UBC Brewing Club stirs up a storm at Hops Connect tournament

File photo Geoff Lister / The Ubyssey

File photo Geoff Lister / The Ubyssey

The UBC Brewing Club began its 2013-14 year in style with the first ever Hops Connect tournament, slated to become an annual brewing competition between UBC and SFU.

The event is a landmark for the club — also known as brUBC — which has grown rapidly since its founding four years ago. “Initially, the club was hard to get rolling because of alcohol and licensing issues,” said president Kerry Dyson. “It was a little like herding cats.” That’s in the past, though, as membership has almost doubled since last year — from 86 to 160 members.

The growth in popularity also reflects a wider trend in the city of Vancouver. Nine new microbreweries have either opened or are scheduled to open in 2013. Deep Cove Brewery in North Vancouver — where the tournament was hosted — is one such facility. Its combination of state-of-the-art equipment and old-world pub feel made it the perfect venue for such an event, according to both SFU and UBC students.

“Ten years ago, you couldn’t walk into a bar in Vancouver and order the types of beer you can now,” said Dyson. “It just wasn’t possible.” If that’s true of the bars, the same certainly applies to the brewing community; flavours of beer at the competition included honey basil, Earl Grey, midnight pumpkin and salted caramel, to name a few. A total of 11 beers were entered by UBC, and 13 by SFU.

Don’t let the exotic names fool you, though; Kerry says they were all easy and cheap to make. “For members, the price of brewed beer averages around $2 a litre.”

Although the Hops Connect cup went to SFU, UBC did win the award for best wheat ale, and tied for best dark ale. Prizes included a 20-litre brewing cask, which Kerry says will be a fine addition to the club’s collection of equipment.

But UBC Brewing doesn’t seem to hold grudges or resentment in the slightest. That’s because both SFU and UBC Brewing stress an atmosphere of camaraderie and collaboration rather than competition. Patrick Warshawski, VP of marketing, says the club is trying to balance its growing membership body while maintaining its signature feel of a tight-knit community. “We meet once a week on Sundays from 3–7, but we’re hoping to expand by organizing more professional workshops and tours.”

As the club grows, the number of opportunities to be actively involved in it have to grow as well.

“Overall, we’re a group of students who appreciate beer and its many benefits,” said Warshawski. “And we hope to have as many students get involved as possible.”

Kerry says the next step is to gain enough clout to have a say in reforming B.C.’s “archaic” liquor laws, such as eliminating the total ban on liquor in parks and beaches and reducing the taxes — and therefore price — imposed on microbreweries. It might be a ways away, but if UBC Brewing can make that happen, they might just become the most popular club on campus.

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