There has been a lot of talk lately about drinking locally. That is, drink the craft beer that is brewed locally instead of import beers. So what constitutes a local brewery? Is it breweries within a 10 km radius of my home, beers in Vancouver/Victoria or BC beers? Beats me but here are my thoughts, which may not be popular with some.
First off, I do drink our local craft brews. Do I like them all? Nope, but I do like and love a lot of them. So much so that I rush to the liquor stores to pick up the new releases just like the rest of you beer geeks. I support local establishments and recommend our breweries and bars/pubs whenever I get an opportunity. I love the craft beer scene in BC and I am thrilled to see more BC breweries starting up. I buy beer at local private liquor stores, attend local beer events, cask festivals, long table dinners and I am a CAMRA member. I’d say I support our local and BC craft beer scene.
Currently, some of the styles of beer I love are brewed only by a small percentage of BC breweries – such as sour styles, imperial stouts, DIPA and Belgians. The breweries that do have these in their repertoire tend to brew them as seasonals or for special events and thus, they’re not always readily available. As these styles become more frequently brewed, and assuming they’re good beers, I will have less of a reason to purchase from other breweries.
However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like to try other beers and yes, they’re imported. Either from other parts of Canada, the USA or internationally. I like variety when it comes to my beer and it’s exciting to try new styles. Since each brewery has their own take on a beer, I find it intriguing to see how they interpret the style. Do I like all the imports I try? Nope. But we do check RateBeer and other sources for ratings before we slap down some cash.
Something else to consider, as the Canadian craft beer scene grows, I expect to see more Canadian beers exported. I don’t mean the macro crap, but our good, craft beer. I’ve seen Driftwood and Howe Sound beers as far as Seattle and thus, they are penetrating the US/Export market. I assume the Ontario brewers are also starting to export. If I was a brewer, I’d want as many people as possible to try the beer that I poured my heart and soul into making. It must give brewers a warm, fuzzy feeling when people around the globe love their beer.
According to the US Brewers Association, Canada is currently the largest importer of US craft beers bringing in 68,180 barrels in 2012. However, the biggest growth market for the USA was the Asia-Pacific region, up 162%. International sales had a record high increase of 72% and total sales of US$49.1M. That’s big business. I would assume that most breweries would look at expanding into the international or cross-border market, if they could meet the demand and capacity issues. Granted, not all businesses want to be huge money-making machines but if there is global demand and you can feed it, why not? It takes me back to people loving your beer. I relate brewers to artists. They’re gifted individuals who take their talent, turn it into a passion filled recipe and tweak it until they are happy with the outcome. Although artists can produce just for their own satisfaction, I suspect that the greatest joy comes from someone appreciating your creation and applauding you. And that is what we’re doing when we love the local and imported beers. Bravo, brewers, you amaze me.
I have twitter beer friends that want to try our BC beers. I suspect it stems from seeing our positive Untappd posts/comments and now they want to get their hands on it. Since most of our breweries don’t ship to other provinces or export to the US, they have no way of getting any…or do they? Because it’s not exactly legal to ship beer I may or may not have shipped some glorious BC beers recently to Indiana and Alberta. If I did, I may have heard that they loved them. Spreading the BC beer love, people. Well, if it actually happened.
Lastly, when we purchase imported beers in BC, who are we supporting? Well, it’s obvious that we’re supporting the foreign brewery but aside from that, we’re supporting our own local economy. The beers are brought in by BC companies with BC employees and we’re purchasing these beers at BC liquor stores (private and government), pubs, restaurants and bars. Does it take away from the local breweries’ sales? Probably, but this craft beer drinker wants variety and lots of it. I have my favourite local breweries who produce amazing beers but I don’t want to drink them exclusively. Sorry. This seems to be the model for a lot of craft beer drinkers and I think you’d be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t like to try new beers, regardless of their origin.
If you want to rap my knuckles, I do buy craft beer when we’re in the US thus, I’m not supporting my local economy in any way. Again, it’s for the variety. But before you get out your ruler, do you cross-border shop at all? Are all of your groceries grown here? That t-shirt, made by your neighbour? Not likely. Most of us that live close to a border do in fact vacation outside of Canada and purchase goods in and from other countries.
I love collaboration beers and my hope is that stupid liquor laws aside, we’ll start to see some more US/Canada collaborations (like Gigantic Brewing and Parallel 49th From East Van With Love). The best of all worlds – both sides of the 49th parallel with their own specific styles and talents making a specialty beer. Let’s make it happen.
It’s my opinion that there’s room for BC and imports in the BC craft beer scene and as we watch BC grow into one of the best provinces for beer, I hope to have a pint with all of you.