Monday, November 1, 2010

The Blending of the Beer Worlds - A Welcome Trend and Opportunity to Share

I have a confession to make.
By confessing my sin, I run the risk of alienating those friends of mine who consider themselves connoisseurs of craft beer and of trashing my reputation, such as it is, for having a discerning palate for quality brew. For some, I am committing the biggest sin that can be committed in the craft beer world.
What is this terrible secret that I must confess, you ask?
I regularly stock mainstream, mass-produced Canadian lager in my fridge! And I do so freely and willingly.
My wife, who grew up in Mexico, loves the taste of Kokanee beer and prefers it over most other beers readily available in Vancouver. As a result, each time I go to my specialty beer and wine store to replenish supplies and stock up on local and imported craft beers, I am obliged  to buy a six-pack of Kokanee to keep my beloved happy. No matter what rare or highly-rated craft beer I plunk down next to the till, all eyes focus on those six blue tins of shame. Imagine the sideways glances, grunts of disapproval and looks of sheer disgust I must endure.
At least one attendee at the recently  held
Harvest Festival chose a mass-produced lager
over the cask-conditioned, kegged and bottled specialty
craft beers on offer
But why must it be this way? I have never understood why I should care about what the person next to me at the bar is drinking, unless, of course, they are drunk, angry and ordering a tequila slammer while giving me the evil eye. But, apparently, to be accepted into the craft beer scene, you must shun those who prefer to order mainstream, mass-produced beers and avoid bars and taphouses that serve them even if they do serve craft beer as well. This has never made sense to me. If the person who bellies up to the bar next to me orders a Molson Canadian, this should , in no way, impact my enjoyment of my tasty Red Racer IPA. As a dedicated meatetarian, I wouldn't avoid a restaurant that serves a great steak just because they also serve vegetarian dishes. I don't shun or ridicule my friends who sit at the same table as I because they are munching on their salads as I chow down on my chicken wings.
Historically, at least here in Vancouver, establishments serving beer, especially on tap, have divided themselves along these line; serve mainstream beers, whether they be imported or domestic, or serve specialty, craft beers. This helped polarize the opinions of the two types of beer drinkers with the mainstream beer lovers seeing craft beer folk as "beer geeks" and "snobs" while the craft beer drinkers looked upon their counterparts as "lager louts" "boring" and "ignorant". Until fifteen years ago, it was almost impossible to find any craft beers on tap in this city, with a few exceptions. Trailblazers in the Vancouver beer scene, such as Granville Island Brewing, who I now have a problem considering a micobrewery, but who were definitely leading the charge against the mainstream breweries who had a stranglehold on the Vancouver market back in the 1980's, Shaftebury, long ago bought by Sleeman and turned into an mainstream brewery, Storm Brewing  and Russell Brothers Brewing (now Russell Brewing Co),  did managed to grab a few taps here and there next to the established big breweries. There were also the original brew pubs, such as Yaletown Brewery  and Steamworks but you could not order anything but their own, original beers.
But a new trend is developing here in Vancouver, with many establishments offering both craft beers and mainstream beers. You still have your serious beer establishments,  like Commercial Drive's St Augustine's, with 40 taps and numerous bottled specialty craft beers on offer and Alexander Street's Alibi Room , with their awesome collection of more than 25 taps and rotating cask-conditioned beers. These are establishments that take their beer appreciation to another level and often offer rare brews, both local and international and where you will never find a mainstream beer. Now though, due to the growing popularity of such local craft breweries as R&B, Central City, Howe Sound and Russell, who have stepped up their marketing/distribution and gone after taps in all types of licensed establishments, as well as bottled their creations to be sold in government and private liquor store, it is possible to find craft beer taps co-existing with mainstream beer taps and what this has done is brought the two worlds of beer drinkers together. Establishments such as Darby's Pub, in Kitsilano, long thought of as a "mainstream beer" pub, have branched out and are offering some excellent and interesting craft beers on tap next to their regular Canadian lager taps. This is just one example of many I am finding around the city, as restaurant and bar owners are realizing that both types of beer drinkers can co-exist and that both are willing to part with their hard-earned dollars to sip on their favourite brews.
The by-product of this "blending" of the beer worlds is that people like myself can take their Kokanee-loving wives and friends to places where we can enjoy our specialty beers while they can order the beer of their choice. It also gives those of us who love the more adventurous brews  a chance to expose our friends and family, with more pedestrian beers tastes, to local and imported craft beers in a surroundings that are not intimidating for them! By introducing them to say a finely crafted lager from Central City, or Storm pilsner, for example, they may be more likely to try other craft beers. I know my wife has developed quite a taste for stouts and porters, but this took a lot of patience and encouragement on my part. Just the other night, this lover of Kokanee was sipping on Swan's Double Shot Expresso Porter and she often orders Crannog's Back Hand of God stout!!
By exposing mainstream beer lovers and encouraging them to branch out and try different craft beers we have a better chance of converting them to the craft beer world than by ridiculing and snubbing them. And, if, in the end, they chose to remain Molson or Kokanee lovers, so be it. For me, it gives me great satisfaction to introduce my wife to something I love and see her enjoy it as well, be that a style of music, type of food or craft beer. And thanks to the many licensed establishments in Vancouver that are now offering craft and mainstream brews, I have more of a chance to expose my wife to my favourite beers without denying her what she loves. And if things go according to plan, there may come a day when I don't have to be ashamed when friends come over because there will no longer be those six tins of blue shame in my refrigerator!!


  1. Thank you il.bastardo
    And I am happy to report that I have gotten rid of the Kokanee and now have my wife drinking Red Racer Lager...a definite step in the right direction!