On Vancouver Craft Beer Week and Flying Too Close to the Sun…
Things are starting to move pretty fast here at SeatoSkyBeerGuy. I mean, things are really getting out of hand. Last month my brother-in-law said, “You know what you should do? You should write a blog about beer.” That was last month. Now I have a domain name and a website. But apparently that isn’t enough, so I also have a Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram accounts, and not a damn clue how to use them. So that’s fine. Anyone can do what I’ve done and acquire said accessories and call themselves “a blogger” and that’s fine! My close friends know that I love to write and the raison d’etre for this website was to give me a platform to do just that. More than a few times I’ve told people, “Look, if no one reads this other than MBW, I don’t care: at least I’m writing again.” That’s not precisely true, of course. Of course I want this damn animal I’m rearing to race out of the barn and blast thru the beer world like a fucking virus who’s only cure is more cowbell. Of course I want that.
“But first,” whispers my internal critic, “you have to actually write stuff. And secondly, someone has to take you seriously. Take you seriously or take pity on you.”
I’m not sure which of those states Katharine Manson (Communications Principal for VCBW) was operating in when she gave me media accreditation for Vancouver Craft Beer Week but regardless: now things have changed. Now I DO care if no one reads my blog because someone thought it sounded legitimate enough to grant me unfettered access to the Holy Grail* of BC Beer Festivals!
So here I go. What follows is the first of at least three posts on the hopped up, elegant elephant that is Vancouver Craft Beer Week.
“… and I was, after all, a professional journalist; so I had an obligation to cover the story, for good or ill.” -Hunter S. Thompson
Part I: Collaboration
Thursday May 18th found me street-side, mere metres away from VCBW headquarters, wondering what the hell I was going to do for the next 15 minutes. The launch party for the 2017 Festival’s collaboration beer, the Hazy Pale Ale, started at 5:30 and by some minor miracle I’d managed to drive down from Squamish in far less time than MBW and Google had guessed. There was no way I was going in early: ’tis a far finer ‘ting to be Late and Blend than to be Early and Bound. Except, when I was late for my first gig, I got seated front row centre! Don’t worry, SeatoSkyBeerGuy, you’re just ‘posing’ anyway. You might as well get the charade over with. Propped up by my own pep talk I sauntered in. I was met at the door by Katharine, who was warm and friendly and put me at my ease. We talked for a bit; mostly me peppering her with newbie questions like,
“Can I write about this?” Yes, that’s why you’re here.
“Are there any specific guidelines or beats I’m meant to follow when it comes to posting?” Do you want me to do your job for you?
“Can I grab some napkins? I’m starting to sweat profusely and I may have wet myself.” Really?
“Ever so slightly.”
Most of that didn’t happen, as Katharine was a complete delight, but I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to decide where fact and fiction lie.
I was early, but there were others, and I can be somewhat social when the situation calls for it so I turned on my charm and filled out my name tag.
One of the first people I talked to was Adrian, a member of the Vancouver Mural Festival team (the VMF and the VCBW share the space here on E. Hastings). It was Adrian who suggested we split a pretzel together, so as to share in the shame of being first to hit the snack table. While munching merrily away on salted bread, Adrian directed my gaze towards the mural, created for the VCBW, at the end of the room and mentioned how talented the artist was (whose name I forgot). Adrian then spied my name tag, became insanely envious and made his way back to the front to procure his own, so I headed over to the mural for a closer look.
Yup, Cool. The picture doesn’t really show the size of the thing, but it is big and it is beautiful. I could tell you that I admire the Artist’s choice of colour and the juxtaposition of light and dark and the subtle yet centred presence of the VCBW collaboration cans but really, all that would do is make me sound pretentious and cloud your own judgement. So go ahead and judge, judgers! Don’t let me get in the way. Speaking of cloud (and by cloud I mean Haze and by Haze I mean Hazy Pale) let’s get to the beer, shall we?
