

Strange Fellows hosts a diverse range of programming, including the interactive Strange Arts Sessions, at which Robinson, an artist in his own right, invites the community to actively participate over a beer.

“It’s been an opportunity for me to kind of express that and share that with others,” he says. “Just being able to invite people to come down and get involved and also check out that gallery has been really great and I’m excited to see where we can take that.”

Heather Prost, the programmer of Steel & Oak’s community gallery takes echoes Robinson’s sentiments about the importance of giving space to up and coming artists in how she curates her exhibitions.

“I really wanted to showcase emerging artists and artists that may have marginalized identities; so artists that identify in the LGBTQ2S+ spectrum, artists that are disabled, artists of colour—I really wanted to give platform for that,” she says. “I want the community gallery to feel really flexible; I want it to be really diverse because that’s what the community is.”

The overwhelming consensus is that craft beer, like the arts, is responsible for bringing people together. Great conversations inspired over pints and flights can lead to really impactful initiatives that make our communities better places to live. And that is worth raising a glass to.

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