On Vancouver Craft Beer Week and the Festival Itself…
Well folks, here we are: the Big Show. Vancouver Craft Beer Week had some amazing events at some amazing locales showcasing some amazing beers, but the Festival itself is the jewel on the crown of the poncy Prince that everyone has their eyes on.
‘Cuz everyone wants the jewel. ‘Cuz the Prince is, you know, so damn poncy. So the Festival is a jewel, see? It’s an admittedly strange metaphor, but all the weird ones are.
Back to the bolts: the PNE was chocker-block to bursting with beer enthusiasts and there were more than 100 Breweries on hand to serve them: a Bacchanalian Bash of this magnitude simply had to be taken seriously. So I hired a photographer. Last week, as you may have read (if not, it’s right here. And while we’re at it, Part I of this triad is right here) I brought my buddy, Brent, to the VCBW Opening Night and we had a blast! And we had three photo’s between us to show for it. One was usable, one needed Photoshop and one got banished to the Nether-Net: that dark, dusty region of the matrix where bad bits and digital pics go to die. So this time around I wanted pictures that were worth two thousand words. I wanted pictures that put my words to shame; pictures that, in fact, needed no words. And so I called on the Maestro to see if he was available.
It’s tough to put your finger on one thing this man is good at, for the Maestro excels at all things. He is a musician, of course, but also a painter and a Pater. He is a deep thinker and a shallow diver. He is a beer drinker and Scotch imbiber. He is less this and more THIS. And…he is a photographer. In spite of his Renaissance Mantle, the Maestro is fairly modest so I will stop embarrassing him now and get on with the show.
“No sympathy for the devil: keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…” -Hunter S. Thompson
Part III: Celebration
Due to the fact that I have photographic evidence to present, this is going to look a little less like my traditional babble and a little more like a photo essay. And so it goes…
We arrived at the Pacific National Exhibition grounds a tad too early to want to wait in line, but not so early that we could justify going somewhere else to grab a pint. But do you know what lies just around the corner?
Mother Hastings. One of the gnarlier battle-grounds around, Hastings is one of Vancouver’s landmark skate parks.
And who the hell did we find warming up? None other than Rob “Sluggo” Boyce. Pro skater, pro snowboarder, pro businessman, pro stuntman, OG Red Dragon: Sluggo puts The Man in Renaissance Man.
Needless to say, I’m a fan. Thanks for not making a forty-three year old dude feel weird asking for a photo, Sluggo!
Sea to Sky Beer Guy in Repose
Beer Guy Blows the Pose
Okay, let’s dive into the great, Cascadian Gyre that is the VCBW Festival. We’re thru the gates, but you only get two beer tokens with your ticket to entry. This is like giving someone access to a bag of chips then saying, “Two chips should do, right?” Ya, right. So here we are pressing the flesh to get our hands on some more of those little wooden drink-discs.
The first Brewery we sampled was Kulshan Brewery, out of Bellingham. The beer was great, but your first one always is and goes down too fast, at that.
Just a jovial bunch of dudes and that’s what you want in a festival booth: Joviality. Mission Accomplished, fellas!
The prize for SECOND coolest set-up goes to Deschutes. Their beer is top shelf, too.
But really, aren’t Beer Festivals themselves just giant, leisure games?
Notice the puddle at the base of third guy from the front. There’s no WAY he’s been here long enough to warrant that kind of accident trickling down his leg. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt here and say that he tried to put his drink on the top of the pinball game. Gravity sucks, Brah! But Hey, you’re 10K away from the high score!
Beard trim and a bun, anyone? Everyone? Yikes, that’s gonna be one busy barber!
The prize for the FIRST coolest set-up goes to Four Mile Brewing, out of Victoria. Yes, that was a real firetruck that had been retired. Yes, one of the guys at the table works for the VVFD. Yes, that shiny piece of chrome on the side pours delicious beer into cups. Well played, Four Mile. Well played indeed.
If the Sea to Sky wasn’t so damn beautiful and teeming with brew talent I suppose Victoria would be a pretty nice place to be.
The beers were going down pretty fast, so we thought it would be a good time to nosh-up. Disco-Cheetah sounded about right, but when I returned from the washroom*, the Maestro had made an executive decision.
Chicken & Waffles, anybody? I thought so. Oh sugar, oh salt, oh deep-fry, oh Dough, oh D’oh!
