Friday, August 29, 2014

A Visit to Sartori Hop Farm

This past Saturday, the Sartori Hop Farm had their first open house for the public. They served up a great BBQ and a tour of their facilities. The Sartori family have been growing hops in the beautiful and mountainous area of Lindell Beach, BC (just past Cultas Lake) since 2009.

We walked through their hop farm and I counted 158 plants in one row. Times that by twelve acres of land and you have a bustling hop farm that’s in its prime just as hop shortages are being felt in the industry. The Sartori’s have a working farm with goats and cows and I understand that they sold the pigs to make way for the hop farm. They grow six varieties of hops – Centennial, Magnum, Nugget, Newport, Sterling and Willamette and from this they provide wet hops (Sept 1 – 15), dry and pelleted hops, which are all produced on their property.

No, not my hand

I asked Nick Sartori how they know when to pick as we’ve been given various advice on our own tiny little four-plant backyard hop farmette. Here’s the trade secret. Ready? Find the seed and squish it on your nail. It starts out as a liquid, as the hop matures it turns white and when it’s ready to pick, it’s a paste. I tried to find the seed on our Cascade and it was hiding but I’ll keep trying. It looked easy when Nick did it.

Harvesting is a labour intensive and time-sensitive process. It seems that the Sartori’s have it down to a science now as seven people do their entire harvest over a fifteen day period beginning September 1. Three to four rows of hops are processed each day. The bines are cut at the top, accessed by a cool home-made modified tractor/bucket contraption, and quickly taken to the processing area.


Bine chopping bucket
Their hop stripping machine is from Hallertau, Germany and it was so big, it didn’t fit in the shipping container. The monster was cut in half and re-welded at the farm.

Chris Sartori guided our tour and explained how the machine likes the moisture in the morning and to accommodate for the drier conditions in the afternoon, they added a fogger. I like the ingenuity that the Sartoris have – they keep trying to perfect their process each day, each crop. One year they lost part of their crop to aphids but still processed the hops just for practice (these didn’t go to the market).

Bines are fed from here
The hop stripping machine uses its fingers to guide the bines through while it strips the hops and leaves. The hops drop down while large fans suck in the leaves and hardly a leaf ever gets past this stage but they have someone checking before the hops continue. The hops then proceed up the conveyer to the propane fired dryer.

The monster machine in action
 
After drying, the hops are baled until ready to pellet. They have their own pelletizer and carefully monitor the moisture content. Chris commented how they don’t wish to speed up their process as you lose moisture and quality – as some of the bigger US hop producers likely do. Once pelletized, the pellets are cooled and then bagged and put in a cooler until sale.

Sterling hops pelletized
 

You can see the pride the entire Sartori family has in their hop growing and final product. It’s a labour of love, dedication and fine-tuning. It’s great to see local breweries using the Sartori hops and whereas in the past they supplied to Molson, this is no longer the case. The local craft breweries should be jumping at the chance to purchase their wet, dry and pelletized hops. I, for one, am looking forward to enjoying their hops in my beer this fall.

Bessy giving me the stink eye

Friday, August 22, 2014

BC Place Needs Craft Beer - Open Letter to Whitecaps, BC Lions, Centerplate

August 21, 2014

Michael Baker, Centerplate Catering General Manage
Ryan Whitman, Manager Fan Services Vancouver, Whitecaps
George Chayka, VP Business, BC Lions

Re: Craft Beer at BC Place

As residents of British Columbia, you are likely aware of the growing popularity of craft beer. There are currently over 70 craft breweries/brew pubs in BC and by year end, this number is slated to be closer to 90. Market share for craft has more than doubled in the past four years from 9% of all beer sales in 2009 to 19% in 2013 – this equates to economic growth from $84M to $174M.

According to the Liquor Distribution branch, the figures for the year ended June 30, 2014 shows large breweries’ sales declined for the third straight year whereas microbreweries’ sales shot up 43.4%. These small domestic breweries, which produce up to 1.5 million litres annually, generated $67.4 million in this period; which is an increase of $20.4 million from the preceding year. This growth was stronger than any other alcohol category and these numbers clearly demonstrate that many BC residents prefer craft beer and elect to frequent and support establishments who offer these choices.

