Barley Mowat 

The Week That Was VCBW

with 9 comments

Are you ready for my half-assed, far too-short review of VCBW? No? Well, here it is anyway.

VCBW was a massive, rollicking event that spanned 7 days, 4 events, and 4 restaurants. I know the website claimed a fair number more than that, but I can’t really confirm anything I didn’t personally see, so I’m sticking to my 7/4/4 claim.

Hoppapalooza I’ve already covered in a prior post. Go read it here.

Next up was the Driftwood + Pourhouse dinner that was coined “Beach to Bone” and came with a rolling narrative that basically served to roll out a menu that contained oysters, chicken, beef and maple syrup. I bought these tickets menu-unseen, based simply on the people involved. The thinking went something like: Pourhouse is good food and Driftwood is good beer, but… I already have my wallet out, don’t I? Crap.

A similar line of thought about books and John Travolta was less successful

Well, it wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was pretty good, but I can’t help but compare it to the Alibi’s Driftwood dinner and sorry Ian(s), you guys come up short. Of course, it was also half the price, so I guess that makes it pretty good. For a much better review of this event than I can put together, see Jan’s reporting over at the Province here.

Thursday saw me get off work early, then walk a kilometer… then get on a Skytrain… then take that thing all the way to the end… then wait fifteen minutes in the wind for a bus… then take that bus another two kilometers… then fight a balrog… and then finally get to a bar called “Pumphouse”. Ok, one of those things isn’t literally true. The balrog and I settled our differences via government-mandated binding arbitration. 5% wage bump per annum my ass.

The BeerThirst/Elysian tap-takeover out in Ditchmond was exactly as promised: a little slice of the suburbs served up with 20 tasty Seattle brews, many of which had not seen the light of BC yet. Full disclosure time: BeerThirst did indeed bribe me to come out to this event with promises of two free tickets and free beer. And yes, I might not have attended if not for this. However, I started this blog to get free beer, and thus I used this misplaced generosity to dive in and sample a wide range of beers from a decent brewery.

There were quite a few middle-of-the-road beers, and more than one great beer, but the Barley Mowat Best in Show goes to The Dread, an oak-aged imperial stout that is so good, you just know it’s not coming back any time soon. I don’t know why, but the import rules are basically made to keep out good beers, and to let in Becks. Sigh.

Will I be back? Nope. Sorry, folks, I left the rural life behind me, and the Pumphouse just doesn’t jive with my huge downtown snobbishness. I’d love to say that I found hanging out with the salt of the earth very relaxing and energizing, but alas the truth is closer to what Sharon whispered in my ear on the long train ride home: “Can we never go to the suburbs again, please?” There’s just so many better bars so much closer to home.

There’s also lots of shitty bars. I have options, is what I’m saying

Final day, final event: The VCBW Beer Festival. You take a day of perfect weather, a very awesomely restored 80 year old salt refinery, and combine them in a pot with 50 stalls of good beer and you have a very happy Chuck, right? Well, not so fast there skippy. I actually think this might have been my last beer festival. Sorry, festivals, it’s not you, it’s me.

You see, standard beer fests like this one are the same as always: lots of breweries and lots of good beer, but nothing too terribly interesting going on. Sure, they’re very nice, and generally fairly well executed, but consider this: I had not one beer from Driftwood, but three of Storm’s. Driftwood brought their regular (and very good) lineup, but I’d already had that. Storm, meanwhile, being off their meds as per usual, brought three exotic and very odd beers, and I had them all. Storm also ran out of most of their beer.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my 10 4oz samples of random beer, but overall I’m not sure that what was effectively 2 standard pints should have cost me $55, and I certainly didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as Hoppapolooza, which was $60 all in and involved literally dozens of intriguingly rare or one-off beers. Sure, I could have stretched out the value for $1.25 per 4oz (or $2.50, which was the going rate at far too many booths), but at 10 I had had everything I wanted (and a few I didn’t… looking at you, Whistler Brewing’s Grapefruit) and was effectively done.

As attractive and well put on an event as this was, the stark reality is that beer festivals are for relative new-comers to good beer, and that just isn’t me. So farewell, beer fests, it was good to know you. And hello cask fests, you come around far too infrequently.

Written by chuck

May 28th, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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9 Responses to 'The Week That Was VCBW'

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  1. thankfully, Shark Club will be installing 3 new taps at their Georgia St. location. A very small step forward, but a step forward nonetheless. The Draft Beer Quality Manual will accompany this installation as well….


    28 May 12 at 20:33

  2. also, as far as the $2.50/pour goes, I know for a fact that it was enought for PLENTY of the suppliers to not return next year if they don’t rethink the cost to the consumer.


    28 May 12 at 20:36

  3. I hope so. After a $35 cover (plus $10 tax/SC), which gets you nothing except in, paying $2.50 per sample is shocking. That’s the equivalent of $7.50 for a 12oz glass, or $12.50 for a 20oz pint.

    Heck, even the stated rate of half that is high.


    29 May 12 at 06:23

  4. Yep, those Upright bottles at the private stores are looking mighty cheap in comparison. It was quite a shock to hear that all the outer booths were 2 tokens. I wonder how far in advance that was decided, and why that wasn’t mentioned on the VCBW website.

    Still, I enjoyed the event and loved the space.


    29 May 12 at 09:04

  5. Thanks for the review.
    I was away for the finale so couldn’t go anyway, but had given up on VCBW when Hoppapalooza eluded me (an event I would have gladly attended at double the price). For me, having the majority of the rare brews at one exclusive event limits the appeal of the whole festival.
    Did the possible 5th beer appear at the Pourhouse dinner?


    29 May 12 at 11:51

  6. @Roger – Nope. The beers were White Bark (oysters), Farmhand (chicken pate), Fat Tug (beef brisket) and Son of the Morning (maple syrup cake). The rumoured fifth, I suspect, was meant to be a cask or bottles of Naughty Hildegard.


    29 May 12 at 12:22

  7. @Ben 3 new taps are great, but what are they putting on them? Stella? GIB? Let’s just say I don’t hold out hope.


    29 May 12 at 12:24

  8. However this is a festival idea I would definitely still latch onto… from the Huffingting Post:

    The San Francisco Giants have heard the drumbeat of fans. They’ll hold their third annual “Brewfest” at AT&T Park on July 14, where fans will receive a commemorative tasting mug and have the chance to sample craft breweries during a 3-hour window before the Giants play the Astros.


    29 May 12 at 14:51

  9. nope. Tentatively it’s 1 Phillips, 1 Driftwood, 1 Rotating/seasonal… tentatively. Of course, don’t believe it until you see it I guess….


    2 Jun 12 at 21:31

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