No hyperbole: Next week will be the loudest, brashest, most drunken and all around most fun week for craft beer of the year. Yes, it’s Vancouver Craft Beer Week.
The weeklong festival is celebrating its seventh year with its biggest iteration yet, with eight events over 10 days and tens of thousands of people celebrating all nooks and crannies of craft beer fandom. There’s something for the rabid beer geek; something for the celiac; something for the brawny college kid that just wants to check out the bands; and everyone in between.
And that’s exactly the point. VCBW is and always has been designed as a populist event.
“That’s why we started – to bring craft beer to the masses, if you will, to try to get more people drinking it by making it accessible to everybody,” says VCBW co-founder and events directorLeah Heneghan.
“Having a festival of this size with 350-plus beers at it, there’s so many beers for people to try that they wouldn’t normally be exposed to… Everybody is going to find beers that they like at the festival for sure, even if they think they don’t like beer.”
VCBW will have the most breweries at one festival in Western Canada, and Heneghan says they’re expecting 18,000 people to attend over three days. But the hook organizers are banking on this year is a full lineup of BC musicians held over three stages, including the winners of the joint CFOX/VCBW contest #willplayforbeer.
Which means this is a festival for the everyman and everywoman, and not a tasting event designed for people who are precious about beer tasting. For the ardent, hardened beer snobs – or for those just don’t care to be around 6,000 intoxicated people – here’s a rundown of what exactly is happening throughout Vancouver Craft Beer Week.
VCBW Opening Night
Friday, May 27, 6-10pm, Roundhouse Arts Centre ($60)
VCBW’s launch party will include 32 breweries and cideries, with over 50 beers and ciders available to sample. CRAFT Beer Market is supplying the canapés, KINDSnacks will dole out the desserts while Out of Nowhere, one of the top five finalists from the #willplayforbeer contest, performs.
Saturday, May 28, 1-5pm, Big Rock Urban Brewery & Eatery ($50)
This first-time event will feature 15 collaboration brews from local breweries, one cidery and a distillery. Tickets include samples of every beer, the chance to vote for best of the bunch, canapés and behind-the-scenes access to the brewery.
Best of BC
Sunday, May 29, 1-5pm, Central City on Beatty ($50)
The Canadian Brewing Awards are in town this same week, so they’ve teamed up with the BC Craft Beer Guild to feature the top winning BC beers in 20 different styles. What exactly they’ll be pouring is a secret until the night before the event, but if 2015’s CBA- winning beers from BC are any indication, it’ll be a mighty solid lineup. Tickets include beer samples and canapés provided by Central City.
BiefCraft Belgian Showcase
Monday, May 30, 6:30-11pm, BierCraft Cambie ($80)
This is one of VCBW’s most popular and longest-running events, and tends to sell out. It will feature a variety of Belgian beer styles: Abbey ales, Trappistes, saisons, Flemish reds and more, from the old world and new. The ticket is inclusive of all food and beers samples.
Feats of Strength Herculean Beer Party!
Tuesday, May 31, 5pm-Late, The Cobalt ($20)
And here we knock off both the weirdest and hoppiest event of Beer Week. Brewers, cellarmen and –women, bartenders and others will compete in semi-ridiculous feats of strength that may or may not include “shirtless-totem-poling.” Not even sure what that is. But there will also be phonebook tearing, keg lifting, arm wrestling and more. Copper & Theory has curated the mostly hop-forward beer list and Tacofino will be on site. Music will follow to soothe the broken egos of the competitors who lose. The ticket includes six sample tokens.
Wednesday, June 1, 5-10pm, Devil’s Elbow Ale House ($40)
Back for its second year, Forbidden Fruit will feature a cross section of fruit beers, Belgians, sours and more from 20 BC breweries. The ticket includes eight five-ounce beer tasters and tapas-style food throughout the evening. This event sold out last year, and why not? Fruit! Fruit! Fruit! Fruit!
Cider House Rules
Thursday, June 2, 5-9pm, The Lamplighter Public House ($20)
Cider is growing in popularity in the local beer scene, and VCBW is embracing the trend – and accommodating to the gluten-intolerant among us – with this tasting/barbecue cookout. Twelve BC cideries will be pouring while chefs work the ’cue, cooking beer can chicken. And fear not, gluten lovers! Beer will be available too. Tickets include samples of every featured beer and cider, along with a ticket for the door prize raffle. Beer can chicken will be available for an additional cost.
The VCBW Festival
Friday, June 3, 4-9pm; Saturday, June 4; Sunday, June 5, 1-6pm, PNE Fairgrounds ($35-40)
The Big One. The Best One. The One. The main event is presented by the Donnelly Group this year, who will have an expanded “Donnelly Zone,” dubbed the Publican Quarter, which will include one of three music stages, a barber shop, games and, naturally, beer.
But there will be beer elsewhere too, obviously – over 400 beers, in fact, from over 100 breweries. The Beer Can Derby will be there with a 15-metre track raising money for charity by racing cars made out of beer cans. There will be loads of live music, the full lineup of which can be viewed at the VCBW website.
And of course there will be large crowds of people, the overwhelming majority of who will be having a great time, because it’s a great festival, and we urge you to go. Saturday is typically the busiest day, so go that day if you’re planning to get your party on. Sunday tends to be slower, and is better for people who tend to care about beer a bit more and want to interact with the brewers.
VCBW has added a Friday night for the first time in several years, so its unknown at this time how that will play out. My guess? It’s Friday night at a beer festival. If it’s a warm day out, it’s going to GO OFF.
Play safe folks.
Note: All prices exclude taxes and fees.