Two years ago this week, unapologetic beer nerd Stephen Smysnuik birthed The Growler column, which he soon raised into a quarterly magazine that’s now BC’s most trusted craft-beer guide. Like any parent, he should be proud of what he’s brought into this world. As Steve mentioned in his column last week, he’s leaving us (albeit temporarily) to raise his actual baby, which is a way more important job.
In his absence, you’re stuck with me. Who am I? Glad you asked.
In addition to serving as editor of Westender since 2014, I’ve also been known to partake of the occasional sudsy beverage. I’ve been brewing beer in my tiny East Van apartment for close to three years now, and I bring to The Growler a near-lifelong passion for beer.
Incidentally, I have my own child on the way, but I’ll be continuing to work, putting in the long hours required to taste as much delicious BC craft beer as possible. Clearly, I’m going to be a terrible father.
While I don’t remember my first beer, I’ve been told it was when I snuck a can – which I promptly puked up into a rented hot tub – at a party my parents threw when I was three or four years old. It’s a scenario that would repeat, in various ways, throughout most of my teens (and my 20s… and most of my 30s. Let’s be honest).
I certainly remember falling in love with beer, and three particular instances stand out for me.
No. 1: My first trip to a brewery. When I was 17, I went on a road trip through the Kootenays with my dad and my little brother. I convinced Dad to take us to the tour of the Columbia Brewery in Creston, home of Kokanee. (Bear in mind that this was 20 years ago and I knew next to nothing about beer – or anything, really.) I remember being awed by the towering stainless-steel fermenters, the polished metal, and the sweet, pungent smell. It was a cathedral to my eyes. Sadly, at the end of the tour, I was denied communion: I was too young to legally sample the beer.
No. 2: The realization that there were more than six brands of beer. Back in the ’90s, there was a chain of pseudo-pubs called Fogg N’ Suds that was totally unremarkable except for the fact that it had an astonishing selection of beer from around the world. (Apparently there’s still one location left, situated in a Holiday Inn in Richmond.) Granted, most of the beers they offered back then were lagers, but there were hundreds of them. It soon became my mission to try them all, and I was mostly successful. For some reason, I even felt compelled to keep the bottle cap of every beer I tried. (I’m sure some ex-girlfriend convinced me to throw them out, which was probably for the best. As I said, there were hundreds of them.) Thankfully, Vancouver began to spawn beer bars that were actually worth hanging out in, like Six Acres, Stella’s (the precursor to BierCraft on Commercial Drive), and the mighty Alibi Room. My liver has never been the same.
No. 3: My first visit to the Promised Land (AKA Portland, Oregon). I feel like most Vancouverite beer geeks have a Portland story. Mine involves a Labour Day bike trip in the late oughts, in which a group of us pedaled from brewery to brewery, partaking of flight after flight of the Beaver State’s finest beers.
The trip soon became an annual pilgrimage, with upward of two-dozen of us making the trip – a drunken peloton of sunburnt jerks weaving our way around the Rose City in search of that next transcendent IPA. How can one town have so many fantastic breweries?, we’d ask ourselves. Why can’t we have this back home?
A lot has changed in a short period of time, and Vancouver now boasts a craft beer scene all its own. In fact, incredible breweries have popped up all over the province, from Prince Rupert to Invermere. As a beer nerd, it’s an amazing time to be alive!
Now that we’ve dispensed with introductions, I promise to talk about myself as little as possible going forward. After all, it’s really about the beer, amirite?
(Oh, and for those wondering how I lost my front tooth, the answer is a Hell’s Angel’s fist, a microphone and a snorkel. In that order.)