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The Craft Beer Trend:Make Some Beer!

abstract:The Craft Beer Market has taken over in British Columbia, fast on the heels of other "beer regions" south of the border in Washington and Oregon. The current count as listed on the BC Beer website is 76 different breweries. Craft Beer Crawls to local Tap Houses is another popular weekend pastime, where you can taste flights of brews from local makers as well as the imported brands. Ten such purveyors have been rated by VanCityBuzz. Restaurants like The August Jack on 4th Avenue self-define as dedicated experts in beer cuisine. Menus feature sophisticated pairings with suggested beer accompaniments: try their Read Island Mussels with a Paprika Rosé Sauce garnished with Basil & Crème Fraiche. Suggested Pairing: Deschutes River Ale. Folks used to have to wait until October for the German-themed Octoberfest. Now there's a Vancouver festival of beer that takes place in the summer (when beer drinking is at its peak, not counting Canucks games or the Super Bowl). Check out VCBW, Vancouver Craft Beer Week and join in the celebration of our trendy beer culture.

As a farm-owner with acreage in the Interior of BC, we've been


February 05, 2014
— considering the jump from alfalfa production to hops. Supply and demand makes economic sense. I visited my local library to borrow every book they had on beer, beer making and hops production. It's an enlightening read.

Hops are a rhizome (which look like the ginger root you buy in stores for cooking and juicing.) They produce vines growing 20-30 feet high which are trained onto scaffolding and harvested in the fall when the flower-like cones grow ripe and fragrant. The cones are picked and dried to 20% moisture content and vacuum packed as flakes or turned into pellets. These are then shipped to the breweries. One local grower in the Fraser valley supplies "wet hops" each fall to a couple of Vancouver breweries. Customers go crazy for this product, and it sells out in days.

Do you know the difference between a lager and an ale? Ales use top fermenting yeast, and lagers use slower bottom fermenting yeast. The term IPA stands for India Pale Ale. Back when the East India Company was setting up trade in India, there wasn't any beer available in country for the thirsty ex-pats stationed there establishing trade. A brewer in England came up with a recipe using pale malt and lots of hops that could make the voyage. Hops not only contribute the bitter flavour elements to beer, they also provide an preservative or antibacterial effect found useful in the 2-month-long voyage the barrels had to make on ships traveling from the UK to the Indian continent. The cure was perfectly timed and product ready to drink as soon as it arrived.

Which brings me to my own story about beer craft. This past Christmas beer kits, t-shirts and paraphernalia took hold of our family's yuletide giving theme. My daughter picked up a 1 gallon beer kit on her travels in NYC from the Brooklyn Brew Shop and yesterday I spent an enjoyable day in my kitchen producing a batch of Double Warrior IPA. Unbeknownst to her, I'd purchased a 20 gallon starter kit from Vancouver's funky home-beer-making store on Hastings Street, Dan's Homebrew for our son. So we are about to become a small cottage industry experimenting on our friends and family. Here's a montage of shots of my session yesterday. It's all very "science project" with exact temperatures and times and strings and additions of ingredients. We'll taste the results in a few weeks. Stay tuned…

Images from left to right and top to bottom: The kit. The mash. Straining mash to get the wert (pronounced "wort"). Addition of hops for flavour and bitters. Transfer to jug to release of CO2 gas.
The next step is to let the beer cure for 2 weeks, strain and transfer to bottles. To get the fizz in the beer at this point you add a mixture of honey - or any sugar - and water and cap. The sugar activates the yeast and produces the bubbles enjoyed in the finished product. Stick on your own label and invite your friends over to your first home brew tasting.

Books on Beer

The Oxford Companion to Beer: The bible on beer. Highly recommended as it tells you everything about the known history of beer from a historical, regional and scientific point of view.

How to Brew: Everything you need to know to brew beer right the first time: Next you need to know the process in step form.

The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook: After you make your home brew, you'll want some great recipes for food to serve along with it. This one has a nice selection.



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