The city is about to get drafty as thousands gather to celebrate Vancouver Craft Beer Week.
The third year of the event kicked off May 18 with an opening extravaganza, involving local breweries, and will close next weekend with a sold-out two-day festival on May 25 and 26. During the week, participating breweries will be holding satellite events, from rock shows to pairing dinners.
"We've designed beer week to be accessible to everybody, so we can grow the scene. It's not about being stuffy or snobby," said VCBW marketing director and co-founder Chris Bjerrisgaard.
The craft beer scene is growing. Though the first beer week had no more than 3,000 participants, Bjerrisgaard estimates there will be up to 20,000 this year. The number of local breweries participating has risen from 20 in 2010 to around 40 this year. He credits the increased attendance to the overall rise in popularity of craft beer in Vancouver in the past few years.
"People around me have taken me a lot more seriously," he said. "Not only has our beer scene evolved, but the customer's evolved greatly. They understand greater depth in what beer is and what beer can be."
Walter Cosman is the president of, Steamworks Brewing Company, which is participating in the beer week, a craft beer week could not have been held 10 years ago.
"There wouldn't have been enough following from the public and enough breweries and brewpubs to be involved, but now there is, which is great," said Cosman, who was co-director on the B.C. Craft Brewer's Association from 2006 to 2009.
Steamworks, a 16-year-old brew pub in Gastown and one of the oldest in Vancouver, will have eight regular varieties and two special brews available for the beer week.
One of the features of this year's festival will be the beer week collaboration ale, which this year was created in collaboration with the B.C. Craft Brewer's Association and brewed at Russell Brewing Company in Surrey. Bjerrisgaard described the 2012 variety as a nutty, West Coast take on a traditional English brown ale, with a hoppy twist.
"It'll taste a lot like pine, with roast malts in the background," he said.
Profits made from the collaboration beer sales will go to the Farmland Defense League of B.C., a volunteer organization that works to protect farmland from development.
Last year's collaboration beer, a Cascadian dark ale, raised $1,294 to donate for Japanese tsunami relief.
While Bjerrisgaard doesn't think Vancouver's craft beer scene has caught up the legendary craft industry in Portland, Ore., he believes the city is getting there. He couldn't be happier about the growth of Vancouver Craft Beer Week.
"We joke and say we started as a soccer team, and now we're a business," said Bjerrisgaard.
A full events listing can be found at vancouvercraftbeerweek.com.