Category Archives for Doing it Right

Doing it Right: The Community Brew

Since it opened its doors in November, 2013 Craft Beer Market in Olympic Village has been supporting and engaging with not-for-profits through its Community Brew program. Several times a year Craft selects a local charity or community initiative to support with the sale proceeds from a “one-off” beer produced in collaboration with a local brewery.

Launching March 1st, this season’s Community Brew has been mashed and fermented by the Granville Island Brewery, and the worthwhile cause is the Vancouver Street Soccer League. The Vancouver Street Soccer League is a volunteer-run organization that uses soccer to engage with marginalized communities in Vancouver. For every glass of draught sold, $1 will be donated to the VSSL ($0.50 from Craft Beer Market and $0.50 from the Granville Island Brewery).

To learn more about what Granville Island had in mind for the VSSL Community Brew, Alcohol & Advocacy paid the Brewery a visit earlier this month to speak with Brewmaster Kevin Emms and Granville Island’s Beer Merchant Mike Sharpham.

Mike Sharpham, Granville Island Brewert "Beer Merchant"

Mike Sharpham, Granville Island Brewery’s “Beer Merchant”

Mike, who describes his position with the company as neither sales rep nor brand ambassador (but maybe something in-between?) is nevertheless an excellent representative of Granville Island and an affable impromptu tour guide of the onsite tasting room and retail store. While stroking his substantial moustache, Mike explained that Granville Island has been partnering with Craft “since the beginning” to produce original Community Brew recipes.

The Community Brew is truly a collaborative process. Mike and Brewmaster Kevin met with staff at Craft earlier in the year to discuss not only what style of beer is popular at the moment, but also what would make sense given the season. With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner a stout was the natural choice – a dry Irish oatmeal stout to be exact.

Ewen's Lucky Charms secret recipe

Ewen’s Lucky Charms secret recipe

Kevin is a fascinating guy to talk to. Not only does he know his way around a brewery, he also knows the industry inside and out. Though he’s only been the Brewmaster at Granville Island for about 10 months, he’s a veteran in the Vancouver brewing scene having previously plied his trade at the Deep Cove Brewery and Coal Harbour Brewing Company. Kevin also holds a Masters of Science in Brewing and Distilling from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Kevin Emms, Granville Island Brewmaster

Kevin Emms, Granville Island Brewmaster

So what are they calling this seasonal collaboration? Apparently it’s being sold as “Ewen’s Lucky Charms” named after Craft’s favourite bartender and Nova Scotia expat Ewen Coles. On the day that Ewen’s Lucky Charms was being brewed Craft sent Ewen to Granville Island to learn more about the brewing process, and get in Kevin’s way. It is unclear if he’ll be invited back.

Craft's barman Ewen trying to be useful

Craft’s barman Ewen trying to be useful

After taking in the sites and sounds of the Brewery, Alcohol & Advocacy paid a visit to Craft’s sales and marketing manager Alina Gogoescu. Alina stressed how important the Community Brew program is to Craft. Not only does working with local breweries allow Craft’s staff to gain valuable hands-on experience with the brewing process, it also creates a platform for Craft to bring attention and financial support to worthy local causes.

Only ten hectolitres (1000 litres) of Ewen’s Lucky Charms was made, and when it’s gone it’s gone. Alcohol & Advocacy encourages readers to learn more about the VSSL, and stop by Craft for a glass of limited edition stout in the month of March to support this worthwhile initiative.

*Dan Coles of Alcohol & Advocacy is a board member and volunteer with the Vancouver Street Soccer League.

Doing it Right: The Alchemist Magazine

The Alchemist Magazine has arrived in British Columbia. It’s the spirits-focused publication that bartenders and distillers in this province have been waiting for – and it doesn’t disappoint.

On December 6th the Alchemist officially launched at the Clough Club in Gastown. Though not a red carpet affair per se, it was an evening of cocktails & culture with heavyweights from Vancouver’s craft spirit and cocktail scene. The intimate setting made networking easy for the distillers, retailers, bartenders and other industry professionals in attendance.

Issue One of the Alchemist Magazine is an aesthetically pleasing 66 pages of of photography, drink recipes, bartender and distillery profiles, as well as well as original content written about cocktail culture. This beautifully laid out magazine reads like a miniature coffee table book; perfect for perusing when enjoying a solo drink, or as a conversation piece when you’re craving some company.

The Alchemist successfully straddles the line between a true industry publication, that would risk being inaccessible to those not intimately familiar with the mixology mise en scene, and an “introduction to craft spirits” handbook that might be too cursory for the savvy consumer or veteran bartender to appreciate. Fortunately the Alchemist largely gets it right, delivering a variety of content that has broad appeal.

Comparing the Alchemist Magazine to its sister publication the Growler, while tempting, is too easy, and misses the mark. Though the Alchemist does profile 28 of British Columbia’s distilleries, unlike the Growler the profiles serve as more of an appendix to the magazine rather than being front and centre. The focus of the Alchemist is truly on the characters and places driving British Columbia’s vibrant cocktail renaissance and growing spirits industry. For some readers the faces and spaces that fill the pages for will be familiar, for others the Alchemist serves as an introduction to a handful of British Columbia’s more notable characters and establishments.

Like the artfully crafted libations that inhabit its pages, the Alchemist is a combination of substance and form that delivers meaningful liquor-related content. Alcohol & Advocacy encourages readers to seek out a copy wherever fine spirits are distilled or served.

*Full disclosure: Alcohol & Advocacy is a supporter of both the Alchemist Magazine and the Growler and has purchased advertisements in both publications.

