tl,dr: Click here to open a form letter to send to the government in support of Persephone Brewing, if you’d rather not read my ramblings. However, I’d recommend knowing what you’re talking about before contacting the government 🙂 Note that the link doesn’t work on some computers, so if you’re affected, just copy/paste the email from below.
As some of you might be aware, Persephone Brewing has recently found themselves in a bit of a pickle, and have been ordered by the government to halt their brewing operation at their current location within two years. A little recap for those unfamiliar with the matter.
Persephone Brewing is located on a plot of land designated as part of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). The use of ALR land is restricted, to only allow farming, and a few related activities. For this reason, ALR land is pretty cheap compared to regular unrestricted land. Administering the ALR is the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC)’s job. The ALC does things like set policy governing the ALR, and investigate operations within the ALR for compliance. It is also the government body that has ordered Persephone stop all the beer-making.
“But Chuck,” you scream, “Persephone *IS* a farm! They grow their own hops!” Great point, random BC craft beer geek. They do, in fact, grow their own hops at the brewery. In fact, most of the land Persephone is on is dedicated towards making hop bines slowly get bigger through careful maintenance and upkeep, an activity that we might as well, for lack of a better word, call “farming.”
However, it’s not the farming of hops that the ALC has issue with. That part of the business is just dandy. It’s the other part of the business, where they turn those hops (and malt sourced from other farms in BC) into beer, then sell it to consumers like you and me. The brewery part of Persephone, it seems, doesn’t quite live up to the intention of the ALR.
It’s not that brewing is outright banned. Nope, the ALR allows brewing so long as 50% of the materials used to make said beer is sourced from the land in question. Even though 100% of the hops grown by Persephone are used in their beer, that isn’t good enough. The vast majority of the ingredients in beer, by weight, is from grains like barley and wheat. Since Persephone isn’t growing that grain on-site, their brewing operation isn’t allowed.
Normally, at this point, I would stop caring. Those are the rules, and Persephone should have done their homework before opening a brewery. The ALR exists to stop us from paving over viable farmland, and the materials rule seems like a good one. As hops are a tiny part of the brewing process, if Persephone’s exact scenario was allowed, we would also be allowing Molson to pick up a 150 acre ALR plot, plop down 3 bines to feed their new 149.5 acre horsepiss factory, and call it a day. We don’t want that.
However, while perusing the ALR Regulations as research for this article, I became curious about how wine is treated. As we’re all familiar from living in BC, the wine industry usually gets a pass to do whatever the fuck they want while beer is told to go hang. Because wine is all classy and shit, or something. Or maybe it’s the massive, well-funded wine lobby. Hard to say. So, it came as no real surprise that I found a different section of the Regulations which deal with wine, and even less of a surprise that wine has different rules.
In short, if Persephone was making wine instead of beer, they’d be fine. If, say, they had a couple rows of grapes on site, but were sourcing the majority of their grape must from vineyards in the Okanagan, they could stay in their cosy corner of the ALR, as the section of the Regulations dealing with wineries allows off-farm sourced ingredients, so long the vineyard meets a minimum size and grows at least some grapes. Cider is also lumped in with wine in this section so, well played you apple lovers.
Breweries, distilleries and meaderies, though, have no such clause. Adding these operations to the section of the Regulation written for the wineries would be a trivial edit. It’s good for local BC businesses like Persephone, and the “grown in BC” component is good for farms in areas more suitable for barley, while letting Persephone’s farm focus on a crop for which it is highly suitable: hops. As well, we’re still keeping folks like Molson at bay, because BC cannot supply enough malt (at a low enough price) to make sense for an operation of that scale.
It’s an easy thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do. So now we just need to put some pressure on the decision makers to get this thing done. As I did, way back when, with Brewery Lounges, I’ve made this easy for y’all. Click here and you’ll get the form letter below in your favourite mail client. Customize it as much as possible and hit send. Let’s do this.
To: Ms. Kim Grout, CEO BC Agricultural Land Commission
I am writing to encourage amending the Agricultural Land Reserve Use, Subdivision and Procedure Regulation (B.C. Reg. 171/2002) to allow estate breweries to satisfy the 50% source material requirement by contracting with another BC farm. The proposed amendment is not a novel invention, but is identical to an exemption already granted to estate wineries and cideries under the Regulation.
Please consider amending Part 2, section 2.1 of the Regulation to read:
2.1) A winery, brewery, distillery, meadery or cidery, and ancillary uses, are designated as farm uses for the purposes of the Act if
(a) at least 50% of the farm product used to make the wine, beer, spirits, mead or cider produced each year is grown on the farm on which the winery, brewery, distillery, meadery or cidery is located, or
(b) the farm on which the winery, brewery, distillery, meadery or cidery is located is more than 2 ha in area and at least 50% of the farm product used to make the wine, beer, spirits, mead or cider produced each year is grown
(i) on the farm, or
(ii) both on the farm and on another farm located in British Columbia that provides that farm product to the winery, brewery, distillery, meadery or cidery under a contract having a term of at least 3 years.
and strike Part 2, section 2.3, as it would be rendered redundant with the above amendment.
