Beer has always been an integral part of the Canadian identity, though our love affair with the beverage has typically been one of blue-collar character. Certainly, the image of jubilant hockey fans with brew in hand is one that has become synonymous with global perceptions of Canada. And although this has generally been a reputation we have carried with pride, it is not to say that our humble beverage has often been underappreciated for its more ambitious styles and sophisticated capacities. Enter craft beer, a distinctly North American concept that is enjoying a surging presence in the minds of modern drinkers.
By definition, “craft beer” refers to the product of a brewery that is small in size, independent in ownership and traditional in approach. This classification is one that is taken with pride, as it embodies the romantic belief that a great beer is made with loving hands and inspired by the distinctive ingredients of classic styles. Iconic German hefeweizens, Belgian saisons, English India pale ales and many more established European styles are finding vibrant and modern expressions in the hands of New World artisans. The diversity and quality pursued by craft breweries have piqued the interest of modern palates, eschewing flat-tasting suds for more flavourful regional expressions.
The broad range of styles provides an expanded experience to fascinate our senses. With culinary curiosity and forward thinking, beer has been put on par with wine as a food-pairing companion and with spirits for cocktail creation. This past spring saw Mayor Gregor Robertson tap the opening keg at Vancouver Craft Beer Week, a nine-day celebration where more than 50 breweries sponsored over 60 events, including seminars, pub crawls and beer-pairing dinners. The sophomore festival has already doubled in size from its instantly popular inaugural event last year, a direct result of the fervent efforts made by passionate visionaries in our hospitality community who embody the spirit of camaraderie and fun that beer provides.
Drinkers have responded with fierce enthusiasm, an expression of the singular joy one gets from drinking a better beer.
Photo: Mark Reynolds.