I have finally, belatedly, begun reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point”.
It’s a phenomenal look at what (and who) causes epidemics, with the primary focus on social ‘epidemics’; what are the mitigating factors, who are the ‘players’ in these movements, and taking a detailed look at the cause and effect. As I’m reading through the book, being a beer geek, I keep trying in my head to apply his thesis to the craft beer movement, specifically as it applies to Vancouver and BC as a whole.
Where does craft beer fit in the “Law of the Few”? Who are the Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen? What’s the ‘Stickiness” factor as it applies to craft beer? Am I part of this potential epidemic? If so, where do I fit?
I’ve pondered this so much, it feels like my head is going to explode!
What caused Portland, OR to ‘tip’ towards craft beer over mass produced lagers? What happened in Seattle to foment a backlash against macro-swill? Having lived in and around San Diego during it’s craft beer explosion, I’ve seen some the causes and effects first hand. Did I recognize them while they were happening? Of course not!
What were the causes for the change of mindset amongst the local beer drinkers? Was it Greg Koch and Steve Walker founding Stone Brewing? Was it the opening of Pizza Port in Solana Beach? To be honest, I don’t know what the specific tipping point was in San Diego (or Portland, Seattle, Denver, etc.)
What I do know is that I am seeing some of the same changes in attitude and mindset here in Vancouver that I saw in San Diego. As I posted when I moved to Vancouver, I thought that YVR is roughly 5-7 years behind some of the other west coast beer cities. In the year that I have been here I have seen that gap close pretty quickly. We’re still behind the curve, but not by nearly as much!
What happened to close the gap? It’s not like new breweries are popping up all over town. The brewery count is pretty much the same as when I got here.
The subtitle for the book is “How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” What are the little things happening in BC?
We are seeing changes in the attitudes of the local brewers as much as anything. We’re seeing a drift away from pedsestrian English Ales and Continental Lagers, to more ‘cutting edge’ craft beer. From Iain Hill’s Oude Bruin to Gary Lohin’s Red Racer IPA, to James Walton and his crazy lambics and experimental beers, to Phillips Brewing and their special releases, Driftwood Brewing releasing more Belgian inspired brews, even Granville Island is moving forward with Vern’s Jolly Abbot. Russell, Tree, Swan’s, Vancouver Island, Crannog, Howe Sound are all brewing outside the box of staid, ‘traditional’ beer.
We are seeing a more dedicated craft beer ‘crowd’. Bloggers, writers, and flat-out beer geeks are taking the craft beer message to the streets. People like Chris Bjerrisgaard, Daniel Knibbs, Rick Green, Chester Carey, Gerry Erith, Nigel Springthorpe and myself, proselytizing and educating the masses on the joy and wonder that is Craft Beer. People like Norm Eng and Adam Henderson scouring the bushes to bring us the best and most unique craft beer that America and the world have to offer.
We’re seeing larger and larger groups of people growing bored with the same old stuff. More people filling the Alibi Room and the Whip. Cask nights popping up all over, even in the suburbs! Restaurants like St. Augustine’s changing their beer menus to strictly craft beer. I was impressed to see so many hardcore beer fans at the CAMRA AGM this past weekend.
We’re staging the Inaugural Vancouver Craft Beer Week from May 10-16, yet another opportunity to educate the masses and make Vancouver a beer destination.
Are any of these small changes the tipping point, or are they an accumulation of ‘little things’ signaling a larger movement towards the epidemic stage?
Are we in the early stages of a craft beer epidemic in BC?
I would have to say Yes, Yes we are! And you know what? That’s a good thing!
Andy The Beerman