Thursday, September 5, 2013

Beer Fest + Birthday = Best Weekend of the Year

The last two years, one of the two days of the Great Canadian Beer Festival (this year, Sept 6-7) has fallen on my birthday. Needless to say, last year much celebrating was done with a beer in my hand. It'll no doubt be the same this year.

The GCBF is an interesting event and, as far as festivals go, a good place to celebrate a birthday. It is tiny compared to Great American Beer Festival standards (8,000 attendees vs. 49,000; 55+ breweries vs. 600+), but there's no shortage of good craft beer to be had. And the setting—outside, with lots of room to move around—is way preferable to Denver's packed, weirdly lit convention center.

The Victoria, BC-based fest—now in its 21st year—has been improving annually since I've been a regular attendee (from about 2007, I think). Not only is BC beer getting better and better (and there's way more of it now), the quality of breweries attending from other provinces and the U.S. Northwest has gotten dramatically better. Many of the breweries bring a special cask beer for each day and there's a good mix of styles to be tasted.

This year, there are even after-fest parties at a couple of the bars in Victoria! Irish Times is hosting a New Belgium event (which is brand new to the province) on Friday and Saturday, while The Guild is featuring a tap takeover by Upright and Gigantic from Portland on Friday.

Dig the Municipal Waste hat. A trve craft beer fan.
My only complaint about the GCBF is that many of the BC breweries are a little conservative in the lineup of beers that they bring. Some I can list off the top of my head—they trot out the same three or four every year like clockwork. There's just nothing "festive" about beers that can be purchased at any store or pub in BC year-round.

The attitude at the GABF seems to be dramatically different. There, the brewers, who are keenly aware that their beer is being scrutinized and tasted not only by the public, but by the 600 other brewers, bring beers that create buzz and attention. They bring interesting, special brews designed to impress. The brewers participating in GCBF could take a cue from that.

Don't get me wrong, many of them do bring some unique and interesting beers, but there are too many that seem like they are participating because they have to, not because they want to actively promote their beers and craft beer in general. Craft beer drinkers in BC are more knowledgeable today than they were five years ago. They're thirsty for new, interesting brews when they go to festivals like this. It would be nice if all the breweries rose to the challenge and tried to impress them.

I can't complain, though. There aren't too many weekends of the year, where I get to try new beers all day. And celebrate my birthday, to boot.

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