*When I went to the urinals there was no place to safely stash my beer so I wrapped my lips ’round the rim and tasked my teeth with holding tight. The line up was out the door with dude-bros and shortly after starting my business the chant, “Dee-sel! Dee-Sel! Dee-sel!” broke out. I’m not hip to the lingo but after discerning they were chanting at me, I figured “Diesel” was a derivation of “Skull” or “Slam” and because I have a history of succumbing to peer pressure, I tilted my head back to drink my beer no-handed. As I did, my toothy grip gave out and the cup began to plummet. My right hand left its post and swung up to catch the cup and I’m proud to say that not a drop of either liquid wound up where it wasn’t supposed to. Cheers rang thru the washroom.
BC’s albino ursine, the Spirit Bear, is revered for it’s rarity and how it captures the imagination. The Spirit Cow, however, is feared above all others for it’s ferocity and general conduct unbecoming a cow. Thank the Gods this beast is behind bars!
Anchor-Lapel Lady, if you’re wondering why the Maestro is taking your picture, it’s because of the big doofus behind you. Waving his hand in the air! Waving like he just don’t care!
That’s better! Hello Howe Sound my old friend, I’ve come to drink with you again.
There were some fantastic T-shirts on display.
But this one was my favourite. If you can disregard the good-looking people and their serious conversation, the shirt says, “We Kill Bike Thieves”. I’m on board.
Okay Brewer’s Row, seriously. What gives? You four breweries are best friends? You don’t care about the cut-throat beer industry and your position in the hierarchy? You’re all in the same ICEBOX pouring pints in perfect harmony? I don’t buy it, Twin Sails, Yellow Dog, Moody Ales and Parkside, not for one second! Under the friendly facade turbulence boils, like a wort-gone-wild. It’s one of those, “Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer” type things, isn’t it? I’m not here to judge, only to drink, but I will say this: Port Moody is one lucky neighborhood.
This guy. He swerved and stumbled his way thru the crowd like a Drunken Master!
I know it looks like he’s trying to squirm out of my grasp, or perhaps that I’m actually holding him up, but I assure you neither was the case. I did ask for consent, and while he did try and extort tickets from me as payment, he was quite willing after the couple behind us made him aware of the benefits of Karma. Not that this is what Buddha had in mind when carving up a way to live your life, but I’ll take what I can from where I can.
Art Shot. Buy the ticket, take the ride.
Speaking of Art, the Vancouver Mural Festival crew was on hand making magic.
Even a media luminary such as myself has to wait in line to get the good stuff…
Ben! Ben! Show’em your crazy eyes!
Ben Reeder, one of the owners of Backcountry Brewing. The Maestro said he was ‘jostled’ and that was the reason for the blurry photo, but I’m not so sure. There was an otherworldly aura about the Backcountry booth that was especially manifest whenever beer was being poured. Curious.
There’s forty-five minutes left? Yup, better restock.
A rare shot of the Maestro, talking to two other maestros: the Brothers Doan.
I would wait in line for an eternity to get my hands on Tofino’s Kelp Stout, especially if poured into the glass by a mermaid.
Pfriem Family Brewers, you may be Proudly Crafted and Humbly Offered but you are HARD to say without spitting in someone’s face.
It’s probably just about time to leave…
…but not before getting in line for Ninkasi: this brewery was one of my first forays into Oregonian beers and craft beer in general, back in 2010.
Even though my glass is mostly empty, it’s actually half full.
That’s it, folks! Vancouver Craft Beer Week is a wrap. And while there are myriad other beer-related events to attend this summer (not least of which is the Squamish Beer Festival this July: get on the ’99 and come get some Sea to Sky!) the size and scope of the VCBW and the majesty within really is special. I want to thank Katharine Manson, who took a chance on a fledgling blogger and granted access to aspects of VCBW that I otherwise wouldn’t have come down for. But also, just a giant thank-you to the Craft Beer Community at large. I’ve been drinking and talking about beer forever but I’ve only been writing about it for about a month. In that short time I’ve spoken with so many warm, welcoming, engaging guys and gals that it defibrillates my stagnant heart. And I am humbled and excited, in equal measure, to try and become a part of that community. Anyhoo, time to build back up that Fourth Wall and GTFO.
Also, I think I’ll take a few days off from the drink, as I’m suffering from Saturated Palate Syndrome, but when I do crack that next crafty, y’all will be the first to know!