Once again, Expedia has come out with their list of top beer towns in the nation. The four from BC they picked are all definitely legit. Some others, maybe not so much. As somebody who travels only for beer, and only for beer, here’s my Editor’s Take on this list of theirs.
First: I like any list by non-craft beer geeks about craft beer, just because they’re trying. I especially like a list if it’s from a source like Expedia that might actually help get some beer tourism our way. I may not like everything about the content, but I definitely like the fact the list exists. That’s a big plus.
Also, they got a lot right in their work, such as:
1) They have criteria. In this case, it’s
- Taps In Town: total number of breweries and brewpubs
- Praise and Slays: brewing awards won
- Creative Sprit: apparently their own subjective assessment, which is great because it implies they put their own work and opinion into this.
2) They talk about “towns” and they don’t just focus on the big cities. There are a lot of cool Canadian destinations out there, with and without beer.
3) On that note, they highlight some BC destinations that really deserve to be noted, starting with Penticton at #2–a great rank for a list of all of Canada.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve written numerous odes to Penticton based on their beer scene. I’m not the only one; it seems to me that most beer writers that have made it to Penticton’s Okanagan Fest Of Ale or travelled there at other times (like Fall) will agree that pound for pound, it is a real beer town. Not just because it has five breweries, but for the adoption of those breweries by the local consumers and businesses, and the spirit around the beer scene.
Nelson, ranked at #11, is another standout that really deserves more attention. It ranks close to Penticton in terms of breweries and taps for a small city, and it’s also a ski town that’s home to an unbeatable bohemian vibe. Any Nelson vacation is a good vacation.
Abbotsford may not be thought of as a holiday destination, but it’s had more than its share of breweries open up in recent years. A couple have closed during that time, but happily this year they gain more (including a re-opening and a new brewpub this Fall courtesy Trading Post). It’s cool that Expedia apparently noticed this.
A few things make the list seem a bit odd for the discerning Canadian beer fan, and they have to do with the two Pros above. The flip side of those points is,
1) The criteria they used sometimes don’t quite jive. For instance, they gave Dildo, NL two “stars” (well, mugs) for Taps In Town. But it only has one brewery. It’s hard to believe that Dildo gets two stars when a place that has dozens of breweries can only get five. Which leads to the second flaw:
2) The fact that Vancouver is at the top of the list means this is not a list of “towns”.
Vancouver is my home town and I’m all for bringing craft tourism here. But if you’re going to make a list of towns in Canada like Dildo and Nelson, don’t clobber them all with Vancouver at the top. It’s kind of overkill. These “towns” are not apples and apples.
I’m sure they considered this, and I guess they decided they couldn’t overlook Vancouver, which speaks well to our craft beer scene here. But the obvious solution is to split the list into Small and Giant (big, enourmous) towns. Because as much as we’d like to think that Vancouver is the only big city in Canada with beer, it’s not logical to include Vancouver and leave out Montreal. Or Toronto. They have a better beer scene than Dildo.
To me, a beer fan, the better solution would be to use a neighbourhood or borough of a large city. I would consider Yeast Van, as a community, to be more of a candidate for this list. Also Mount Pleasant/Brewery Creek. But they’re still going to clobber Nyanza, NS.
3) Which comes back to: did they pick a good, representative list of Canadian beer towns? I’d have to say “partly” at best, based on their inclusion of certain Prairie cities.
Turns out I was born in Winnipeg, which is on the list. So is Regina. I’ve been to both recently and I just can’t vote for them as “craft beer towns.” There’s lots of alcohol and people are drinking it, but it’s not like it is here. Test: go to a few basic pubs or sports bars and see what they pour. If all you can bear ot order is a Guinness, or worse, you’re not in a craft beer town. Thankfully it’s better than that in places like Penticton, thanks to the adoption of the local breweries’ products by local bars and hospitality.
Anyway, as a BC beer fan, the very worst slap in the face is:
4) Victoria. Where is it on this list? It may be the best beer town in Canada that could credibly qualify as a “town”. There is absolutely no doubt that not long ago, it was Canada’s ONLY real beer town. Until the Craft Capital makes their list, I’m not flying to Dildo.