As craft breweries exploded on the scene in Vancouver, beer aficionado Leah Heneghan and team set out to create an event that has proven to be so successful, it’s about to go into its eighth year running.
The long-standing events director and a founding member of Vancouver Craft Beer Week has been thoroughly immersed in the world of craft beer since 2009, so the Straight thought it would be fitting to sit down with her and find out all the must-drink brews, can’t-miss events, and go-to new breweries that are part of this year’s annual week of celebrating local beer and cider.
Georgia Straight: What are four local, seasonal beers that you are excited to start drinking this summer?
Leah Heneghan: “It’s really hard to pick favourites because I really enjoy a lot of different styles, but for the summertime, I love drinking fruit beers and sours, so you might see a theme here: Sublime Pineapple Hefeweizen by Moody Ales; Cumulus Lupulus by Powell Brewery; Ko Lanta by Dageraad Brewing; Hazy Pale VCBW Collaboration Brew by Yellow Dog Brewing Co., Parkside Brewery, Twin Sails Brewing, and Moody Ales.”
GS: Tell us about three can’t-miss events at this year’s VCBW. What makes these events unique?
LH: “I’d say the big festival is always the one not to miss. Every year, we try and make the festival into the type of event we want to go to as organizers. It’s the perfect space for people who are either just getting to know craft beer [or] people who might be figuring out what they like and what they want to experiment with more. It’s the largest selection of craft beer and cider in Western Canada, which means we’ll have over 300 craft beers and ciders on tap, from over 100 breweries. [$39.99 plus beer tokens, PNE, June 3 and 4.]
“Feats of Strength is always one of my favourites. It’s basically a bunch of people who work in the beer community that form teams and then do all of these crazy different superhuman tricks. Some involve actual strength, but once we had them eat six saltines in a minute and try to whistle, without drinking any beer. Another had them holding a plank pose for as long as they could without spilling beer. It’s super fun, and there’s always great beer too. [$10 in advance, the Cobalt Cabaret, May 28]
“We’ll also be hosting the BierCraft Belgian Showcase, which is an amazing value. We’re bringing back the build-your-own-poutine bar, which was always popular. Don Farion from Bomber Brewing will bring in the most amazing Belgian beers that aren’t normally available anywhere in Canada. It’s a long-standing event that started in year two, and it’s always a sell-out. [$80 including food and beer, BierCraft Cambie, May 29].”
GS: What are two up-and-coming B.C. breweries to watch out for?
LH: “We’ve got so many new breweries coming this year, so it’s hard to choose, but Riot Brewing Co. just opened in Chemainus on the Island. They were hoping to be open in time for the festival last year, but I think they’re doing some interesting things. Another one is Superflux [formerly known as Machine Ales]. They’re putting out some really beautiful IPAs, and this is going to be their first beer festival. Co-owner Adam Henderson of Copper & Theory does a lot in the local beer community.”
GS: What’s one emerging beer trend you’ve noticed as we get closer to warmer weather?
LH: “It’s definitely the year of the hazy. Our collaboration beer this year, the Hazy Pale, is made with guava and passion fruit, and I think it’s pretty on-trend with what’s going on in beer this summer. A lot of people think of beer being this clear, crisp beverage, but this hazy thing that’s happening right now is bringing a different visual to beer. It’s in its natural state, unfiltered, with yeasts still in it. That might frighten some people, but they really don’t need to be. It’s just a different look.”
GS: Tell us about one exciting change you’ve made to this year’s VCBW festival at the PNE.
LH: “We’re trying to bring in a lot more music, and we’re increasing the number of stages. Instead of having one big stage and one small stage, we’ll have three medium-sized ones. We’re also bringing in a couple of busker stations, so we’re really focused on having a bit more music in every section. All of the organizers are really big on the local scene, so everybody that will be playing is a B.C. musician.”
Vancouver Craft Beer Week starts on May 26 and concludes with the festival at the PNE on June 3 and 4.