Every year the VCBW honours the local brewing community by releasing a special beer brewed by selected members of said community. This year Yellow Dog Brewing, Parkside Brewery, Moody Ales and Twin Sails Brewing all got together at Yellow Dog to collaborate. After the brainstorm came the brewstorm and Boy Howdy was that sucker tropical!
I’m a fan of the hazy style (see my last post) and I’m also a fan of fruit infusions when done right and this beer hit both high notes like a castrated Castrato. You need to try the Hazy Pale for yourself: it’s available at select liquor stores and maybe(?) on site in Port Moody where the aforementioned collaborators reside. Not that you need additional incentive but partial proceeds will be donated to the BC SPCA. Whoops, not that link! Sarah’s gonna make you cry and this blog’s M.O. is upbeat. Try this one: BC SPCA. Too late, now I’m depressed. Okay listen, let’s buy some beer and help out the dogs and cats (but mostly the dogs) that need us and let’s try and forget Ms. McLachlan’s hauntingly beautiful voice (as if you could!) as we continue down the road towards Vancouver Craft Beer Week.
Another person I met at the beer launch was Mike G. from mikescraftbeer.com and man did I want to pick HIS brain! This guy is highly respected in the industry, has been blogging for years and puts out content damn near daily. He’s one of the principals at Pacific Beer Chat, a judge at festivals, and- okay that’s enough- let’s just say that Mike is a guy I could learn a lot from. And to top it off, he was super friendly too, and very accommodating when I peppered him with questions.
“Do you know where I could grab some napkins? This stain is becoming more and more noticeable.” Dude what is wrong with you?
“Sometimes I get nervous in social situations.” Good day, sir.
“But what about-” I said GOOD DAY!
There were other people I chatted with (Tim & Nick from Strathcona Brewing: I did try the Rye ESB and it was all that and then some) and still more that I didn’t talk to but should have. Not the least of which would have been one or some of the breweries who created the feel-good hit of the summer, the Belle of the Ball, the Hazy Pale. I saw a contingent from Yellow Dog (at least I assume they were from Yellow Dog, judging by their lovely Labradorian logo-wear) and will count it as one of my many missed opportunities that I didn’t make more of an effort to scratch them behind the ear and possibly get a bone thrown my way. The truth was, I started to feel a little like Icarus flying too close to the Sun. I was having a blast, learned a ton, and hadn’t made too much of an ass of myself, so it was probably time to fly back to Squamish before my waxen wings began to melt.
So let’s tie a bow on this bad boy, shall we? I called this post, Collaboration, for pretty obvious reasons. The VCBW Brewers Row beer (naturally) plus the fact that the event took place in the collaborative space of the VCBW and VMF, respectively. But on a broader scale, the whole dang craft beer industry in BC seems like a collaborative hug-fest of one sort or another. And perhaps I’m a cynic at heart (which is weird ‘cuz generally I’m a pretty upbeat guy) but my limited experience with observing and reporting the BC beer scene has been so soul-stretchingly positive and refreshing that I weep at why the world at large can’t behave in a similar fashion. In the spirit of the fine feelings found at VCBW last Thursday I decided to try my own hand at Art. Taking inspiration from the mural on display, I used the digital medium as my canvas and created what I think is a really solid self portrait. I call it, “Still Life with Sea to Sky Beer Guy” and have included it here for your viewing pleasure. Stay tuned for the second installment of my take on Vancouver Craft Beer Week, which will cover the Opening Night event on Friday, May 26th. Get your tickets before they’re gone…
*Hyperbole Alert: The VCBW is pretty big but is it the biggest Festival in BC? Maybe. The Great Canadian Beer Fest in Victoria is pretty big. Frankly, the Okanagan Fest of Ale is kind of a big deal too and there are others. Okay, so more of a Holy Flight(TM) than a Holy Grail. And really, if Jesus was gettin’ down with his Disciples for one last dinner and if there were options other than water & wine…I like to think he would have gone with the Holy Flight.