Doing it Right: Welcome to the Food Court

I had the good fortune of being in Toronto over the Labour Day weekend, which meant more than my fair share of late-night shawarma on the Danforth and Blue Jays baseball. It also allowed me the chance to catch up with my friend and colleague Glenford Jameson – and be a guest on his new podcast.

Glenford is a food lawyer at G. S. Jameson & Company, a business law firm in Toronto, Ontario, that provides corporate, not-for-profit, commercial, and regulatory services to clients in the food sector. He’s also an incredibly interesting and all-round nice guy.

Recently Glenford’s passion for the food and beverage industry led him to develop and host the podcast Welcome to the Food Court, a monthly show focused on exploring and tracking issues in food and law. In WTTFC Glenford speaks with professionals from across the food sector about their jobs, how regulation and policy affect their work, and how food law can be used as a transformative tool for consumers, producers, distributors, and regulators.

Welcome to the Food Court

We picked a sunny afternoon to meet at his office to record the next episode of WTTFC.  Before we sat down to talk liquor law and policy Glenford took me into the “field” to visit one of Ontario’s infamous Beer Stores, as well as two of Leslieville’s finest establishments: Left Field Brewing and Pilot Coffee Roasters. Grumble as we may in British Columbia about how our provincial government regulates the sale of liquor – let’s all be thankful we aren’t stuck with Beer Stores.

Plied with Left Field’s “baseball-inspired” suds, and a Pilot Coffee cold brew, I felt sufficiently prepared to sit down with Glenford to talk food and beverage law. We covered a lot of ground that afternoon, from British Columbia’s experience with prohibition to the John Yap Report.

Welcome to the Food Court is available on iTunes, and my conversation with Glenford can be found here. I encourage readers of A&A to have a listen and subscribe.

Doing it Right: The Business of Craft Beer

The #craftbeer community owes BCBusiness a debt of gratitude for kicking off Vancouver Craft Beer Week yesterday with its 2015 incarnation of the Business of Craft Beer event. The 250+ attendees at this industry-insider conference and trade show is a strong indication that brewing culture is alive and well in British Columbia.

As a lawyer who is required to attend countless hours of continuing legal education seminars annually, most of which are rather dry and academic, I was genuinely impressed with the engaging style and anecdote-laden presentations of the event’s expert-panels. The engaged audience, paired with the practical and insightful information coming from the panelists, made the agenda feel very “hands on” despite being held in the Convention Centre.

It is easy for an event organizer to advertise “expert panels” – it’s an entirely different thing to deliver. Moreover, sometimes I’ve left presentations convinced that the adage “those who can do, those who can’t teach” is an inarguable truth. Fortunately the panelists at this year’s Business of Craft Beer event delivered on both fronts: not only were they leading authorities in their field, but each of the panelists actually worked in the brewing industry on a day-to-day basis.

It’s worth noting that the Business of Craft Beer event is more than just a networking event for brewers – it’s truly a forum for anyone even tangentially involved in the business side of #craftbeer in British Columbia. Hops brokers, glassware distributors, insurance companies and advertising agencies were all represented in the audience as well as at trade booths in the foyer. Whether you already operate a business that services the #craftbeer sector, or are considering entering the market, attending next year’s event should be a priority.

While BCBusiness is clearly Doing it Right, members of the #craftbeer community are also doing a lot right. The attendees at Thursday’s event were an overwhelmingly friendly and open bunch, making smalltalk and networking seamless and natural.

It’s too bad business couldn’t always be done in jeans over a mid-afternoon pint.

Doing it Right: Stillwell Bar, Halifax, Nova Scotia

The bar industry is notoriously competitive. A pub can be packed one weekend, and be a ghost town the next. To survive bars and restaurants have to do a lot of things right. The same is true for breweries and distilleries. Vancouver is enjoying significant growth in the beverage industry at present, but consumers can be fickle, and there are no guarantees in this business.

Doing it Right is a new series at Alcohol & Advocacy highlighting producers and purveyors who exemplify best practices,  innovation, or have cornered the market in their particular niche.

Stillwell is a beer bar on Barrington Street in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia. This past Christmas I was back home in Halifax and had the opportunity to drop by Stillwell for a couple pints. I’m glad I did. Stillwell is doing a lot of things right.

Bar Service Only

I love bar service only establishments. They’re a refreshing change from the table service norm. Bar service only is a simple and efficient way to operate a pub, with the added benefit of encouraging socializing among patrons.

Bar service only cuts out the middleman between you and the bartender. You’re free to roll up to the pine when you’re thirsty, or hang back if you’re pacing yourself. It’s easy to pay cash as you go, or run a tab for the table. There’s an autonomy about going up to the bar to order a drink that is lost when you’re squished into a booth at the mercy of a waiter.

Moreover there’s something very Old World about requiring guests to get up out of their chairs and saddle up next to the bar when they want another round. It forces interaction, it breaks down barriers, and it fosters conversation. Ever wonder why when you come back from Europe you tell your friends and family about how great the pubs are over there? Bar service only is the reason. Vancouver could use more of this.

Ordering directly from the bartender has tangible benefits too. He or she is in the best position to tell you what’s new, fresh or most popular. I spent years working as a bartender while in school and know from experience that every bartender has evenings where one draught line or another isn’t pouring quite right, or a certain keg is “off”. Like buying your meat straight from the butcher –if you’re serious about beer, ordering straight from the bartender is always best.

From a management point of view I also like the bar service only model. It keeps staffing costs low, but ensures that the staff who are working are busy, and busy bartenders are happy bartenders.


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