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The Top 3 BC Craft Beer Newsmakers of 2017

Newsmaker # 2: Persephone Brewing & the NDP. At an October news conference, BC Agriculture Minister Lana Popham hints that the new government would be relaxing ALR rules, saving the beer farm. This was later confirmed.

The Top 3 BC Craft Beer Newsmakers of 2017

Last year, What’s Brewing produced an issue themed Year In Review which listed many of the top BC Craft Beer stories and events of 2016. Once again in 2017, we’ve listed off the key BC beer news stories that drew our attention over the last 12 months, including the top 5 stories of the year. To read the list, go here.

In this followup article, we reveal the three people or groups that were voted to be the most compelling newsmakers during the past year, and give you a little insight into what made them stand out. Drum roll, please:

What’s Brewing 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

  1. The BC Ale Trail

  2. Persephone Brewing & the BC NDP

  3. BC Craft Breweries | Social Media Producer Tim LaHay

Results of What’s Brewing beer writers survey held November 2017

Newsmaker #1: the BC Ale Trail

Paul Kamon

In December 2016, our year-end News Story of the Year was the BC Ale Trail. It turns out we are witnessing back-to-back consistent performance, because the Ale Trail is our Newsmaker of the Year for 2017.

During 2017, the BC Ale Trail has

  • Expanded its coverage to 15 routes throughout British Columbia
  • Launched the all-important Vancouver trail
  • Become a finalist for Canada’s most prestigious Travel Marketing Campaign award, at the Canadian Tourism Awards, presented by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.

At those awards, BCAT was up against stiff competition: the Calgary Stampede, and eventual winner Tourism Toronto. There was no dishonour in coming up short, considering the impressive nature of this nomination.

Paul Kamon is Lead Administrator of the Ale Trail project. As Executive Director of Sunshine Coast Tourism for over a year now, as well as Tourism Powell River for five years before that, he is well connected in the BC tourism industry. Under Paul’s watch, BCAT is now entering its 3rd year with over 20 local BC community tourism regions involved and investing.

Asked how BC Ale Trail is regarded amongst the BC Tourism community, Paul notes that “this program has become one of the largest marketing projects in the Destination BC Cooperative Marketing Program, and is well-known as one of the best”.

Kamon mentions that BCAT cross promotes with other sectors. “Beer pairs well with so many things”, he opines. “We’ve already worked with the mountain bike sector, and are currently working on a promotion with the BC Fishing Resorts and Outfitters Association.”

Paul is also a Director with Vancouver Craft Beer Week, BC’s largest beer festival. VCBW is working closely with BCAT and the BC Craft Brewers Guild (themselves a partner in the BCAT initiative). He notes, “Our goal is to create an affordable option for distant BC breweries to have their beer served at the festival, without having to buy and staff their own booth. Hopefully, this will have the effect of inspiring festival attendees to travel to those regions and visit those breweries on their next vacation.”

Joe Wiebe

Joe Wiebe is the BCAT’s Director of Content. He keeps busy overseeing the constant updating of the website to keep up with new breweries (22 added in 2017 to date). Joe notes that they have added a podcast component, and they’re about to launch a new feature called Tasting Notes. Joe says that this is “a longer photo essay sort of thing, with a dynamic map that moves with you as you read the story”. Wow! The website has come a long way since our mini review of it last year.

Jan Zeschky

The website’s blog—which is managed by longtime beer writer Jan Zeschky and features several writers who are new to the team in 2017 — has been active throughout the year. Joe says the participation of many contributors brings lots of different perspectives to their content.

Ken Beattie

Joe also can’t say enough about Victoria-based creative firm The Number, who handle many of the project’s design and marketing chores. Joe has worked with them on several projects, most prominently the BCAT and Victoria Beer Week, and says that their involvement has been crucial to the success of both of those projects. “The Number’s team is a highly creative bunch of beer lovers. I think they work extra hard on the BC Ale Trail because they are so passionate about the subject”, he relates. “The Number’s own Melanie Ransome (and Chris Long before her) sits on our executive team, acting as the BCAT Project Manager, coordinating all the moving parts and ensuring we keep hitting or even surpassing the targets we set our sights on.”

We’re pretty proud of the work that these folks and others (like the Guild’s Ken Beattie, for example) have put into the initiative, and their efforts show in the success of the project on many levels. Cheers to keeping BC visible in the new frontier of North American Beer Tourism.

