Barley Mowat 

Archive for August, 2012

My Take on Bring Your Own Bottle

with 4 comments

Normally, I don’t really do the whole politics side of beer in BC. Instead, I tend to leave that sort of competent reporting up to CAMRA, and CAMRA YVR’s President Paddy Treavor. You can read his recent coverage over on his site, the VanEast Beer Blog.

On the rare occasion that I do talk about the LDB, it’s usually in profanity strewn rant form, which I post here and then leave it at that. However, when Paddy recently appealed to BC beer consumers to write the government in support of including beer in the BYOB initiative, I changed my stance slightly and sent them a very polite, and very un-Chuck letter. Here it is:

To: Karen Ayers (General Manager of BC LCLB), Rich Coleman (Minister Responsible for LCLB)
Subject: BYOB — Inclusion of Beer

Hello Karen & Rich,

I am quite obviously writing to you today to express my support for the inclusion of beer in the potential upcoming legislation change to allow consumers to bring their own bottles of wine to restaurants. That this discussion is proceeding with only consideration for wine is as much a testament to the quality of the BC wine industry as it is a slap in the face of the many hard working British Columbians who are engaged day to day in investing in and improving our still-growing local beer industry.

But perhaps my case is best illustrated via anecdote. Recently I had the privilege to receive an invite to an underground restaurant not far from where I work in Gastown. This endeavor was the result of two young chefs eager to branch out from the bland menus of their day jobs, and their enthusiasm was plainly evident in the quality of local food they elected to present.

The reason I mention this encounter at all is their liquor policy. They not only allowed, but actively encouraged guests to bring along both wine and beer to pair with their excellent menu of locally sourced game and produce. With a bit of research, I took their BC-sourced theme and produced a selection of BC wines and beers that was thoroughly enjoyed by all in attendance.

The fact that this gastronomic celebration of everything BC could only be offered by an off-the-grid restaurant is largley due to our overly restrictive liquor laws should be a point of shame for anyone in a position of governance.

British Columbia has much more to bring to the table than just an excellent wine; we have the whole meal, and I hope you will make the correct choice and allow us to do just that.

Perhaps even more surprising than my out-of-character civility is the fact that I got a response! Yup, I open my inbox today and take a look, and it turns out that message I thought was spam (seriously, check the from and subject) is actually a mass mailed form letter to everyone who wrote about in about beer in BYOB. Given how reclusive this branch of the government tends to be, even a form letter can be considered a massive improvement. Here’s the response.

From: Minister, EMH EMH:EX
Subject: 483035

Dear Mr. Hallett:

Thank you for your June 22, 2012 e-mail regarding allowing customers to bring their own beer into a licensed establishment, in addition to wine. Your comment is noted and we appreciate the time you have taken to make us aware of your view.

As you know, the public may bring wine into licensed restaurants that wish to offer this option. Government has received a number of requests over the past several years to allow customers to bring their own bottle of wine to a restaurant. In some cases, people have purchased wine while travelling or are saving a particular bottle of wine to allow it to age and would like to bring it out to mark a special occasion. The Canadian and BC restaurant associations have also written in support of this “bring your own wine” initiative.

One of the significant considerations for government is also the huge number of wine varietals available from around the world. The Province has substantially more active listings for wine than beer. While we appreciate the evolving nature and uniqueness of the variety of beer, it is not in the same category as wine. Therefore, as in other provinces, there are no plans to allow “bring your own beer” at this time.

Thank you for writing.

Sincerely yours,

Rich Coleman
Minister of Energy and Mines

The fuck? Raise your hand if that makes sense. Yeah, me neither. More active listings at the LDB for wine means… that… you shouldn’t bring beer… to a restaurant? Um… ooookaaaaay. Rather than summarize my thoughts, I’ll just include the email I wrote back. I fully understand that I’ll never, ever get a reply to this email, but perhaps by posting it here I can at least start the discussion with someone.

Hello Rich,

Thanks for taking the time to respond to me.