This amendment will encourage local businesses such as Persephone Brewing to produce products highlighting the best ingredients grown in BC, while honouring the agricultural intent of the ALR. This amendment is good for BC farms, it is good for BC businesses, it is good for BC consumers, and it is the right thing to do.
cc: Hon. Norm Letnick, Minister of Agriculture
cc: Nicholas Simons, MLA for Powell River – Sunshine Coast
Whoa. 2016 sure… was a thing that happened, wasn’t it? However, despite the popular meme of 2016 being the worst year in recent memory, there was quite a lot of goodness in it as far as BC Beer goes.
So in what is quickly becoming an annual tradition, enjoy your hammering hangovers with this here list of things I liked in the past 12 months. Save your complaints for later today, though, as I’m still asleep. I wrote all this yesterday afternoon, and thanks to some advanced social media magic liberated from my day-job employer, automated its publication. Ain’t technology grand?
So let’s get to it!
Disclaimer: There was no voting as part of this process. This is not a democracy. This is me, in my underwear, telling you what is good and what sucks. I reserve the right to break, change, and re-write on the fly what few rules might conventionally exist for this sort of award system. That’s sort of how this website works.
This past year I got myself an electric bike. It’s pretty skookum. It also takes the reality that Strange Fellows is the closest brewery to my house, and converts that 2km of distance from a fun fact to share at parties to a practical reality for every day growler fills. Combine that with my work keg’s never-slacking thirst, and the result was inevitable.
I’m specifically calling out Callister here, as their brewery incubation program has the potential to launch a steady stream of new breweries. The recent growth of Machine/Superflux from incubator brewery to contract brewery really drives home this potential. As well, the safety of an incubator lets Adam Chatburn produce his niche-filling, delicious, low ABV cask sessionals which–let’s be honest–wouldn’t likely exist otherwise.
While there are potential contenders in this space, no one can match the regularity and quality of product flowing steadily out of Tilbury. About the only negative thing I can think to say here is that some of these releases are bleeding out of the speciality lineup and into the regular lineup, reducing the appeal of those corked bottles of nirvana. Yes, I just somehow framed Nectarous being available year round in a 650ml bomber as a bad thing. I’m confused, too.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Chuck’s hopping on the trend bandwagon with this one. Yes, they’re trendy AF, but they’re also damned tasty, and don’t contribute to hop-derived palate fatigue quite as much as NW IPAs. As an added bonus, the hop bill in NE IPAs is sufficiently complex that everyone’s take on the style is just a wee bit different.
If the spirit of this award is shining a light on someone in the BC Beer Industry willing to help new breweries come into existence, then it’s a damned shame I haven’t be-knighted Callister before now. Helping new breweries find their legs is basically the WHOLE POINT of the operation on Franklin Street (well, that, and pissing off the neighbouring longshoremen with their basic hipster-y existence).
I’ll be honest: I was not a fan of Twin Sails a year ago. I didn’t find their beers particular innovative, nor were they executed with the precision that a German-heavy lineup required. “Oh great,” I thought to myself, “another source of myriad, variable Doppelbocks and Hefeweizens. Just what the world needs.” I didn’t scream that opinion from the rooftop, though, because I like to give a brewery six months or so to adjust to their new equipment.
That was a year ago. Fast forward to today, and here you find me frantically refreshing their Twitter feed in anticipation of their latest juicey beer drop, and lamenting the relative unavailability of Space Armadillo. Thanks guys, another hot-shit brewery that I can’t stop thinking about. Just what the world needs.
Okay, fine, I know: they opened in 2015. See above re: rules. Besides, they didn’t really start cranking out beer until early in the New Year and, even then, didn’t start making great beer until sometime after that.
And, yes, handing out awards for “best new brewery” and “most improved brewery” to the same damned place is bordering on stupid. Hell, I mean, marketing something as “New And Improved” is one of my personal pet peeves yet here I am doing that exact thing.
So, to grammar-Nazi Chuck (and the rest of you lot) I say: suck it. Twin Sails is just that good.
And now, the grand prize of the 2016 Beerdies (aka the Golden Beerdie):
Yup, Dave’s got a beard. Good on him. It’s quite a nice beard, even, but Best in BC? “Chuck, you’ve gone mad!” you must be thinking. Well, it’s not the beard that Dave has what’s important, but rather the beard he could have.
You see, just recently he posted this picture as a beard-growing goal. This award is based entirely on potential. You grow that beard, Dave, and you’ll get two in a row. Sure, the odd batch of Mt Arrowsmith beer might have some beard-hair in it as a result, but that just makes the beer better, man!
