By Vince Shuley.
Craft beer festivals are so hot right now here in British Columbia, springing up almost as fast as all the new breweries. This summer saw the debut of the Great Okanagan Beer Festival in Kelowna in May and the Whistler Village Beer Festival will return for its third year this September having expanded its main event tasting party over two days instead of one.
The best thing is, there’s plenty of great beer to go around.
Last Saturday I teamed up with a fellow Whistlerite Dan Harmon to check out the Squamish Beer Festival for an afternoon of sipping four-ounce tasters in the shadow of the Stawamus Chief. Dan coincidentally shares a name with the Hollywood producer Dan Harmon (Community, Rick and Morty) and after an online miscommunication a couple of years ago the two Dans ended up following each other on Twitter. We thought it hilarious that Mr. Harmon tweeted from Los Angeles to his 293,000 followers that he wished he was the “cool” Dan Harmon, who was currently working his way through 40 breweries at the Squamish Beer Festival.
Beer festivals are my new favourite summer outing. Gathering a squad and spending an afternoon in the sun – or rain as it was in Squamish on Saturday, sorely needed in the region – and drinking beer from tiny mugs is as good as it gets. But the part I love most about these festivals is meeting the brewers and hearing their stories.
Take Fuggles & Warlock Craftworks, out of Richmond. These guys attracted a lot of attention to their tent with their name and motto “keeping beer weird” and were constantly fielding questions about where their name came from and the inspiration for their label art. Turns out “Fuggles” is an in-house curse word amongst the brewers and “Warlock” came from their life-long obsession with fantasy role playing video games, as can be seen on both their Personas West Coast Common and Last Strawberry Wit labels (the latter beer ended up being voted “best in show” by fest attendees).
Of course there are those in attendance who prefer to stick to the party vibe. A few stag groups and rowdy bros were littered throughout the grounds, but nothing ever got out of hand. The four-ounce pour seems way too small when you first arrive, but you soon realize that it’s perfect for keeping you shuffling along to different brewers and sparking up conversations with complete strangers.
When the last-call bell rings there’s always a collective sigh as everyone rushes to fill their tiny mugs for one last drink. But the fun didn’t stop there. Scotties Liquor Store was licensed to sell bombers on site and gave Squamish Beer Festival attendees a chance to stock up on their favourite beers of the day as they left the grounds. Howe Sound Brewing, located just one block from the festival in downtown Squamish, logically turned into the official post-fest hangout with servers running around as busy as Oktoberfest beer maids.
Help make 2015 the year of the beer festival and support craft beer. Cheers!