While I understand that the law has been written in such a way as to be wine-specific, I really wish your argument as to why this was done made sense. In effect, you make two points in support of a wine-only law:

1. That customers privately import and cellar special wines, and wish to consume them in restaurants.
2. There are more wine varietals listed in the LDB than beer styles.

To point 1, many customers also privately import and cellar special beers to enjoy during celebrations. I am one of these people; my beer cellar currently has almost 200 bottles from a mix of BC, Canadian, American and European producers. Without exception, all 200 of my bottles are not available for purchase in restaurants, and have never been listed by the LDB. To be able to bring a bottle of my cellared beer to a celebration at a restaurant would be fantastic, especially considering that some bottles I have cellared based on important dates in my and my friends’ lives (marriages, birth of a child, etc).

To point 2, I suspect the aim of this statement was to say that the larger variety available for purchase means that the restaurant could not possibly offer sufficient wine selection to satisfy the public. I concur, but I also believe this when it comes to beer. Very often I find myself in an excellent restaurant that has a truly pathetic beer list. This has caused me to not patronize certain restaurants in the past, and will do so again in the future.

Even though the LDB only has 560 listings for beer, the private stores provide easily 10x this selection, meaning that thousands of BC residents will be forced to leave that special purchase at home because it was made with barley instead of grapes.

However, these are all soft arguments and we can go back and forth on them all day without making much progress. The one thing I’m curious about is if I’m missing something here. Would including beer in the BYOB initiative have been as simple as having added “and beer” to the legislation when it was drafted, or is there a massive amount of work behind the scenes to include beer that I’m just not seeing?

I could absolutely understand basing this change upon existing legislation in other provinces, and thus causing an easily overlooked lapse to propagate further. However, I cannot understand the notion that beer was given serious thought, and left on the side of this change simply because “it is not in the same category as wine,” leaving thousands of BC residents to wonder if their government even takes their professions and passions seriously.

Thank you for your time,

I truly want to believe these guys have a good reason to have omitted beer, or that they just honestly forgot and by the time someone pointed it out it was too late. But with responses like that, which verge on ludicrously grabbing at any reason at all to justify keeping beer at home, I have to seriously consider the possibility that these folk fall into the group of people who just cannot possibly imagine beer being anything but what’s depicted in macro beer ads.

Sure, wine has a much better consumer lobby, and we have them to thank for even getting this discussion on the table. However, once the bill was drafted it would have taken just a few seconds to open the file, put the cursor after “wine” and insert “or beer.”

Yet they didn’t. Why? Because fuck beer, that’s why.

Written by chuck

August 8th, 2012 at 6:42 pm

August Beer of the Month

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Bet you guys thought I forgot, eh? Yeah, I know that the BOTM widget sat sad and un-updated for the month of July, and yeah I was totally called out on it. I’d like to say it was due to intellectual reasons, and declare that no beer was worthy, but the reality is that I just plain old forgot. However, that is not the case for August. For August I would like to draw everyone’s attention to a particular beer.

This beer was released quite a while ago, and everyone hemmed and hahhed about it, because it wasn’t as great as its immediate predecessor. And then this beer slowly started disappearing from LRS shelves, and everyone subsequently forgot about it. Now that the weather is hot, though, I would recommend that we all take a long, hard look at this puppy.

Look at it! LOOK AT IT!

Yup, the August Beer Of The Month is Lighthouse Belgian White. The quantity available has gone down a bit since I last mentioned this beer, but it’s still pretty widely purchase-able via the LDB, of all places, and you know what? Despite this being Not As Good as Belgian Black, it’s still a pretty freaking good beer. Maybe Black was amazing and we’ve all become jaded assholes, or something. I know I have.

But when the sun is shining and you’re feeling pretty dang good about yourself, this beer is a fantastic companion. So go out, buy it all, and make Lighthouse think that producing good beer is a profitable venture.

Written by chuck

August 3rd, 2012 at 4:57 pm