Newsmaker #2: Persephone Brewing & the BC NDP

Persephone Brewing Co. CEO Brian Smith in the brewery’s hop yard
Persephone Brewing Co. CEO Brian Smith in the brewery’s hop yard in Gibsons. SIMON HAYTER / PNG

On December 19th, 2016 the Agricultural Land Commission (South Coast Panel) released a decision not to renew an approval of Persephone Brewing’s application to operate on ALR land. Thus began our #1 individual news story for 2017, and a long year in Purgatory for the Gibsons-based farm brewery.

After a site visit, the Commission reported that it felt that Persephone was more of a “processing facitilty” and not a true farm operation, because the bulk of the material going into their beer was barley not grown on their farm (where, amongst other things, Persephone was growing the hops for their beer). The essence of the problem was that, other than water, beer’s primary ingredient is grain, which Persephone was not in the business of growing (nor could it grow enough to make its beer if it tried). Wineries on ALR land, on the other hand, were held to a different standard when it came to sourcing material.

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham
B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham

Soon the story was picked up by the mainstream media. Persephone was actively speaking out about its desire to find a solution and keep operating on ALR land. It was clear that there was public support for this. This decision was perceived as unfair by Persephone’s fans in the BC beer community. On January 14th, veteran beer blogger Barley Mowat published a blog post that called for readers to send a letter to the BC government in support of Persephone, petition-style. By March, an actual petetion was underway, which eventually garnered 4,170 signatures.

During Spring 2017, after almost a decade in power, an astonishingly close provincial election result put the BC Liberals on the brink of losing their majority government. Once the fate of the legislature was determined, Persephone started to pin its hopes on a change in leadership in Victoria. Ultimately ther were signs that the new NDP government’s Ministry of Agriculture was coming around to addressing the issue. What’s Brewing was on hand to witness BC Agriculture Minister Lana Popham’s remarks in an October press conference during which she hinted about changes coming down the pipe

Sure enough, in November the official announcement came that ALR rules aimed previously only at wineries (and cideries) would now be extended to other alcohol producers as well. Persephone’s year-long walk in the wilderness was over.

Newsmaker #3: Tim LaHay of BC Craft Breweries

During the summer of 2017, the most intense forest fires in our province’s history affected vast areas of land, including roads, agriculture and residences. BC’s central interior breweries were affected too. As forced evacuations started to roll out, businesses like Jackson’s Social Club And Brewhouse in 100 Mile House were shut down. Others like Quesnel’s Barkerville Brewing were seriously affected by the severed tourism traffic artery that Highway 97 had become.

Smoked Out: A Summer Of Fire

Tim LaHay
Tim LaHay

Hardest hit were those that were forced to relocate for extended periods of time, suffered damages or even lost their homes. During the following weeks and months, the BC Craft Beer community responded with tens of thousand of dollars in donations via various fundraising efforts. Barkerville Brewing itself was amongst those that raised funds for the effort, despite being themselves a victim of the situation. Red Collar in smoked-out Kamloops also earmarked a significant portion of tasting room sales. Down by the coast, Old Yale Brewing did yeoman’s work, raising $10,000 for the effort by the end of August. But most curiously, amongst the other efforts launched during this time was a Red Cross campaign started not by a brewery or even an organization, but by a single person.

The #BCCraftCares campaign spearheaded by Tim LaHay of social media entity BC Craft Breweries raised over $11,000 in Canadian Red Cross donations during August 2017. It was a phenomenal amount for a single person to raise in their first-ever such campaign. Tim’s approach involved using the considerable goodwill he had built up within the BC craft brewery community (as a rebroadcaster of their social media announcements) to elicit a cornucopia of prizes that campaign donors became eligible to win. It worked.

For that Tim made the news–not just the craft beer kindbut the ‘mainstream media’ as well. He was also profiled in the Fall 2017 issue of What’s Brewing for his accomplishments both in community leadership and as a social media influencer.

New Faces Join the Beer Media Scene: Part Three – Tim LaHay

Thanks to all of the above for inspiring us during 2017. Here’s to another captivating year following BC’s craft beer scene in 2018.


What's Brewing

These articles are the work of the What's Brewing Editorial Group.

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