In the spirit of offering something other than a “best of ” list for the previous year, I present my list of what I consider to be the highlights of the B.C. craft beer industry in 2011. Just to be a little different,I’m presenting them as awards (hey, it’s my blog). As well, in the spirit of narcissism, I shall call them “The Hammies”. Read on for a completely subjective take on the year in beer.
Why Can’t We Be Friends Award: The Craft Brewers Association of British Columbia. Finally! The B.C. craft brewing community banded together to put out a mixed 12 pack of bottles and a mixed 12 pack of cans, each containing beers from 6 different brewers. An excellent method for introducing people to a variety of styles and breweries. An outstanding product and idea: it works on every level.
Can-tastic Idea Award: While this is not specifically a new idea, it is encouraging to see how many craft brewers are putting good beer in cans. Red Racer has been doing it since their inception, Cannery Brewing has jumped aboard (fitting, given the name), Mt. Begbie has their immensely quaffable Kolsch in cans. Also Tree Brewing, Nelson Brewing, Howe Sound Brewing, Fernie Brewing… the list goes on. It’s an idea that makes sense. Cans are easy to transport, light, 100 % recyclable, and harder to break than glass. We will probably (hopefully) see more small brewers investing in canning lines.
Most Overworked Beer Style: IPA. Hopheads start hating me right now, but you have to admit that this horse has been flogged to near death. Traditional IPA, Northwest IPA, Black IPA, Double IPA, Triple IPA, spiced IPA- I get it! What’s the next step? Light IPA? Non-alcoholic IPA? Don’t misunderstand me, I love a good balanced hop bomb myself (I’m talking to you Drifwood Fat Tug), but let’s move around a bit stylistically.
Best Use of Social Media: Hands down, Cannery Brewing. These people could hand out lessons in how to use Facebook, Twitter and the blogging community to increase a company’s profile. Meticulous about keeping their social media sites updated frequently, promptly replying to post and tweets, actively engaging with the beer bloggers and generally keeping themselves constantly in touch with their consumers. As well as brewing great beer.
Best B.C. Festival: The Great Canadian Beer Festival. Anyone who would argue this has obviously never been. What’s right about it? Well, let’s see: the venue, the beer, the entertainment, the beer, the massive volunteer presence, the beer, the laid-back left-coast vibe, and did I mention the outstanding line-up of beer?
If you haven’t been, get there- if you can find a ticket.
Highest Concentration of Great Craft Beer Per Capita: Victoria. Again. If I have to explain myself, let me say only this: Phillips, Driftwood, Lighthouse, Vancouver Island Brewing, Swans Buckerfields, Spinnakers, etc, etc. Sadly it looks like a long time before any other city catches up. Happily, it appears that such a high concentration of breweries is leading to an embarrassment of good beer. We can only hope that the citizens of our capital city know how good they have it.
Most Ill-Conceived Recipe Idea: A tie between chocolate mint beer and jalapeno pepper lime lager. I understand the idea of pushing the limits, thinking outside the box, staking new ground. But these two should never have made it past the test batch. You know who you are. We expect better from you.
There’s more. I didn’t even touch on some of the amazing beers that were produced here in beautiful B.C. this past year, but that will be another column. I could write about the incredible growth the craft segment has seen, but that requires research and actual statistics. So I will leave you to ponder these less than objective awards, while you eagerly look forward to next year’s edition of “The Hammies”. Love it or hate it, that’s my take on some of the more compelling themes from 2011. It appears the B.C. craft beer industry is in fine form as we move in to 2012.