Many consumers choose craft beer to support the local breweries/economy and they prefer the freshness, flavour and quality of craft over mass-produced beer. These same consumers often dislike the macro offerings, such as the ones offered in your arena, and would prefer to abstain from drinking at a game/event rather than drinking a beer they do not enjoy. As intelligent business executives, I don’t need to point out that this means lost revenue to your organization.

Your web site indicates that each year over one million guests visit BC Place for football, soccer, concerts, trade shows and other events. Most of these events have Centerplate catering offered however the financial estimates on the next page are focused on the sports events and minimal concerts/other events.
  • Using the average attendance for Whitecaps and Lions games
  • The craft beer drinking population in Vancouver is larger than 5%, as the market share numbers show above, however we will use this as a conservative figure
  • Estimate that these fans would have drank two beers each
  • At $8/beer, the estimated lost revenue is $690,840

Increase any of those multiples and your revenue and gross profits continue to decline.


Whitecaps Ave. Capacity

    20,907

       20,907

Number of Games
18
  376,326
18
     376,326

BC Lions Ave. Capacity

    24,786

       24,786

Number of Games
10
  247,860
10
     247,860

Maximum Capacity

     59,841

        59,841

Other Events*
4
  239,364
8
      478,728

Craft Beer Drinkers
5%
    43,178
5%
        55,146

Beers per person
2
    86,355
3
      165,437

Price per beer
$8
$690,840
$8
 $1,323,496
Total Lost Revenue
* Heritage Classic, 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, concerts

It is common knowledge that BC Place has a large exclusivity contract which may hinder the ability to allow other breweries to supply to BC Place. In most US jurisdictions, this practice is illegal as it does not provide fair competition to breweries who cannot afford to pay millions of dollars to have the right to provide beer. The practice may be legal in BC but it feels immoral - especially when you share the same neighbourhood with some of these breweries. The BC Lions and Whitecaps organizations have always been supportive of our local communities and by promoting local craft breweries at the stadium, you would be supporting the craft beer industry, the people they employ and the overall local economy.

Many sports venues in the US have successfully integrated craft beer into their offerings including Centerplate managed Safeco Field who, as you likely know, have served craft beer since it opened in 1999. As Steve Dominguez, General Manager at Centerplate indicated to me, “the Mariners are about pleasing their guests and craft beer is so popular, local centric and provides variety.” Seventy percent of the beer offered at Safeco is craft and it outsells domestic 4:1 - in 2013 they sold roughly 11,000 1/2 barrels. Steve advised that sponsorship doesn’t dictate what they make available to their fans but they are cognizant of their official sponsors (MillerCoors, Pyramid) and thus, do not advertise the other breweries.

Safeco has a number of portable beer stations and can offer their fans variety with both macro and craft offerings. I’ve attached the Safeco Field Draft Beer list to give you an idea of how they distribute the multiple brands throughout the stadium. Portable craft beer stations could be an effective way to offer beer variety in addition to selling at the food venues. Your colleagues at Safeco could easily assist with the design and economic model to successfully integrate craft beer into BC Place.

As most of our craft breweries are small, engaging only the breweries who could potentially supply large quantities of kegs would exclude most of the local breweries. Allowing multiple local breweries to sell their beer at BC Place provides variety for the fans and puts less onus on each brewery with respect to supplying kegs.

Lastly, you may be aware of a petition I led to show our local sporting venues that their fans want a craft beer option. I’ve attached the list of 464 signatures as well as their comments.

I thank you in advance for your consideration. If you’d like further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Respectfully,

Lynn McIlwee
Sports Fan and Craft Beer Enthusiast

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Home Brewing - I Need a Translator

There’s a reason why books like Brewing for Dummies exist – because people like me know nothing about brewing. We should have bought this book. Sure, I had a quick lesson in brewing during the Serious Beer course I took and we brewed a beer recently with our friend Simon, but that didn’t prepare us for all of the questions we’d have. Thankfully, I have a number of home brewer contacts, and Simon’s cell number, and could ask my dumb questions.

First off, brewing is intimidating. The home brewing scene in Vancouver is pretty mature and I clearly hang out with the wrong people as they’re all very experienced and talk absolute gibberish. I haven’t a clue what they’re talking about when they mention crystal (meth?), roach (more drugs), forcing carb (potato feast?), rousing (assuming this means waking something up), pitching two smack packs of 1056 (gee, drugs again?) and other technical garb. Hence, intimidated.

