Whistler got an early taste of Oktoberfest last weekend (September 11 to 14) when the Whistler Village Beer Festival filled the mountain town with craft beer lovers. Amid educational seminars, cask nights, parties, and brunches, the main event was the Saturday afternoon tasting on September 13.
There couldn't have been a better day for it. The gloriously sunny weather felt more like July than September, which meant the sunscreen was flowing along with the taps. About 3,500 people flooded Whistler Olympic Plaza to sample from the 64 breweries in attendance.
I attended as a guest of the fest and really enjoyed both the jovial atmosphere and the mix of participating breweries. Here's a look at the event, below.
First, the atmosphere: with Whistler mountain as a backdrop and a roving band playing German folk tunes--Prost!--this really felt like an alpine festival.
The grassy venue was a pleasant place to wander, and there was a fair but of shade as well.
There was a good mix of B.C., Canadian, and U.S. breweries to choose from, with many favourites up from Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
I found the crowd particularly friendly--tourists from as far as Las Vegas and southern California were eager to chat about British Columbia's craft beer scene and share discoveries from their own home states.
Picnic tables and foosball games encouraged socializing...and yes, the beer certainly helped.
Food trucks from Whistler Wood-fired Pizza and Dups Burritos filled the hunger gaps, as well as a kiosk selling Whistler's awesome savory pies from the Pie Company.
In keeping with the German theme, there were also soft pretzels for sale...and at least one person accessorized with his own pretzels (useful for snacking emergencies.)
Festival-goers could vote for their favourite breweries as they went along, and the winners were awarded draft contracts with Whistler bars and restaurants.
This year, the Best in Fest award went to Parallel 49, followed by Whistler Brewing Co. and Old Yale Brewing, all of which will see increased shelf and tap space over the next 12 months at Whistler venues.
Missed the fest this year? Put it on your calendar for next year: September 17 to 20, 2015.