A Brewed awakening 

Cornucopia event spans the B.C. craft beer landscape

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DARBY MAGILL / COURTESY OF CORNUCOPIA - BREW BONANZA Twenty-six B.C. breweries will offer a sneak peek of their holiday beers at Brewed on Friday. Nov. 18.
  • Photo by Darby Magill / Courtesy of Cornucopia
  • BREW BONANZA Twenty-six B.C. breweries will offer a sneak peek of their holiday beers at Brewed on Friday. Nov. 18.

The second year of Brewed at Cornucopia brings three eras of craft beer-making together under one roof.

"We've got future brewers, students from Kwantlen (Polytechnic University); we've got the original, Paul Hadfield from B.C.'s first craft brewpub, Spinnakers; and then we've got the new breweries represented, (Whistler's) Coast Mountain Brewery," explained Ken Beattie, executive director of the BC Craft Brewers Guild.

This week the guild welcomes 26 B.C. breweries to the Whistler Conference Centre, where some of the most anticipated seasonal holiday brews will be on tap for beer lovers to sample before the rest of the public gets their greedy mitts on them.

Unfortunately, not even Beattie himself knows what's in store.

"I, like everyone else, will be pleasantly surprised. I wish I could tell you what we're going to bring, but the brewers like to do the reveal themselves," he laughed.

Beattie did have some thoughts on the latest trends taking over the always-surprising world of B.C. craft beer though.

"The sours are still really popular," he said. "It's a bit of a misnomer because, really, wine is sour, but they're generally traditional Belgian-style beers that are very tart and really closer to cider or wine than they are to beer."

Brewmasters are also looking at new ways to age their beers, like the mad scientists over at Delta's Four Winds Brewing Co., whose Berliner Weisse has been aged for a year in tequila barrels, lending it a sharp, citrusy taste.

"We never know what's going to come next," Beattie said of B.C.'s craft brewers, "they're a creative bunch."

The innovation driving the industry doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. With 125 breweries in the province — and more popping up on a near weekly basis — Beattie still sees plenty of room for growth.

"The thirst for craft beer continues. Even as well as we've done, we're still at just over 25 per cent of the market share. That to me is 75 per cent opportunity," he said.

Part of what continues to drive the beer boom in B.C. is the distinct pride brewers have for their hometowns, localizing an already hyper-regional industry even further.

"There are breweries in over 60 communities in B.C., so there is definitely a pride in place and that is fuelling the success," Beattie said. "I used to sell beer in northern B.C. for a major brewery and it was either Blue or Canadian, and now you can go into Wheelhouse in Prince Rupert, or Sherwood Mountain in Terrace or Three Ranges in Valemount, and these places, they launch a beer, they sell out. There's a sense of pride in place and I don't think that will go away."

The ubiquity of craft beer has also lent a certain level of sophistication to beer that Beattie said would not have been imaginable even five years ago. Despite beer being one of the oldest beverages in human history, it's only been in the last few years that it's been considered with the same gravitas as its alcoholic cousin, wine.

"(It's because of) the re-education of people to understand the variety of flavour (in beer). For the most part we're used to beer being this golden-coloured fizzy liquid, and now we've got such an array of different styles and flavours," said Beattie. "You've got other options than just pairing wine. And arguably, and you could have a good argument about this, beer pairs much better than wine because wine always has a level of acidity in it."

Oh, snap. Take that wine lovers.

"Beer can be sour and acidic, but it can also be super sweet, or spicy, it can be super (fruity). It gives you way more options to pair. The other difference, other than sparking wine and champagne, is the carbonation. Carbonation works as a palate cleanser. So when you're having a big, thick, creamy Camembert cheese, and then you have a Hefeweizen or a saison with a lot of carbonation in it, it literally cleans your palate."

If you want to put this theory to the test, sample a smorgasbord of suds at Brewed on Friday, Nov. 18, from 2 to 5 p.m. Tickets are $39, available at the Cornucopia box office outside the conference centre, and grant you give tasting tokens and a souvenir glass. Additional tokens are $1.50 each.

For more information, visit whistlercornucopia.com.

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