You can’t go anywhere in Vancouver without seeing local beer on tap. Even the big chain restaurants have Parallel 49 and Driftwood as staples on their menus. I work at one of those big chains and our menu is over half local beers. Little bars downtown, in Kits, and on the east side do an ever better job of bringing in what’s new and exciting and, most importantly, brewed down the street. But why?
I grew up in Alberta and there isn’t a whole lot craft brewing going on there. I recently travelled Europe and spent a semester studying in England where people are very conservative in their beer choices. When I think of England, I think of a culture that knows its beer. But when I walked into a liquor store I was surprised to see only a few select big label brands. Where was the local stuff? Surely if walking into a Vancouver liquor store means browsing hundreds of locally crafted beers then in the UK I would do the same. That wasn’t the experience I had. So why not?
I’m no expert, but I think it comes down to the people of Vancouver. We aren’t satisfied by typical, average, or generic products. We demand more. Instead of accepting ten generic beers, we want to be polarized. We want to find an IPA that half the table loves and the other half mistakes for soap. We want to find an ale that fills the room with the scent of fruit. We want a porter so dark some will wonder if it’s actually beer. We are a people who embrace our differences. We like to stand out in a crowd – our beer helps us do that. The beer you drink says something about you and craft breweries in this amazing city are giving its citizens a new voice of expression.
Why else is the craft beer industry booming in Vancouver? Because the Pacific Northwest loves local. I’m proud to call this part of the world home and I’m proud to support my neighbours. When I was at the Local last week, I couldn’t help but order a pint from the keg I learned was brewed by one of the restaurant’s bartenders. Vancouver is growing tighter as a community and it’s full of creative people making beautiful things. We like to support each other. I’ll gladly pay an extra dollar or two for a great beer made down the street than a 50-year-old recipe shipped from the States any day.
We also like to be hip. Trends change fast in this city. The big beer labels can’t keep up with us. So who better to keep an eye on them than the people living right here? Local craft breweries have the inside edge on keeping up with the trends that the big guys don’t. Local brewmasters can produce a pomegranate infused ale in the spring and swap it for cucumber in the summer. They can try a maple, chocolate, or coffee beer in the winter and be ready to move on if no one likes it. They can afford to take risks. The craft brewery is lean and adaptable and can keep serving our ever changing consumer habits far better than the out-of-touch beer giants.
We use craft beer to express ourselves, we support local business, and we are trendy. I think it’s safe to say that craft beer fits the Vancouver bill spot on.
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