CAMRA YVR Engaging Members and Getting Busy
CAMRA YVR's new executive made good on their promise to become more active and get their members more involved, holding their first Policy and Advocacy Meeting at the Alibi Room Tuesday evening. Many of the usual suspects were in attendance and the downstairs room of the Alibi was full, with approximately 40 people showing up to take part. It was also encouraging to see some new faces in the crowd as well with a cross-section of people from all different segments of the beer community represented. CAMRA YVR president, Martin Williams, kept things on point by sticking to the agenda set out and moving the conversation forward, when necessary, to keep the meeting from stalling and losing shape.
From my point of view, I felt there was some good discussion and and it was interesting to hear the points of view from the different concerned parties. I know that personally I sometimes simplify issues and look at them purely from a consumer point of view, so it was very informative to hear from brewers, pub and brewery owners, distributors and retailers and understand a little more the issues they face in regards to the regulations, laws and restrictions that are in place in this province. It was also encouraging to see the meeting not digress into a simple bitch session and that those in the crowd were more than willing to get involved with many taking on the task of doing some research on specific issues in order to report back to CAMRA, in three weeks time, so that the issues can be revisited and action strategies formed, based on facts and not just emotion, at the next meeting April 5th.
There was some interesting comments and debate about the tied house issue and the proposed changes being considered by the provincial government to deregulate, or outright abolish, tied house laws. I have made my opinions about the tied houses quite well known, telling anyone who will listen that I am against the government relaxing the regulations in place to allow tied houses and inducements to exist. Some voiced similar concerns to mine, but there were some in favour of allowing tied houses, or at least allow for some relaxing of the regulations.
Mission Springs Brewing Company were represented and are directly effected by the current tied house rules which prohibits them from selling their Mission Springs beers in the Billy Miner Pub, which has ownership ties to the brewery. This is a prime example of how the laws in place are hobbling those they are meant to protect. It is also a prime example of how complicated some of the challenges are that those involved in the beer industry have to face. Another strong proponent of deregulating tied houses was Adam Henderson, owner-operator of Raincity Brands, a local importer of beer, who has laid out his arguements for allowing tied houses on his website. Other topics touched upon and discussed were liquor distribution problems, home brewing laws and the always anger-evoking liquor taxation.
From my point of view, there seemed to be some genuine interest by those in attendance to actually do more than talk but whether the meeting inspires them to follow through, do the research, organize and campaign is yet to been seen. If there is a failure to convert this talk into action, the blame certainly will not fall on CAMRA YVR and their executive, who are doing what they can to engage members and get them involved. Williams and his executive are pointing the horses in the direction of the water, now it is up to those horses to take action and drink. When talking to Martin, over countless pints, about the issues that concern us here in BC, related to the craft beer industry, he has always stated that CAMRA is merely a vehicle that needs to be fueled, guided and moved forward by the will of its membership and not just directed and lead by the executive. I am not sure what the other BC chapters of CAMRA are doing to campaign and effect change but if they are not holding similar meetings on a regular basis to organize, they may want to keep an eye on what CAMRA YVR are up to. It should the the goal of CAMRA BC to form cohesive, organized campaigns that are consistent province-wide, activating all members from all chapters together, to form one, unified voice that can speak intelligently and hopefully be heard by those who have the power to make the changes to our laws and regulations.
If you have an interest in trying to effect change in our antiquated and overbearing liquor laws, stay tuned to the CAMRA Vancouver website for confirmation of the location for the next meeting, which, if it is possible will be held at the Alibi Room once again. If you have specific issues you wish to address, or have particular skills and the motivation to get involved, this is your chance to be heard. And if you are not already CAMRA member, buck up your $25/year and get involved.
More on Tied Houses
One of the most interesting things I took away from the CAMRA YVR Policy and Advocacy Meeting was that there appears to be some changes coming soon in regards to the tied house regulations. According to the information shared, there is at least one liquor inspector out there who is reporting that there is room to interpret the tied house regulations that would allow, for instance, a microbrewery to sell their products at a pub or restaurant, off-site, that has ownership connections to the brewery. From what I understood, the word was that as long as there was equal representation of independent products, read beers from other breweries not "tied" to the establishment, offered at the same prices and promoted in the same manner as the "tied" beers, it would be okay to sell the "tied" beers.
I did not get into any in-depth conversation about this as there was a meeting in progress, but if I understood correctly, and this is the case, it may be that the government has made their decision as to which option will be chosen from the three proposed in the LCLB's Consultation Paper, dated January, 2011. I have not seen any official announcement in regards to any decisions, nor has anyone else I have spoken to, but the whole "consultation" process and the hushed nature of the proposed rule changes had a certain reek about it and it is my opinion that the government had already been lobbied and had made their decision, at least in part and was not basing their reasons for the proposed changes on "public safety" but more so on big business wants and needs. Whatever the case, it seems, as far as I am concerned, something wicked this way comes and we are about to see some very substantial changes made to the landscape of the local beer market. Some changes will benefit certain small breweries who do have a financial stake in other restaurants and bars, and I see that as a positive, but total deregulation, in regards to allowing tied houses and the allowance of inducements, may have a very negative impact on the local, craft beer industry here in BC, where it is just starting to flourish and make substantial inroads into the beer market.
One more note I find interesting...in England, where tied houses have been allowed and where big, multi-national breweries, including Labatt, have been allowed to buy up chains of pubs and restrict the beers offered in those pubs to just their beers, one MP, Martin Horwood, has introduced to the Tied Public Houses (Code of Conduct) Bill to the legislature, for debate. The proposed changes to the laws that would require that publicans running tied houses be allowed to sell "guest" beers, instead of being restricted and dictated to by their big brewery owners. Click on the Tied Houses link to see the story reported by Jon Howard, March , 2011, on the CAMRA UK website. I wonder if the government here in BC has bothered to talk to their UK brethren to see what the allowing of tied houses has done to the beer industry in regards to fair competition and restriction of consumer choices, in the UK.
A Challenge to all Lower Mainland Beer Bloggers - How Well do You Know Your Beers?
Vancouver's Legacy Liquor Store, located at 1633 Manitoba St, in the infamous Olympic Village, has recently announced they will hold The Knockdown, Drag Out Beer Quiz and Blind Taste Test, to be held April 13, 2011, at Legacy. The contest, which will cost $25 to enter, is being organized by Legacy's Chris Bonnallie and will consist of 25 questions, related to beer, followed by blind taste tests involving eight beers. The blind testing will ask contestants to name the style of beer, country of origin and the actual brand name of the beer. The person accumulating the most points, one given for each correct response, will receive a $200 gift certificate for Legacy.
Now, I know I rattle on about craft beer as if I am some kind of expert, but in reality, I just love good beer, love to write and have no fear about offering my opinion. But here, I am ready to put my money where my mouth is, enter the contest and really see what I know about beer. I suspect I will make an ass out of myself, which some, including myself, will find amusing. But what I would like to do is put out a challenge to all beer bloggers to join me in the contest, perhaps making a small side wager with the winner taking all, which they are free to donate to charity or buy a round of beer for the gang. And of course they will have the bragging rights over the rest of us brave enough to show!
Tickets for the event, which can accommodate up to 40 people, go on sale Monday, March 14, at Legacy and is open to all. I really hope to see some familiar faces out there as this event sounds like it could be a lot of fun.