Wednesday, January 9, 2013

VEBBie Awards - VanEast Beer Blog 2012 Year in Review

The fog brought on by too many barley wines over the holidays has finally lifted and the synapses are once again firing so now is as good a time as any to look back at 2012 and hand out the first ever VEBBie Awards. The award winners have been selected by the VEBB Awards Committee, a committee made up of, well, me and like 99% of all awards given out, mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things beer-related or otherwise.

The David Slays Goliath Award
The story of independent business owner Corinne Lea's battle with the LCLB in regards to the Rio Theatre and their liquor primary license set the tone for 2012. Lea applied for and was granted a liquor primary license for the Rio Theatre so they could serve alcohol at over-19, nighttime events and then was told by the LCLB she could not show movies, any time of the day or night, whether the alcohol was locked up or not, because of a decades-old, Prohibition-era law that prohibited liquor licenses in movie theatres. The ensuing public uproar at the ridiculous decision by the LCLB caused a huge backlash that saw support coming from NDP MLA Jenny Kwan, Vancouver City Council, the media, CAMRA Vancouver and thousands of angry citizens and eventually led to the provincial alcohol portfolio being passed from Shirley Bond to Rich Coleman who, after dragging his feet and screwing around with half-measure solutions, did the right thing and allowed for alcohol licenses in movie theatres but not before making Lea suffer due to having her business basically closed down for several weeks.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm Award
This award, hands down goes to the post I wrote entitled "Politics Make Strange Bedfellows" which saw VEBB break the story that the Ontario-only-based chain of liquor outlets called the Beer Store, owned by Molson (49%), Labatt (49%) & Sleeman (2%) had donated over $150,000 to the BC Liberals since 2005. I found it quite strange as to why an Ontario-only chain of beer stores would have such an interest in the BC Liberal Party but when you look at who owns The Beer Store and the fact that the big, national breweries are loosing ground quickly to the smaller, craft breweries.....hmmmm

Jackass of the Year Award
There was a lot of competition for this award but for me, in the end, there was one person who stood head and shoulders above the rest, that being restaurateur Chris Stewart, otherwise known as the Wine Snob. I encountered Mr Stewart while out for dinner with my wife and daughter and was amazed at just how arrogant, insulting and well, downright ignorant this man was. To sum things up, he stated to me, knowing full-well I was the president of CAMRA Vancouver, that craft beer drinkers were not worth enticing to his five restaurants because those who drink craft beer only order yam fries and basically had no idea what good food was all about. 

Political Friend of the Year for the Craft Beer Consumer Award
This award goes to NDP MLA Shane Simpson who, when I made contact with as a result of my CAMRA Vancouver President duties, was the official NDP alcohol critic. Mr Simpson was kind enough to take the time to meet with myself and CAMRA Van VP Dieter Friesen and actually listened to what we had to say. During that original meeting, Shane stated he liked what CAMRA was doing and asked us to produce a top-priority list of no more than three or four issues and stated if they made sense, he would take them forward to Rich Coleman, the Liberal minister responsible for the province`s alcohol portfolio.  And true to his word he did, bringing up CAMRA`s FUSS Campaign, the Bring Your Own Craft Beer campaign and the tied house and trade practice issue in the BC Provincial Legislature. Shane also wrote several letters to both Coleman and the LCLB in support of issues brought to him by CAMRA and members of the craft beer industry and also took the time to meet with myself some of the local brewers who have their breweries located in his riding of Vancouver Hastings. 
It was also Shane who, in July, put the Provincial Liberals under severe pressure in regards to their ill-fated warehouse distribution privatization plan by making public 39 pages of documents that showed the Liberals had no plans to privatize the liquor distribution warehouse system until approached by Excel Logistics personnel, who happened to be very interested in taking over BC`s alcohol distribution as they had in Alberta ans who had hired Liberal insiders to lobby for the privatization. 

Political Enemy of the Year for the Craft Beer Consumer
Rich Coleman, that man just does not give a shit about the BC craft beer industry or the BC craft consumer...enough said.

Best Supporter of BC Brewed Craft Beer Award
This past year Tap & Barrel restaurant opened up in the Olympic Village on the south side of False Creek. Besides having a killer patio that will be the envy of every other restaurant in the city next summer, they have a great 24-tap selection of craft beers all from BC breweries! I know that the Alibi Room, St Augustine's and a handful of other establishments have more taps and a better selection, but none are exclusively BC beers. I love the fact that the Tap & Barrel gang are sticking local and letting our great BC beers take centre stage...I wish more places would follow suit.

Whistler Blower Award
Journalist Bob Mackin, without a doubt, was the single biggest reason the province's liquor warehouse distribution system did not get sold to Excel Logistics, a company that had been lobbying and Liberals for years and who had basically, using Liberal insiders, talked the Liberals into thinking it was in the government's and public's best interests to privatize. Despite the fact almost everyone but Excel and the Liberals were against the move, Coleman and the Liberals plowed forward but with his series of posts hash tagged #Liquorleaks, Mackin led the charge of protest, went at the Liberals relentlessly with some stellar investigative journalism and exposed what NDP MLA Shane Simpson called a "tainted process".

Biggest About Face Award
Due to the above mentioned Bob Mackin, Shane Simpson along with many other journalists and special interest groups, the Liberals quietly announced they were dropping privatization plans for their liquor warehouse system while announcing having reached a tentative agreement with BCGEU in regards to a new contract.This announcement, hidden in the tentative agreement with the unionized government workers came out of the blue, just like the announcement to privatize did some seven months earlier. No real explanation was ever given as to why the plan, which had been heavily defended despite huge criticism from almost everyone, was dropped like a hot potato.

Biggest Shitstorm in the Local Craft Beer Community Award
Probably the worst kept secret in the BC craft beer community was exposed by blogger Barley Mowat in his post "The Grinch Who Stole Cascadia" when he wrote about how Steamworks owner Eli Gershkovitch was attempting to stop other craft breweries from using the descriptor Cascadian Dark Ale as he had trademarked the word Cascadia some years back. This blog post caused a shitstorm the likes that have never been seen before in the local craft beer community and resulted in a ton of negative, on-line bashing of Eli, Steamworks and the evils of corporate greed. For me, the actions of Eli and his "Steam Team" were a sign of how the local craft beer community is changing as the stakes get higher and the competition grows.

Well there you have it folks, the VEBBie Awards. It has been quite a year and there has been so much to write about. I only touched the surface of what is going on in the BC craft beer scene and now that I no longer have the responsibilities of being CAMRA Vancouver President, I hope to dedicate more time to this blog and writing. The readership of the blog has really grown and the more I write, the more I get people contacting me with great story ideas and inside tips about what is going on. Keep the flow of information coming and I will do my best to do what I do, which is offer up my rantings, ramblings, ideas and opinions in relation to the politics of the BC craft beer scene.

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