My husband and I talked about brewing for about a year, mostly because we’re into year two of growing hops, but we didn’t take the plunge. We finally decided that we should get in a couple of batches before our hops harvest so we don’t completely screw up a beer with our homegrown babies.

So off to Dan’s Home Brewing we go. However, on the way, we stopped in to see a friend and he lent us his home brewing equipment. Seriously. He hasn’t brewed in a couple of years and as he’s starting up his own brewery, he doesn’t expect to use his equipment anytime soon. How cool is he? We only had to buy minimal supplies at Dan’s and picked up our yeast, hops and malt.

We decided to make a simple (hahaha) malt extract pale ale as our first batch. We used Beersmith to get a recipe, the Cincinnati Pale Ale, and fired up the gas portable burner in the backyard. Keeping the dogs away from the burner was the most challenging part of this exercise – you just let it boil and do its thing. The dumb recipe didn’t tell us what temperature to keep the boil at so this started the winging-it portion of the brewing process. Boil, baby.

Chilling the wort with a 50' copper pipe

Things got more complicated at this point. We forgot to put the cheesecloth in the strainer when pouring the boiling pot into the bucket. Yeah, when we filled the carboy, she looked a little green. Luckily the hops settled at the bottom and it wasn’t an issue in the end.

Picking a pale ale probably wasn’t the best beer to brew in the middle of a heat wave as we had to keep it at 67° F. We live at sea level so there are no basements or crawl spaces in our hood. The carboy found a home for the next two weeks in the laundry tub in a bath of water and ice packs. Those ice packs were swapped out twice a day to try to keep the temperature at 67°. The digital thermometer in the water keep us informed of the temperature but it did fluctuate between 64° - 70°F. Hopefully that didn’t screw it up.

In da tub fermenting away

Luckily, another home brewer friend mentioned that we should put a towel over the carboy to keep the light out. You don’t want skunky light-struck beer. Crisis number two averted.

We bottled it on Aug 17th and almost screwed that up too. I tweeted about bottling and one of the responses I had was about the priming sugar. Ummm what? Yeah, had we actually read our brewing book, we might have figured this out. The book we have, How to Brew by John Palmer, is a great book but not one for first time brewers who don’t already know the process. So when we did look up bottling, “cool the sugar” isn’t descriptive enough for me. Cool to room temperature? Cool to fermentation temperature? I NEED DETAILS! We chose to cool to close to the fermentation temperature.

Transferring into the sugar/water concoction
 
Cleaning and sanitizing take up a lot of time during brewing, bottling and clean-up after each process. And you don’t want to slack off in this area or you could infect your beer and end up tossing it. Put on those rubber gloves and clean, clean, clean.

We tried our beer (as did Murphy), pre carbonated (that’s what the sugar was for!) and it tasted like beer. Phew. A very boring, low-hopped pale ale, but it was beer. Murphy’s Pale Ale is now bottled and is back in the laundry tub to stay at 65°F for up to a month. I think we need more fridges…

Murphy approved but then again, she eats grass

Will report back when we try the beer in a month. We plan on brewing a saison next, to take advantage of the hotter temperatures it needs to ferment.  I wonder what we’ll screw up this time. Brewing and screwing up seem to go hand-in-hand and is part of learning. I’m glad we have some brewer friends who gave advice and didn’t laugh at us. You home brewers that know what you’re doing are amazing and frighten me. One day I might understand your lingo.




Monday, August 18, 2014

Rogers Arena Needs Craft Beer: Open Letter to Trevor Linden

November 11, 2014 UPDATE
Rogers Arena, under the guidance of Jay Jones, Director of Wine & Beverage, installed local craft beer in two newly renovated areas near section 101 and 301. On November 11, they debuted three taps dedicated to local craft including Central City Red Racer IPA, Parallel 49 Gypsy Tears and Red Truck Lager.

I know which sections I’ll be buying my beer from on game days – hopefully many people will and more taps will be added as consumer demand warrants. Go Canucks Go! (and go craft beer – woo hoo!). 

_______________________________________________________________________________


August 18, 2014

Trevor Linden
President of Hockey Operations
Vancouver Canucks

Canucks Sports & Entertainment
800 Griffiths Way

Vancouver, BC   V6B 6G1

Re: Craft Beer at Rogers Arena

Recently, you have indicated that Canucks Sports & Entertainment are looking into the possibility of bringing craft beer to Rogers Arena. In the event you need further evidence that your hockey fans would like this option, I offer the following.

