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Writer catches the cusp of a revolution

Victoria-based author launches his new book, Craft Beer Revolution
Joe Wiebe launches his first book

The glass is half full for beer writer Joe Wiebe.

This week, the Victoria-based author is launching his new book, Craft Beer Revolution, which documents B.C.’s craft brewing movement from the early 1980s to present day.

Wiebe spent some of his formative years during the 1990s working at the Belfry Theatre before he turned to penning stories for money.

He loved beer – “who didn’t?” he said – but was skeptical he could make a go as a beer writer. He had a taste for selling beer stories, including a piece on Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub in the short-lived national men’s magazine Toro.

His lightbulb moment came in 2008.

Wiebe was on a trip to California to write about wine for a magazine, a walking trip with a dozen other wine writers through the Sonoma County vineyards.

“By the second night they staged an intervention. They said, ‘all you talk about is beer, you should be writing about beer,’” Wiebe said.

“It lit the spark in my head. (I thought), ‘Okay, maybe there is a way to do it.’ I kind of scoffed at it, but then went with it.”

He was in the right place at the right time.

As he put feelers out for stories, so too did editors looking to capitalize on the budding beer trend.

The revolution of microbrewing in B.C. started in 1982 with the now defunct Horseshoe Bay Brewing, and in Victoria when Paul Hadfield started Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub in 1984.

Victoria is a hotbed for craft breweries, as is Vancouver, all part of the world famous Pacific Northwest brewing scene.

And the movement is continuing to grow with Wiebe riding the wave.

“I have to laugh,” he said. “If I knew as a 21 year old, moving to Victoria from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., that I’d be publishing a book on beer, the 21-year-old me would’ve been pretty happy.”

There are 50 craft breweries in B.C. with 12 more set to open in 2013 and early 2014. And Wiebe has met the owners and brew masters for most of them.

Well-known in the Victoria and Vancouver brewing community, Wiebe left his wife and child behind in the name of beer last summer, a “2,500-kilometre odyssey” to visit the dozen or so breweries and brewpubs he hadn’t yet reached.

“It was an amazing experience to meet so many great people working at local breweries who have helped increase the profile of craft beer in smaller communities.”

As much as the craft beer industry is alive and thriving, Wiebe’s book was nearly shelved. While working on revisions in October, Wiebe received notice his publisher, Douglas & MacIntyre, was in bankruptcy protection.

Harbour Publishing bought D&M in January and the book was back on schedule.

Wiebe is holding book launches for Craft Beer Revolution at brewpubs across B.C., beginning with Spinnakers today (May 29) at 7 p.m. He will speak about the book and the movement in general, while Spinnakers has brewed a cask-conditioned beer just for the event. Buy a book and you get a beer.

Craft Beer Revolution is available at Chapter’s, Bolen’s, Munro’s and other bookstores, as well as Spinnakers and other breweries and brewpubs.

Did you know?

Craft Beer Revolution profiles every craft brewery in B.C., along with tasting notes of more than 100 beers.

You could drink a different B.C. beer every day of the year and still not get through all of them.

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