The Art of Craft

August 2016, by Ben Dextraze

There’s something changing in British Columbia. At the foot of the Coast and Cascade mountains are a people whose work built a province, and with it, the sprawling city of Vancouver — where it’s business and pleasure as usual.

Or is it? If you haven’t noticed, there’s been an added uprising of festive celebrations. Why, you ask? Beer.

Hastings Street 1914, courtesy the Vancouver Archives.

As beer made its way through the ages, its been revered as holy and condemned as demonic. For some its a necessary evil, while morally speaking, it’s not just any drink. But whether you like it or not, some are saying we’re now in the midst of a cultural uprising.

“I think you can look at Vancouver as a good case study for the craft beer revolution – you can look at several different factors that I think contributed to it,” says Joe Wiebe, author of Craft Beer Revolution.

Joe Wiebe

Wiebe wrote his book as part guide, part history, and part critique of the surging craft beer scene in British Columbia. But nowhere has his self-professed ‘revolution’ been felt more in the province than Vancouver.

“In the bigger urban centers we’ve seen a recent boom – Vancouver’s an interesting story,” he says.

In a city like Vancouver, where property value and rent are steadily climbing while income isn’t, starting a brewery can be a very time-consuming and costly affair. Yet something happened in 2013 that helped foster investment and growth in the once-prohibited local trade. The provincial government changed the Liquor Act.

Their changes allowed licensed tasting rooms for vintners, brewers, and distillers – but this was critical for brewers.  Simply because it reduced the problem with overhead for new start-ups. Breweries can now open storefront businesses that sell beer fresh from their tanks, right at the source.

 “This critical mass kept building and when it exploded its amazing the scene that’s developed in just 2-3years.”

Doan’s Craft Brewing Company is one of the newer breweries in the city, starting only in 2015. And its small. Very small. The brewery’s existence is owed to two brothers and a business partner who helped found the company while all three were working together at a local Whole Foods.

Doan's Brewery

“We’re small, one of the smallest in Van, but being small you can tinker more and make 100 different batches of beer a year – and 50 of those can be different,” says co-founder Mike Doan.

But falling in line with the current local trends in craft beer, smaller is better. Home-brewers are transitioning to professional brewing and taking their skills – and even more importantly – their use of flavorful ingredients with them.

“If you go to a big brewery like Molson everything is automated and you can make great, consistent beer – not incredible just consistent,” says Doan.

Mike Doan

But by looking further into the current state of craft beer in BC, a startling history arises as to the reasons why it’s only causing such a stir today. So, what happened?

Stay tuned for more episodes of our documentary-webseries, The Art of Craft.