2013 Hopscotch Grand Tasting Hall – Beer and Spirits are Interlinked and Evolving Together
Hopscotch is the only event of its kind to hit Vancouver and is unique even from a province-wide perspective. At the Hopscotch Vancouver main event, The Grand Tasting Hall nearly 100 different venders set up shop for the two day event in the PNE Forum. At this event more than 400 different products ranging through various whiskeys, vodkas, tequilas, of course beer and much, much more. The only portion of the alcoholic beverage family lacking is the craft wine contingent. If wine is your poison-of-choice you will have to hold out for the Vancouver International Wine Festival.
Hopscotch started off as a Scotch Whiskey festival but has broadened its scope in recent years to create a larger appeal. This widening of scope has not only attracted new visitors but also broadened the horizons of attendees giving them the opportunity to try new and exciting beverages.The Hopscotch Grand Tasting Hall now hosts more than 3000 attendees over the two days. The broadened offerings has done wonders for craft beer fanatics as in many ways the tasting hall is more about beer now than it is about scotch. At the 2013 event half of all vendors poured craft beer with more than 200 of the 400 products available for tasting being beer.
The expansion from spirits into beer illustrates the growth of the BC craft beer industry and the greater acceptance of craft beer from the residents of BC. It is also apparent that most traditionally scotch drinking consumers are not opposed to drinking craft beer. The inclusion of big-beer styles like Imperial Stouts, Barley Wines and Doppelbocks offer a more complex flavour and sippability that the spirit drinker has been drawn to. While these styles have been available for quite some time it is only recently that the quality, choice and availability has presented itself to the BC craft enthusiast. As much as we talk about Craft Beer, Craft Wine and Craft Spirits separately, they are all interlinked and aspects of each cross over and appeal to the broader market as well. At an event such as Hopscotch we can see the melding of industry and the inspiration for new and innovative products spanning across industries.
At this year’s event Deep Cove Brewing showed off their new Pale Ale Brandy made from a distilled reduction of their Loud Mouth Pale Ale. This is in every sense a hybrid between the craft beer and craft spirit industries which are both thriving in British Columbia! While the idea of a Pale Ale Brandy is young and obscure, the proliferation of whiskey barrel-aged beers hitting the BC market is yet another indication of the cross promotion and heightened flavours that are possible through the combination of crafts. One of the big hits at Hopscotch this year was the Whiskey Barrel infused Pothole Filler, a special, small batch alteration of Howe Sound Brewing Company’s delicious, award winning Imperial Stout. These are simply two examples of successful products taking this frame of mind but BC breweries as a whole are stepping out and experimenting. BC based craft breweries that are offering barrel aged beers include but are not limited to Driftwood, Parallel 49, Phillips, Tree, Russell, Dead Frog, and Central City. This list grows almost daily and the creativity of BC’s breweries will continue to flourish.
The flavour preferences of craft beer and spirit connoisseurs are expanding beyond the scope of tradition and the embracing of this fact is a source of evolution and continued growth for the entirety of craft in British Columbia. It may not have been it’s original intention but Hopscotch is in many ways the future of taste preferences and direction for BC craft beer. There will always be a place for traditional flavours and styles but as a broader consumer comes to craft beer a diversified offering of flavours spanning seemingly paralleled industries is a massive opportunity for success.