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Guide to Available VCBW Events

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If you’re like me, you woke up this morning and realized “oh shit! It’s VCBW today! I need to update my blog!” Admit it, we’ve all been there.

So, credit card clutched in a sweaty, shakey, DT-y hand, you open up the VCBW event website and take a look. Crap. There’s, like, a million events you can still get into. Which ones are fantastic ale-stravaganzas? Which are just you, stuck in a locked room with Graham With, sampling beers that “should probably be sour” for two hours with no escape? (side note to Chris B: can we make this a thing? We don’t even have to tell Graham. It’d be like a beer version of Lockdown.)

Fear not, lazy and/or incompetent beer geek, for I have hastily and last minute-ly gone through the site and offered up my opinions below. Read on, and purchase your tickets in the know that Chuck Hallett totally would have gone to these events if he wasn’t stuck in Minnesota all next week for work.

Lastly, folks, remember that most of these events are all-inclusive but the inclusiveness doesn’t usually include tips. Tip your servers, is what I’m saying.

It’s kind of likely paying for one less ingredient in your drink.

Gigantabiroomcobaltapalooza
Sunday May 31st @ 2pm @ The Cobalt
$65

Skip. Oh how the mighty have fallen. The once legendary Hopapolooza has been rendered down to this… thing. What was Nigel Springthorpe throwing a singular focus onto providing the best beer drinking selection and experience BC has ever known has been rendered down to a tap takeover at a metal bar.

Sure, there will be some tasty beers on tap, and some fun times to be had, but that name will put an off flavour in any beer geek’s mouth. There is simply no way this event will measure up to the ghosts of beer events past.

BierCraft Belgian Showcase
Monday June 1st @ 6:30PM @ BierCraft Cambie
$75

If you’d like a good intro to the Belgian classics, or just generally like good Belgian beer, go. If you’re an unrepentant hop head, well, then I don’t like you very much (and you should skip). There probably won’t be many beers on the menu at this event that you can’t simply waltz into BierCraft and order on any day of the week, but the pre-paid-ness of it all means you won’t experience sticker shock when looking at the bottle list. Get in there, order something you’ve never had, and then talk about it with your friends and the well trained staff.

Cicerone vs Sommelier
Tuesday June 2nd @ 6PM @ Legacy Liquor Store
$80

Go. Okay, fine, hosting this in the back of a liquor store is just a wee step down from The Fairmont ARC last year, but I still find the very concept of a beer vs wine pairing competition intriguing. Some of my best drunken orgies dinner parties revolved around similar themes, and the discussions you get into about why your favourites win are worth the price of admission alone.

Searching for “wine vs beer” images invariably shows you a bunch of guys holding beers posing with women holding wine. I hate the world.

Battle of the Bartenders: Beer Cocktail Competition V
Wednesday June 3rd @ 6PM @ The Blackbird
$20

Skip. If you like cheap and boozey then this might be for you, but if those are your two favourite things then you’re probably not reading my blog. Beer cocktails can be interesting but, in the end, I’d just rather have the beer.

Rose City Rampage
Wednesday June 3rd @ 5pm @ Portland Craft
$60

Go. I’m frankly shocked this isn’t sold out. If you can only go to one VCBW event, make it this one. By the time PC makes room for eight brewmasters and their entourages (and the no doubt additional eight BC brewmasters who will tag along), there’s gotta be room left for like 20 tickets to sell. If you’re ready to mingle with the elite of the beererati and up your beer geeking out game, this is a can’t miss.

Brothers in Hops
Thursday June 4th @ 6PM @ Butcher and Bullock
$60

Skip. You’re still too hungover from Rose City Rampage, and really this is just a lesser shadow of that event. Four brewmasters instead of eight. Hoppy beers instead of All The Beers. Stay in bed.

Although, one has to wonder why the dog is hungover, too.

Rookies and Legends
Friday June 5th @ 6PM @ 12 Kings
$49

Skip. It’s just 24 regular taps pouring 24 regular beers. No speeches. No chances to corner Alex Ganum and press him to send us more Sole Compositions. Nothing special. As much as I like 12 Kings and its laid back, un-intimidating, “is this a strip club?” atmosphere, this event just doesn’t make the grade. Save your entry free and go play some foosball another night. Several other nights, in fact.

VCBW Festival
Saturday June 6th and Sunday June 7th @ 1PM @ PNE Centre Grounds
$35

Skip. I don’t like beer festivals, and this one is no exception. Unless you’re just getting into craft beer in BC, this event probably isn’t worth your time. If you like geeking out about beer, talking to brewers, and comparing beard grooming tricks & hints, then skip this one. If you like drinking good beer with a few thousand of your closest friends under a blue sky, then go. Hmm, not sure I’m playing this one down as hard as I could.

Written by chuck

May 29th, 2015 at 10:16 am

Posted in Beer and You

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Blink and You Miss It (VCBW Preview)

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Vancouver Craft Beer Week, that annual celebration of all things awesome and right with this city, is coming back for yet another year. To that end, they launched their website, event listings, and ticket sales all in one fell swoop. Notably improved from last year was both the ticketing partner (Eventbrite) and the timing (noon vs midnight) of the launch.

Ticketing was so vastly improved, in fact, that Hoppapolooza sold out in thirty minutes instead of three hours. Yup, sorry, it’s all gone now. Yes, I got tickets. Thanks for asking! Don’t worry about the other events–they won’t sell out for some time yet. If you’re stuck with too much money and no Hoppapolooza tickets, what should you do? Here’s my guide for VCBW 2013:

1. Hoppapolooza IV. Yeah, I know both sessions sold out, but I have to rub it in a bit more. This is probably the single best beer event in BC. Imagine Nigel Springthorpe (Alibi Room) calling in every favour owed him to put together the most amazing beer list any BC geek has ever seen. That’s Hoppapolooza. Pro Tip: If you didn’t get tickets, try lining up the next day at 5pm to sample the leftovers. Usually Nigel goes a bit nuts, and even the most dedicated crowd of beer geeks can drink all of the awesomeness in one go. Or wait for tickets to show up on Craigslist at a 300% markup.

2. Cicerone vs Sommelier. I always contend that beer can trump wine for food pairings. Not everyone agrees with me, but even most of the naysayers admit it’s close. Wine v Beer dinners are always lots of fun, and this should be no exception.

3. PDX Beer Week. This one won’t be special so much for the awesome beer on hand (perhaps mostly because Portland Craft ALWAYS has awesome PDX beer on tap), but more for the people. The brewmasters of Gigantic (Ben Love), Ninkasi (Jamie Floyd), Upright (Alex Ganum), The Commons (Mike Wright), Alameda (Carston Haney), and Occidental (Ben Engler) will be there. When you cram this much US brewing talent in a small space, I virtually guarantee some Canuck brewers will also turn up.

The rest is your standard mix of festivals, dinners, and general beer-love. While I’m jaded enough to look at the master list and find it a bit boring, 99.9% of the beer drinking public is not me. No matter what tickets you pick up, you’ll find yourself in a room surrounded by beer geeks. You’ll have a great evening, make some new friends, and then want to take a shower to get all that beard hair off. Cuz eewwww.

Written by chuck

April 22nd, 2013 at 2:35 pm

The Week That Was VCBW

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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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