As a resident of British Columbia, you are likely aware of the growing popularity of craft beer. There are currently over 70 craft breweries/brew pubs in BC and by year end, this number is slated to be closer to 90. Market share for craft has more than doubled in the past four years from 9% of all beer sales in 2009 to 19% in 2013 – this equates to economic growth from $84M to $174M.

According to the Liquor Distribution branch, the figures for the year ended June 30, 2014 shows large breweries’ sales declined for the third straight year whereas microbreweries’ sales shot up 43.4%. These small domestic breweries, which produce up to 1.5 million litres annually, generated $67.4 million in this period; which is an increase of $20.4 million from the preceding year. This growth was stronger than any other alcohol category and these numbers clearly demonstrate that many BC residents prefer craft beer and elect to frequent and support establishments who offer these choices.

Many consumers choose craft beer to support the local breweries/economy and they prefer the freshness, flavour and quality of craft over mass-produced beer. These same consumers often dislike the macro offerings, such as the ones offered in your arena, and would prefer to abstain from drinking at a game/event rather than drinking a beer they do not enjoy. As an intelligent business executive, I don’t need to point out that this means lost revenue to your organization.

In the past twelve months, there have been 34 concerts/events and 45 hockey games at Rogers Arena. Let’s do some math - some very conservative math.

·         Your capacity is 18,630 but we’ll estimate 80% capacity and use 14,904
·         The craft beer drinking population in Vancouver is larger than 5%, as the market share numbers show above, but again, let’s be conservative
·         Estimate that these 745 people would have drank two beers each
·         With 79 events and $9/beer, the estimated lost revenue is $1,059,674.40

Increase any of those multiples and your revenue and gross profits continue to decline.


Full Capacity
   18,630
  18,630
Capacity
80%
  14,904
90%
  16,767
Craft Beer Drinkers
5%
       745
5%
       838
Beers per person
2
    1,490
2
    1,677
Number of Events*
79
117,742
91
152,580
beers purchased
Price per beer
$9
$1,059,674.40
$9
$1,373,217.30
Total Lost Revenue
* 79 events last 12 months - no concerts in July 2014, no playoffs

It is common knowledge that Rogers Arena has a large exclusivity contract which may hinder the ability to allow other breweries to supply to Rogers Arena. In most US jurisdictions, this practice is illegal as it does not provide fair competition to breweries who cannot afford to pay millions of dollars to have the right to provide beer. The practice may be legal in BC but it feels immoral - especially when you share the same neighbourhood with some of these breweries. The Canucks organization has always been supportive of our local communities and by promoting local craft breweries at the arena, you would be supporting the growing craft beer industry, the people they employ and the overall local economy.

Many sports venues in the US have successfully integrated craft beer into their offerings including Safeco Field who have served craft beer since it opened in 1999. As Steve Dominguez, General Manager at Centerplate indicated to me, “the Mariners are about pleasing their guests and craft beer is so popular, local centric and provides variety.” Seventy percent of the beer offered at Safeco is craft and it outsells domestic 4:1 - in 2013 they sold roughly 11,000 1/2 barrels. Steve advised that sponsorship doesn’t dictate what they make available to their fans but they are cognizant of their official sponsors (MillerCoors, Pyramid) and thus, do not advertise the other breweries.

Safeco has a number of portable beer stations and can offer their fans variety with both macro and craft offerings. I’ve attached the Safeco Field Draft Beer list to give you an idea of how they distribute the multiple brands throughout the stadium. Rogers Arena is obviously a much smaller scale than Safeco however; the portable stations could be an effective way to offer beer variety in addition to selling at the food venues.

As most of our craft breweries are small, engaging only the breweries who could potentially supply large quantities of kegs would exclude most of the local breweries. Allowing multiple local breweries to sell their beer at Rogers Arena provides variety for the fans and puts less onus on each brewery with respect to supplying kegs.

Lastly, you may be aware of a petition I led to show our local sporting venues that their fans want a craft beer option. I’ve attached the list of 464 signatures as well as their comments.

I thank you in advance for your consideration. If you’d like further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Respectfully,


Lynn McIlwee
Canucks Fan and Craft Beer Enthusiast