Grab a brew – even on a student budget

Drink up! There are plenty of ways to enjoy beer on a budget, especially with many craft beers available right here in BC. [Stock Xchng]

Drink up! There are plenty of ways to enjoy beer on a budget, especially with many craft beers available right here in BC. [Stock Xchng]

BC Craft Beer month is about recognizing just how far our province’s brewing and beer culture have come, according to co-founder Lundy Dale. With several new craft breweries opening every year and more choice than ever at bars and liquor stores, autumn celebrations offer a chance to get the word about BC beer out.

“It is about educating the public that we don’t have to go to the States or to Belgium for great beer. We have it here,” Dale told The Link.

The idea brewed up in 2011, while Dale was president of the BC Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), a volunteer-driven group dedicated to better beer. The continental market for craft beer was suddenly booming, and Dale said ensuring BC’s offerings were well represented was key.

Dale teamed up with CAMRA Vancouver and Victoria. Together, they succeeded in getting October proclaimed as BC Craft Beer Month by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Now in its third year, Craft Beer Month is bigger than ever. The first stop for anyone looking to get the most out it is the official website where you can find a listing of events.

Throughout the month, there are numerous cask nights scheduled. Casks are kegs of unfiltered, ‘live’ beer, which undergo a second fermentation right in the keg. No beer gas is added to carbonate or serve them, and they are often interesting one-offs designed to show a brewer’s imagination.

The real show-stopper, however, is the BC Beer Awards on Saturday, October 19th at the Croatian Cultural Centre. Brewers from across the province are vying to take home honours in 12 categories, and the afternoon features over 20 one-of-a-kind casks.

It is “the number one event to attend” according to Dale.

However, celebrating craft beer month does not necessarily mean buying a ticket to something. Beer lovers on a student budget can get in the spirit of the event in a number of ways.

A trip to one of the many excellent taphouses mushrooming about town is a great way to start. Both the Alibi Room and St. Augustine’s are legendary for their vast selection of rotating taps – both also offer ‘taster paddles’ of 4oz pours as a way to sample more styles.

Another option is to take a walk through one of the city’s two emerging brewery districts. R&B, 33 Acres, and the newly opened Brassneck are three breweries easily accessible from Main Street, between 4th and 8th avenue. Further east, Parallel 49, Powell St. Brewing, and Vancouver’s oldest microbrewery, Storm, are all within a few blocks of Victoria Drive at Powell Street.

With recent changes in provincial legislation, many of these breweries now offer on-site tasting lounges and nearly all of them will fill growlers (reusable 64oz glass jugs) for you.

Of course, Craft Beer Month can be celebrated right in your living room. With the growth of specialty liquor stores such as Brewery Creek, Legacy Liquor, and Firefly beer lovers now have more choice than ever.

One option is to pick up the BC Craft Beer mixer packs now available at government liquor stores. Or go in another direction and do a home tasting – grab a variety of different beers of a single style and taste them against each other.

It is pumpkin beer season, and virtually every BC brewery worth its salt has an offering available.

To that end, The Link is pleased to offer you a beginner’s guide to beer tasting. Follow these guidelines and soon you can make every month craft beer month.

Pour

Don’t be a barbarian: use a glass. You’ll be able to get the most out of your senses this way. Pour gently at a 45-degree angle.

Look

Hold your beer up to the light. What colour is it? Is it cloudy or clear? Does it have highlights? How much and what kind of head does it have?

Smell

Get your nose in there and sniff! What malt and hop aromas do you sense? Common malt aromas include: cereal, grain, chocolate, roast, and caramel. Hopheads might smell pine, citrus, tropical fruit, spice, earth, or grass.

Taste

What is your initial impression? Is it sweet? Dry? Bitter? Is there a difference between you first taste and the beer’s finish? What notes can you find? Fruit? Toffee? Toast? Coffee? What seems dominant, malty flavours or hoppy bitterness?

Before turning to journalism, Simon dabbled in many things. He earned an honours degree in political science, and still treats elections as if they’re the playoffs. He nearly started a brewery, and remains a committed beer geek with a well-stocked cellar of vintage brews. He was a cycling activist, who co-founded East Van Bike Polo and once pedalled from Amsterdam to Istanbul. He was (okay, still is) a big ol' nerd who loves pulp film and science fiction. Now, he writes about these things and others. And he's committed to bringing you one fine magazine all year long.

midnightsimon@gmail.com