How did you first get involved in the BC Craft Beer Industry?
Well, first and perhaps most obvious, I have a passion for drinking craft beer. This led me to start homebrewing, and then to a job with Bridge Brewing, where I worked for a year. In May I will have been with Vancouver Brewery Tours for 2 years.
Since starting out a lot has changed. What do you think makes BC craft beer so great?
One of the things that makes BC craft beer so great is its recent growth. About 50 breweries have opened up in the past 4 years in the province (in fact, approximately doubling the number of existing breweries). This is leading to more and more people being interested in drinking craft beer, and less of the mass produced stuff, which in turn leads to more breweries opening up! I also think we get a lot of inspiration from being in the Pacific Northwest and being so close to Portland and all the exciting things going on just to the south.
Another wonderful aspect is is the community. There is more collaboration in craft beer than you see in most other industries. A brewer starts out at a brewery, moves to a new one, does a collaboration brew with the former, that sort of thing. Or for other reasons different breweries come together to do collaboration brews. They may lend each other equipment or ingredients when one is short-handed, or help an up-and-coming brewery get started with paperwork or building advice. They get it; they understand that they’re more in competition with the big guys than they are with each other, and this leads to a really special and unique community.
What prompted you to join Vancouver Brewery Tours?
While I was working at Bridge, whenever Ryan came in with a VBT group, I would talk to the group, and I really enjoyed it. When I decided to leave Bridge, I knew I was really going to miss the tour aspect. Ryan approached me and asked if I might be interested in the tour guide position, and I was most definitely interested.
What does a day in the life of a brewery tour guide look like?
We arrive where the vans are located and head downtown to Waterfront to meet our groups. Once everyone is ready to go we get them loaded into the van and head to our first of 3 stops. On the way, we give some information about our local craft beer scene, and find out what everyone’s different beer preferences are. We go through a grain-to-glass presentation about how beer is made with the guests before sitting them down to their first tasting. At the second and third stops we talk about each of the breweries and of course, more tastings! We answer lots of questions from people throughout the 3 hours, which can be challenging and fun. No two tours are identical, so even though there is repetition in our basic presentation, each experience is unique. We get all kinds of different people on the tours, from beer geeks to novices to people who admit they don’t even drink beer. People are always happy to be on a brewery tour, so by the time we’re driving them back to Waterfront at the end, usually the van is full of lively conversation, and it’s not uncommon that strangers get together for drinks afterwards. As a guide, we are either done for the day once we’ve dropped everyone off, or we’ve got a second tour and it’s time to do it all over again! We get the vans back to their home and wrap up for the day.
For me, if I haven’t filled my growlers during the tour, then on my way home I make stops to do so. It’s nice to be able to see what’s available and what different people have enjoyed that day. I feel fairly confident speaking for the rest of the guides by saying that wrapping up a brewery tour day can’t end without enjoying a beer.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your position?
It’s honestly seeing guests enjoy themselves and say that they had a great time and learned a lot on the tour. I love talking about beer and being a part of the community and being able to share that with our guests.
How much knowledge did you have about BC craft beer before you started as a guide and how has that changed?
I would say I had a fair amount of knowledge, but obviously knew more about Bridge specifically. As a guide I’ve learned about all of our partner breweries. My knowledge is much more well-rounded. I visit more breweries on a regular basis than I would if I weren’t a guide, which keeps me fairly well informed of the Vancouver scene in general.
You were one of only a few female brewers in Vancouver. What advice would you give to other women looking to break into the industry?
I would say be confident and perhaps seek out those breweries that already have an existing female presence. Which isn’t to say avoid the ones that don’t, because you never know what you might find in an employer. But there are already some places where being female clearly isn’t an issue, and starting with that positive energy certainly can’t hurt.
Where do you see the craft beer scene going in the next 5 years?/ Where would you like to see the local craft beer scene go in the next 5 years?
I think we’ll continue to see it grow (in terms of numbers of breweries), but perhaps at a slightly slower pace than what we have seen in the last 4 years. Though who knows! I only say that because a year ago I knew of a number of breweries readying to open and at the moment I’m only aware of one (in Vancouver specifically).
I also think we’ll continue to see more breweries specializing in niche craft beer types. For example, at the start of the burst of new breweries, it seemed like all of them opened with some pretty standard beers, like IPAs, pale ales, pilsners, etc. In late 2014 we got Strange Fellows, our first brewery to specialize in sours, and Dageraad, our first Belgian brewery.
Since I love Belgian beer I would personally love to see more places like Dageraad. And I’m really coming to love sour beers as well, so I hope (and think) we’ll see more of those as well. On a much more specific note, I’d like to see more craft beer available in 6-packs. At the moment our best selection (in terms of variety) is in bombers. Variety of different craft beers available in 6-packs is seriously lacking in BC at the moment, so I’d like to see that change.
What is your favourite brewery to visit in Vancouver and why?
Brassneck, hands down. They consistently make fantastic beer that I like to drink. While I certainly have favourite styles that I gravitate towards, I like trying new things on a regular basis, and they do not disappoint in that regard; that’s what they’re all about. Plus, every person who works there is a pleasure to deal with. Though I have to say that of Storm as well. If I were picking a favourite based solely on the people running the brewery, I would say Storm. I just love them.
If you were stranded on beer island in Olympic Village and could only drink one beer for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Ah, what an unfair question! This is essentially asking me what my favourite beer is, and I usually give a top 5 because I can’t pick just one.
So — beer island in Olympic Village — what does that mean? I’m probably going to take this question too literally. That means I can’t leave the Olympic Village, ever? And if I’m stuck there then I’m stuck with Vancouver’s weather, and that matters because I am a very seasonal beer drinker. While I would certainly miss Russian Imperial Stouts and Belgian Quadruppels, my wintertime favourites, I might have to go with Saison Dupont, because it’s so versatile. Or maybe Brooklyn’s Sorachi Ace. See, I can’t pick just one.
To learn more about Vancouver Brewery Tours and being a brewery tour guide visit vancouverbrewerytours.com. (p.s. they’re hiring)