And in the 10th month, the beer gods created BC Craft Beer Month.
It’s been five years since Don McRae, then provincial minister of agriculture, gave the official nod to a 31-day celebration of beer every October. And boy, does BC ever have some celebrating to do.
In those five years, the number of breweries in the province has almost tripled. The craft beer industry has now eaten into around a quarter of overall beer sales in BC, and the growth shows no signs of stopping. Neither does the inventiveness of the province’s breweries, with barrel-aging, souring and new hop varieties pushing the boundaries of beer as we know it.
“With every year we’ve had more and more breweries opening, we’re making better beer, people are more interested in drinking BC craft beer. … So we have a lot more to celebrate now,” says BC Craft Beer Month founder Lundy Dale.
The month-long festivities were born out of Dale’s wish to see a beer festival with a purely provincial focus. And while BC Craft Beer Month has gathered momentum with each year, it really crystallized in form and scope in 2015 when it joined forces with the newly resurgent BC Craft Brewers Guild.
“We’re making things work. As a team we can get out there and (generate) a lot more excitement,” says Dale, who is now focusing on the consumer end of BC Craft Beer Month.
Those consumers have never had so many options in terms of events in October and beers on the shelves – a fact highlighted by BC Craft Beer Month’s style of the day posts on its Facebook and Twitter feeds, with local examples. (Gotta taste them all!)
It certainly helps that excitement over limited-release beers is at its most feverish at this time of year, thanks to the many fresh-hop beers coming to market. These beers – most commonly IPAs and pale ales – contain freshly picked, unprocessed hop cones from farms in BC and Washington that are rushed to brewery kettles across the province for peak flavour and aroma.
This year, BC Craft Beer Month began with a bang of fresh hops, thanks to two events on Oct. 1. Both in their second year, the BC Hop Festival and Fresh to Death attracted hundreds of hopheads to Abbotsford and Victoria, respectively, with the chance to taste dozens of different fresh-hop beers.
The month also began with various Oktoberfest parties across the province.
But BC Craft Beer Month’s flagship event is the BC Beer Awards and Festival, taking place Oct. 15 in East Vancouver. Unfortunately, the event is sold out, but you can still apply to volunteer; or follow along on social media using the hashtag #BCBA2016 to see who will claim top honours in 30 style categories, as well as the coveted Best in Show award.
BC Craft Beer Month also landed another major event in the province’s beer calendar this year, with the Business of Craft Beer conference moving to October. Taking place at the Vancouver Convention Centre the day before the awards (Oct. 14), this is the place to learn about how best to start up and optimize a brewery business in BC. Industry experts will take part in discussions ranging from best practices to expanding sales and dealing with government.
Other events coming up include the sixth instalment of Beerlesque (Oct. 22) in Vancouver – celebrating, you guessed it, craft beer and burlesque – a road trip to the four breweries of “Brewers’ Row” in Port Moody courtesy of Vancouver Brewery Tours (Oct. 23), a Women & Beer Dinner at Big Rock Urban (Oct. 24), a Four Winds Brewing Company tap takeover at The Boxcar in Vancouver (Oct. 26) and more Oktoberfest-themed revelry in Penticton, Squamish, Victoria (Oct. 22) and Harrison Hot Springs (Oct. 29).
At which point, we’ll be in no doubt of BC Craft Beer Month’s purpose. It’s a distillation – or, more appropriately, a vigorous fermentation – of what makes the beer industry in this province so great.