British Columbia

A decade of ferment: Vancouver Craft Beer Week celebrates 10 years of booming beer culture

Vancouver Craft Beer Week is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, highlighting how far the craft beer industry in B.C. has come in a decade, and how much has changed.

The city's craft beer scene has come a long way in a decade, with vastly more choice and availability

Vancouver Craft Beer Week runs May 31 - June 9. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Vancouver Craft Beer Week, which begins Friday, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

The event has gone from a relatively obscure place for beer nerds to get together and discuss their passion to a 10-day lineup of events, including a sizeable festival with about 100 different breweries and cideries represented.

"We had about 100 people at our first festival, which was at Heritage Hall," said festival director Leah Heneghan, referring to the ballroom venue in Mount Pleasant. "We'll be about 15,000 people at our festival this year."

The event is now held at the PNE fairgrounds.

Heneghan said for the first couple of years, everybody pretty much knew everyone else in the room — it was a small world and craft beer was a pretty small industry.

She estimates at that time there were about 50 or 60 microbreweries in the province. Now they're commonly known as craft breweries and they've quadrupled in number.

With the proliferation of businesses making interesting, quality beers, naturally the availability has dramatically improved for enthusiasts.

Heneghan remembers a time when Vancouver's Alibi Room near Gastown was basically the only place in town focusing on craft beer and wide variety, soon followed by St. Augustine's on Commercial Drive.

"Now craft beer is readily available at almost any restaurant or bar that you go to, which is amazing," said Heneghan.

According to Iain Hill, Strange Fellows Brewing brewmaster and co-owner, the provincial regulations permitting tasting rooms helped the industry blow up.

"I think British Columbia is very much a leader of craft beer in Canada," said Hill, adding that Quebec is also known for its unique beers.

Hill said B.C. has a beer-drinking market that's eager to try interesting beers, and that's encouraged brewers to try different techniques and ingredients. He also said the shift from microbrewery to craft brewery has elevated beer-making to something closer to an art.

People who want to give the province's beers and ciders a taste at this year's festival will have more than enough to choose from; according to Heneghan, there will be about 300 different drinks on tap.

Vancouver Craft Beer Week runs May 31-June 9, with the festival on June 8 and 9.


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About the Author

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker

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