I wrote this little piece for vol.2.2 of The Growler. The version below is the unedited I version I submitted for publication, so it might contain somewhat more profanity than the printed version, but y’all should be used to that on this site.
Craft Beer is IN. It’s hip, it’s local, it’s environmentally friendly, and to top it all off, it gets you drunk. What not to like? I think Oprah even mentioned it (editor’s note: she most certainly did not).
So, you’re ready to do this. You’re ready to take the plunge and become an authentic Craft Beer Nerd (or, as I like to phrase it, a member of the Craft Beererati). You have your plaid button up shirt, skinny jeans, up-cycled shoes, and you haven’t shaved in weeks. Let the oat soda flow!
Maybe not, though. There are definite downsides to becoming one of the Beery Elite. Perhaps you should consider the following before taking the plunge into the mash tun (aside: do NOT take a plunge into the mash tun; it’s, like, 60 degrees C in there).
YOU’RE ABOUT TO RUIN MACRO BEER FOREVER
Yeah! Cheap beer! Superbowl commercials featuring animated frogs or slow motion horses! Cheerleaders! Summer BBQs! U-S-A! U-S-A! The one thing that ties all that together is American-style Pilsners such as Budweiser, Molson or Labatts.
They’re not fancy sniffing beers, but they sure taste good after a hot afternoon mowing the lawn, right? Wrong. These beers are swill: the desiccated, slightly fermented extract of horse urine filtered through straw.
Once you have craft beer, and once your taste buds become accustomed to the wild flavour party what is a finely crafted pale ale, there is no going back. You will hate Macro Swill, and all that it represents.
Every slightly sweet sip of a can of Molson will taste every bit the god-awful corporate bullshit and cheapest-available ingredients that it is. You will reach a point where drinking that can of Macro isn’t even an option, and you will find yourself having wine out of a plastic cup at a summer BBQ because all they have in that ice-filled cooler is Michelob Ultra.
BEER MAKES YOU FAT(TER)
No shit Sherlock, you say, right? Of course beer makes you fat. That’s why you can have Lite beer instead. It tastes the same and doesn’t make you quite as fat.
Well, once you go craft, Lite beer is off the menu. There is no Lite craft beer. Not only that, but regular craft beer has about twice as many calories as even the full strength Macro Swill equivalent. Plus, it’s so good you drink more.
Add all that up, and suddenly we understand why craft beer geeks all wear tight jeans.
YOU WILL LOSE THE ABILITY TO HAVE A NORMAL CONVERSATION ABOUT BEER
I have a saying: “If you want to be slightly frightened, ask me about beer.”
I love craft beer. I’ve made it an obsessive hobby of mine. If I start talking about beer, the people around me start off acting politely interested… then after a few minutes they start trying to change the subject… then a few minutes later they stop talking and just turn around and leave.
This will be you. You will be so immersed and obsessed about beer that your friends will use an entire breathless sentence to introduce you to new acquaintances: “ThisIsChuckDon’tAskHimAboutBeer”
YOU WILL HAVE GROWLER STORAGE ISSUES
The resurrection of the growler is the best thing to happen to beer in many decades. Fresh beer, straight from the place it was brewed, briefly to your fridge, then into your face. Fuckin’ A, bubba!
However, you’ll sometimes forget your reusable growler at home, so you’ll have to buy a new one. They’re only about $5, so no biggie. That’s how it starts. Then growlers start seriously piling up.
You might rationalize an entire kitchen cabinet given over to growlers by saying that you’re “collecting them.” They’re all a bit different, after all, and some are rather nice. That’s all the justification you need to bleed your collection over into the living room.
Fast forward a few months and anyone who walks into your house will assume you have developed a serious drinking problem (except, you know, the growlers are empty).
YOU WILL DEVELOP A SERIOUS DRINKING PROBLEM
No, no, not THAT kind of problem (well, okay, maybe that kind of problem). I’m talking about something more aligned with the Airplane “Drinking Problem”: you will being purchasing more beer than you can physically drink.
Special releases, rare one-offs, great deals on case-lots of Eclipse 50/50… all these will begin accumulating somewhere in your house. You will buy a cheap fridge off Craigslist to keep these purchases in, then you will research and buy an actual liquor “cellaring cabinet” to store what you have begun referring to as “my cellar.”
Spreadsheets will be filled out with particulars on your collection, and then, as your harem expands, you’ll start eyeing up a corner of your basement to insulate and cool to make a walk-in cellar. Then, stuck with a cellaring cabinet you no longer need, you’ll start writing beer articles for periodic circulars just to convince other beer geeks they need a “cellaring cabinet” so they’ll buy yours.
Seriously, though, anyone want to buy one? I have, like, two to sell.
Well, now you know what you’re in for. To be completely honest, had I read this before I took the plunge I would have… not changed a thing. Damn, Craft Beer is good.