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A taste of home brewing

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A beer aficionado travels across the pond to imbibe, and says we don’t realize how good we’ve got it

"I'd kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet, tasty beer..." - H. Simpson

Welcome. For this journey might I recommend a stool, a pint and a nice soft pretzel? For these are the tools of the trade at The Great Canadian Beer Festival in Victoria, B.C.

The 10 th anniversary of the festival marked a decade of legendary suds. Fortunately, over the past several years I've had the privilege to witness the evolution of both good beer, and the festival itself. This year’s festival fell smack dab on Whistler-Blackcomb’s opening weekend. But since it was the only thing falling I wasn't too heartbroken. Rather, it seemed like perfect timing to drown the snow sorrows that had gripped many an early season pass - holder.

The Great Canadian Beer Festival is literally Canada's largest showcasing of microbreweries. The debauchery runs for five hours Friday and eight hours Saturday so needless to say, pacing is key.

What has made it such a legendary event, aside from the beer, are the people in attendance. In years past this was attributed to the insane ticket buying process. Only a handful of tickets were given to select micro-breweries around the province. This led to serious beer drinkers going to near superhero lengths to acquire tickets, thereby creating an event made up of 100 per cent true beer lovers. And it makes all the difference when you're surrounded by people who are there for the beer, not just the alcohol.

This year, however, things were done differently. Tickets were sold on a single day and only in Victoria. At first this seemed like a good idea, but it now appears to have changed the entire dynamic of the weekend.

This isn't just a "back in my day" thing either. Veterans of the event agreed this festival was different. By observation,   the crowd was visually more diverse and generally younger. Not that these changes are bad, it just depends what you're into; a beer lover's event where brewers rightly take their place as the centre of worship, or a college kid piss up.

Further proof that things were different: uncharacteristically, at the end of the festival , there was no beer. Instead of savouring the melodramatic dance of hops and barley; people seemed more inclined to CHUG, CHUG, CHUG. I even overheard someone say that most of the beers sucked, while admitting to be a Bud drinker. Even Amnesty International would understand torturing this guy.

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