Friday, June 21, 2013

Free Samples of Cask Beer!: CAMRA Vancouver Wants to Bring Craft Beer to Local Farmers Markets

Imagine ambling down to your local farmers market on a sunny Saturday afternoon and being able to taste one or two sample-sized beers from your favourite, local brewery before purchasing a growler of fresh craft brew to throw into your recyclable shopping bags along with your organic organic veggies, free range eggs and fresh baked whole grain bread.

Crazy talk, you say?

Well here in BC, where adult consumers of alcohol are treated like children and it is illegal to sell or give out samples of any type of alcohol at farmers markets, yes. Government liquor inspectors to toss and turn all night and politicians run for cover at such suggestions saying it is not in the interest of public safety.

But not so in a few places south of the border, such as Oregon, Washington State and New York State, where consumers can purchase and consume beer at farmers markets and in some cases wine and spirits (read here) and you know what, from the reports I have read and heard, there are no gangs of drunken youths or irresponsible adults overturning the organic apple cart. As a result, many other states are considering passing laws allowing booze sales at local markets.

In a bid to raise awareness about this issue, The Campaign for Real Ale BC - Vancouver Branch (CAMRA Vancouver), has struck a deal with the Vancouver's Farmer's Market to set up shop at community tables provided at five different markets over the summer.

To get market goer's attention, CAMRA are setting up a "pin" (20 litre cask) at their table with a sign saying "free samples". Once lured to the table by the thought of a free sample of cask beer, the consumer sees the fine print under the "free sample" sign explaining the illegalities of alcohol at farmers markets in BC and CAMRA representatives are there to answer questions and provide education about this issue and other CAMRA campaigns such as Fess Up to Serving Sizes (FUSS), Bring Your Own Craft Beer (BYOCB) and the Save Growler Campaign and about CAMRA Vancouver and what they stand for in general. If interested, people are also able to sign up for a membership onthe spot and join the CAMRA cause.

CAMRA is also encouraging those who support the idea of beer sales at farmers markets to write Attorney General Suzanne Anton and her Parliamentary Secretary, John Yap to inform them of their desire to be able to sample and purchase craft beer at Vancouver Farmers Markets. To help get the letter campaign going, CAMRA has been printing out form letters which they are offering to mail if signed at the markets. The letter can also be downloaded from their website (download here) and mailed in by the consumer.

Free samples! Not here in BC! Campaign For Real Ale Vancouver is asking the Provincial Gov't why beer samples and sales are
illegal in BC while legal in places like Oregon and Washington States

"All the people we spoke to knew it was illegal but didn't know why," states CAMRA Vancouver President, Adam Chatburn on CAMRA's website. "A couple of the people who signed letters were visiting from Seattle and Oregon and were surprised that it wasn't possible for local artisan alcohol products to be sold at farmers markets."

According to Chatburn, this is not a campaign pushing to have beer gardens and on-site consumption, other than limited samples and is about giving craft beer consumers the chance to purchase growlers from local craft breweries at Vancouver Farmers Markets. It is an idea that fits in with the concept of consumers buying locally produced products directly from the producer.

CAMRA has taken the idea to the BC Legislature, where they met with several NDP MLAs and according Chatburn, the idea was well received, especially supported by long-time NDP MLA Jenny Kwan. Chatburn has also met with Vancouver City Councillor Heather Deal where he brought up the idea of beer sales at Vancouver Farmers Markets.

CAMRA Vancouver has already attended two markets, in Kitsilano and the West End and the response has been good. 

"Everyone who we spoke to about it at the markets agreed to sign a letter and we quickly ran out of letters at our first market, we also ran out at the West End market and in total so far we have over 100 letters ready to go," reports Chatburn. 

They are scheduled to be at the Main Street Market, July 10th, Trout Lake, July 13th and Kerrisdale August 10th. So if you are a CAMRA supporter and in favour of beer sales at Farmers Markets, get out and support the cause.  Who knows, if enough people write letters at this time when liquor laws are being reviewed, reformed and modernized, we may soon be able to fill our growlers and buy great, locally-produced foods at BC farmers markets.

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