Well look-y here. It’s been one whole year since I’ve started this column, which means one whole year since I made the conscious decision to become a Beer Guy. Time flies whilst pummeling holes in the liver, having moderate amounts of fun.
OK, I’m being disingenuous. My liver is fine. And I’ve had quite a bit of fun – it was enormous fun in the beginning. The Beer Guy stuff was enlightening in November; got kinda heavy in February; a little bloat-worthy in April; and totally exhausting by August. Sober October is imminent.
Since throwing myself headlong in to craft beer nerdism, I’ve blown through the palate progressionat an accelerated speed. When I started this, I didn’t know an ESB from a Marzen. I learned quick. I’ve also learned what a mash tun is. I’ve learned how to spell “mash tun.” I’ve learned that Stateside Craft on the Drive had a great American beer selection, and was an excellent cave-like arena to hide away from the rain (and my troubles).
I’ve learned that Main Street Brewing is the best neighbourhood pub Vancouver has ever had. I’ve learned that nine per cent beer is a terrible thing to drink multiples of in succession, on any day of the week, but especially on a Tuesday. I’ve learned that the sort of consumption (I thought) necessary to be a Beer Guy results in higher-than-normal triglycerides, which, at 31, is certainly something to be avoided.
I’ve also verified the naive assertion I made around this time last year, that the craft beer industry is made up of some of the friendliest, most open-minded people around. It’s an environment where even the assholes are lovely.
The other side of that, however, is there’s not much appetite for criticism, and the industry in general is quite sensitive to it. “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” and all that. I’m not totally sure why that is, but like any creative industry – which this certainly is – thoughtful criticism is essential for individuals to improve, and for the craft and industry in general to improve.
But then, the beer is getting better without it, so I could be wrong. It’s hard for me to gauge this, since my palate has evolved at the same time as the beer province-wide, but last week I overheard a couple of beer judges, evaluating beers for the BC Beer Awards, remark that there are way fewer lousy entries this year than last. That’s encouraging news.
I’ve learned that, as the scene has gets bigger, the beer culture has become less about the beer and more about the culture. This summer’s Vancouver Craft Beer Week is the best example – organizers readily admit that festivals focus is less on the beer and more on the experience.
I’ve said it before, and every day I see evidence for it: craft beer culture is the first truly authentic homegrown cultural movement Vancouver has seen in about 20 years. There’s a depth of passion here, a liveliness that Vancouver’s typically known for having. But that passion always been here, and it’s coalescing in this community.
It’s a tight-knit community, too, of like-minded and intelligent people that care about the beer and care about the culture as a means to elevate the social landscape for Vancouver. It’s not a radical movement either. It doesn’t need to be. It’s an extension of the aesthetics and attitudes that already exist here, and on the West Coast in general. It has the benefit of feeling like a counterculture without any of the antagonism from the Establishment normally reserved for countercultural movements.
Because of this, the beer industry has this pervading spirit of optimism – a sense of possibility. It helps that there’s a lot of money floating around for new breweries. Wealthy older men, eying retirement, are interested now. This has positives and negatives for the industry, but on a personal level, it’s mighty inspiring (and certainly attractive) for someone working in media, which is dominated by a doom-and-gloom complex.
This is probably why I’ve learned that generous servings of beer are very effective at (temporarily) eradicating my low-level and persistent anxiety, which then returns double the next morning. Hence “moderate amounts of fun.”
Anyway, these are my favourite beers I’ve tried in the past 12 months:
Deschutes Fresh Squeezed
Driftwood Entangled Hopfenweisse
Four Winds Juxtapose Wild IPA
Fuggles & Warlock Shiva Session
Hales Supergoose IPA
Main Street Brewing Vanlandian Collaboration Hopfenweizenbock (collaboration with Occidental Brewing)
Spinnakers ESB cask
Strange Fellows Roxanne (that first batch especially)
Judge accordingly. Thanks for having me.