Covering over 6,000 years of beer in less than 60 minutes might be a task only the Thirsty Writer — otherwise known as Joe Wiebe — can tackle.
Wiebe, author of Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider’s Guide to B.C. Breweries, and multi-year judge at Penticton’s Fest of Ale is back in the South Okanagan April 12 with another one of his informative, entertaining and tasty presentations
“It’s kind of tongue and cheek, the history of beer in 59 minutes. Beer dates back thousands of years, definitely 6,000 years. The earliest beer recipe found was carved into a Sumerian tablet from 6,000 years ago. I’m sure beer was produced even before that but there’s no proof of it,” he said during an interview from his home in Victoria.
Wiebe said some historians believe early nomadic people chose certain areas to settle down in based on the ability to grow grains, which led to villages, towns and eventually cities being built.
“That means beer created civilizations,” he said with a laugh.
Wiebe said he wouldn’t be able to dwell too long on any one time period but said the presentation will include the evolution of craft beer production specifically in B.C.
At one time he could boast he’d visited every craft beer establishment and tried every craft beer in the province but the boom in the industry in recent years means he’s got a lot of travelling and drinking to do.
“At one point I could say I’ve been to every one and tried everything. But 100 breweries have opened in the last five years in B.C. and I just can’t get to all of them. I haven’t been to any above Kamloops but I hope to get there,” he said.
Wiebe said there are several factors as to why the craft beer market is expanding at such a rapid rate.
“I’ve explored this a lot in seminars. One major reason is that in 2013, the rules changed and allowed them to open their own tasting rooms. Before that, people weren’t really allowed around and hang out. Tasting lounges changed the whole vibe. Think about what the Cannery has now, it’s like a restaurant.”
He said 80 to 90 per cent of craft brewing operations are now focused on the tasting room experience pairing great food, entertainment and making craft beer an experience, not just something a person drinks.
“It really evolved the culture from ordering pitchers and not really caring what it tasted like to a culture of taste and sampling. That tasting culture is what’s really exciting to me,” he said.
And that love of tasting has paid off.
For about the last six years, Wiebe has been one of Fest of Ale’s expert judges.
“It is hard. You get small quantities of a bunch of beers and you have to be really focused. I usually have to go have a nap or something. It’s a lot of fun.”
For those looking to kick-off their Fest of Ale celebrations a day early tickets for Wiebe’s presentation The History of Beer… in 59 minutes are available at Bad Tattoo Brewing. Tickets are $25 for the presentation or $45 for the presentation and an autographed copy of Craft Beer Revolution.
The presentation starts at 7 p.m. and includes several tastings.