If you have been motivated to visit the BC Ale Trail blog, you probably fall into one of two camps: a dedicated craft beer fan or a newcomer to the scene, looking to learn. On Valentine’s Day, we found a Vancouver Island couple that represented those ends of the spectrum and asked how they balance craft beer in their relationship.
Him: Matt. A craft beer fanatic whose wardrobe is 50% craft brewery T-shirts, boasts more than 2,000 unique Untappd check-ins, and has a kitchen cupboard packed to the back with years of beer festival taster glasses.
Her: Jocelyn. A long-standing preference for cider and wine, having been turned off beer decades ago due to friends’ insistence on partying with Kokanee Gold and her dad’s habit of enjoying mugs of lager—on the rocks.
“I could never sit around with Matt and compare beer tasting notes, or anything like that,” Jocelyn said, “but we’ve found a few different ways to make craft beer something fun for me—for us—and, in turn, justifying all of his T-shirts.”
First Step is the Deepest
No one is born with a pint of craft beer in their hand—if someone was, then the maternity ward has some explaining to do—so when you decide to enter this strange microbrew microverse, hold hands and help out.
“Matt suggested starting with fruit beers,” Jocelyn said, noting her comfort level with ciders. “We tried a Belgian apricot beer and it was the first beer I ever tried where I finished it and thought: ‘I could really have another.’”
If your partner loves coffee, why not try a stout or black lager? For those with a sweeter tooth, give a hefeweizen or radler a try; if on the other side of the spectrum, dive into a sour beer. BBQ fan? Smoked porter, immediately.
“I don’t always like Matt’s suggestions,” Jocelyn laughed, “but there are so many flavours out there that it’s fun for us to always try something new. I’ve learned that aggressively hoppy beers aren’t my thing, but was surprised when I really liked [Hoyne’s] Dark Matter. It’s a big leap from where I was with beer a couple of years ago.”
Go Both Ways
This is all about fairness. You are a partnership; not a lecturer and listener. If you, the craft beer fan, want to spread the good word about lupulin powder and you have a partner patient enough to listen, be willing to learn about something else from them.
For instance: Jocelyn knows a lot more about wine and ciders than Matt, so they have regular dinners where she takes the lead on choosing a different style of wine (even if he keeps requesting barleywine).
Match Beer to Your Passion
If craft beer isn’t your partner’s passion, see if you can find a way to pair craft beer with it. This might not work well for all passions—consuming alcohol while piloting large aircraft, for instance, or performing amateur surgery might lead to ethical or legal concerns—but what if your partner is a graphic designer? Eschew online reviews and pick beer based on the best label on the shelf. Geography fan? Try a different beer from a different country every week. Into mountain biking? Best plan a trip to Kamloops. Fancy yourself a writer? Write an article about your partner’s path into craft beer and share a beer while doing so (just don’t spill on the typewriter). Find fun ways to choose craft beer based on your interests.
“We have friends who haven’t traditionally been big beer fans, but they are pretty dedicated to the ‘100 Kilometre Diet,’” Jocelyn said, while dabbing a sheet of paper towel on some pale ale that Matt spilled on his typewriter. “Now, they love to seek out and include local beer as regular a part of their dietary journey.”
Beer festivals and events have proliferated in British Columbia and beyond and are varied enough to provide value to everyone from craft beer obsessives to casual fans and brewery newbies.
“We go to as many festivals as possible,” Jocelyn said. “I generally find beers that I enjoy, but it’s the overall atmosphere that always makes it worth it for both of us.”
However, if your partner is still apprehensive about a full-on beer event, look for a festival that combines beer tasting with wine or spirits or one that includes a focus on food: two of Jocelyn’s favourites are the Tofino Food & Wine Festival and the Brewery & the Beast meatravaganza. Multi-event celebrations such as Victoria Beer Week and Vancouver Beer Week feature many flavours of culinary-centric celebrations, including taco nights, pizza nights, whole hog cookouts, and crab boils.
Keeping in the spirit of love, it should be noted that Valentine’s Day is not immune from celebrating with beer. The Drake Eatery in Victoria hosts an annual Dark Beer & Chocolate Soiree and Vancouver Brewery Tours hosts an annual “Love at 1st Flight” tour—complete with meals and an evening of beers over candlelight.
Desperately Seeking Soothing
The business of brewing isn’t terribly romantic in a traditional sense, unless you find “90 percent cleaning and 10 percent paperwork” something that stirs your loins and quickens your pulse.
However, a lot of brewery taprooms can certainly be romantic in a spiritual sense; many are small and intimate, designed to elicit a sense of coziness, authenticity, friendliness, sincerity, and sense of place that can make one feel right at home. You won’t find a forty-dollar steak, but you can find each other.
“We love seeking out breweries and pubs where we can fall deep into conversations, have a great drink, and don’t feel rushed to move on,” Jocelyn said. “Having a flight in front of the fireplace at White Sails Brewing should be a romantic stop for any couple in Nanaimo, and there are few things as soothing as sharing a pint and a meal while overlooking the Victoria harbour from Spinnakers.”
Don’t Unravel—Go and Travel
As breweries increasingly bring tourism traffic into their communities, they become de facto beacons and representatives for their province, community, or neighbourhood. Jocelyn said that she and Matt certainly strive to absorb the tenor of a town based, in part, on the local beer.
“When we travel, we do put a premium on cities with craft breweries or top-notch beer bars,” Jocelyn said, “and we pair a beer stop, at Matt’s request, with a stop at a museum or hike through a park to really get a feel for those communities.” She cited visiting Belfast’s gigantic Titanic Museum and the quaint Bittles Bar—a pub founded in the mid-1800s, located in a flat-iron shaped brick building—as one example. Spending time in Brussels, Belgium by sampling lambic at Cantillon Brewery in the afternoon and mercilessly devouring strawberries and waffles alongside the shy dribble of Manneken Pis in the evening, another.
However, you don’t have to travel to Europe to find great beer (or passable waffles). As more Canadian tourism operations get on board with the hundreds of craft breweries in this country, look for more beer travel guides to assist with your travel plans. For instance, the BC Ale Trail (which pairs well with the Craft Beer Revolution guidebook) has a kindred spirit in Nova Scotia: the Good Cheer Trail (which pairs well with the East Coast Crafted guidebook). Stratford, Ontario has a Bacon & Ale Trail. Travelling in Canada has never been better.
Start a Brewery
OK—so Jocelyn and Matt haven’t leveraged their savings into a full-scale production brewery (yet). However, it should be mentioned as a viable relationship option because a number of successful BC breweries have been founded and run by couples.
Some examples include Michael & Karen Kuzyk (Category 12 Brewing in Saanichton), Cédric Dauchot & Chloe Bryana Smith (Townsite Brewing in Powell River), and Aaron & Michelle Colyn (Twin City Brewing in Port Alberni). Aaron spoke about how vital Michelle was to getting the brewing operations off the ground.
“Michelle was a huge part of the brewery setup,” he said, “and I’m sure every idea I had was bounced off her before anyone else. She had the first opportunity to veto any of the dumb ones. Even before the brewery renovation was happening, she would spend hours helping me wash my homebrew equipment, mill grain, and other various preparations for brewing.” (Aaron best be leveraging his savings into a full-scale Valentine’s gift for Michelle.)
So Hoppy Together
The same tenets of forging successful explorations into craft beer appear to be the same as forging a successful relationship: be open-minded, listen, and always be willing to learn; recognize and support each other’s passions, no matter how different; travel and explore to find your happy places. Put it all together and you’ll be celebrating 365 Valentine’s Days every year—and you can probably get away with wearing beer T-shirts for most of them.