What a year!
As 2016 comes to a close, I am reminded of my gift shopping experience of the last month. Namely, my experience as a consumer amidst the holiday rush. For a few people on my list, it occurred to me that a few outstanding bottles of beer would make terrific gifts, and so I found myself at a few liquor stores perusing shelves. It was at this time that it occurred to me that I have had one problem replaced with another. It was no longer the problem of lacking good options; no, it had become the problem of having plenty of good options. Do I get someone some of the recent Twin Sails’ can releases? Main Street’s Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout? A pack of Superflux’s amazing IPAs? Steamworks’ Flagship? Boombox’s barrel sours? A growler of Strange Fellows’ Jolly Rancher? Central City’s Sour I/II/III? To add to my indecision, a swath of great ciders like Shacksbury and Isastegi are accessible on shelves, as are the rapidly-growing number of import brands showing up in our market.
We’re starting to see huge interest in our local products from other regions, too. Lineups for limited releases. People in other provinces and countries looking to acquire our breweries’ products.
These are good problems to have.
The adage has always been “Vancouver’s beer scene is always x (where x varies by opinion of the person saying so) number of years behind Portland’s”. Those are fine shoes to aim to fill, and as of late, I am convinced that we are coming into our own in a great way.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t improvements to make, and things to be concerned about. Both of these things remain true. We are starting to see places like Coquitlam (and with continued efforts, Port Coquitlam) amend their bylaws to include approval of breweries, though the zoning that determines which areas they may open could use improvement. Based on other work done this year to support zoning amendments elsewhere, this isn’t an unrealistic goal to aim for.
We have changes to the classification of beer set to take effect in British Columbia on January 1. While this is focused around the amount of residual sugars (a maximum of 4%), we were initially concerned about how this would impact our breweries and the options consumers have at retail. After significant discussion and consultation, along with clarification from the BC Craft Brewers Guild, this does not appear to be anything to be concerned about.
The testing sample list that I reviewed listed only one beer in our market as exceeding the 4% residual sugars limit and would under the new classifications be considered a “malt beverage”. Worth noting is that this was an exceptionally sweetened import and not one of our locally produced products. Every brewer I’ve spoken with so far has imparted that it is not of any concern, as it doesn’t affect them in any meaningful way.
(Brewers I haven’t yet spoken to: if this directly and negatively impacts your product line, I’d be very interested in hearing from you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
On the topic of reclassifying beer, I speak for many of us when I say the change I’d like to see is to beers above the 12% ABV range being taxed like any other beer.
We still have an insidious pay-to-play program run by a major macro beer conglomerate that directly manipulates sales and representation of craft beer. The province needs to turn their attention to this and counter by prohibiting anti-competitive practices in the BC liquor industry. We’ll definitely be pursuing this in a big way in 2017.
Lastly, we’ve made considerable progress in shoring up our internal operations: our South Fraser branch is operating in a strong, healthy way. We’ve identified exactly what skillsets and systems we need to implement internally to more deeply integrate all of our branches in order to provide a truly unified member experience.
We’ll be announcing our 2017 AGM date soon along with our call for nominations for next year’s Executive team. We need passionate, dedicated craft beer enthusiasts like you. Consider running and joining us!
With this in mind, on behalf of the 2016 BC Executive team, we wish you a safe, responsible and wonderful holiday season filled with warmth, loved ones and of course, terrific craft beer.