The second BC Hop Fest finished up on Saturday, October 1st and in such style. The organizers truly set a benchmark for Fraser Valley beer festivals.
The first BC Hop Fest in 2015 was a load of fun. It was relatively small both in terms of breweries and attendees, but the theme and the setting were bang on making for a great festival. In 2016, the number of breweries doubled and I’m fairly sure the attendance did as well. In spite of the growth, it still felt like a small and fairly intimate beer festival, which lent to its charm.
Live music, food trucks, brewery-branded tents sheltering jockey boxes, staff, and volunteers from the rain – in many ways this festival is not much different from any other. Booths still accepted tokens, there were occasional queues for outhouses, you were still served beer in branded tasting glasses, so in many simple ways there wasn’t much difference from most other beer festivals.
And yet BC Hop Fest it is unique.
For starters, the location on the BC Hop Company farm is fantastic and gives everyone the opportunity to walk among the hops. A number of breweries brought beer to the festival that was brewed using hops directly from the farm. Many realized they should try next year to determine precisely which row their hops came from to hyper-localize their brews even further!
Another special part of the festival is the kind of beer that’s on offer. Similar to Farmhouse Fest, BC Hop Fest is focussed on a particular style of beer: namely, the fresh-hopped one. Every brewery brought a beer that was made with fresh hops. While in the past fresh hop season typically meant a dearth of IPAs, BC Hop Fest aimed to change that in their own way. This year every brewery brought a beer that was made with fresh hops, be it a Session IPA, an ESB, a Red Ale, an IPA or another style. But beyond that, breweries were also encouraged to bring some of their other beers too, thus Central City brought a keg of their Sour III Framboise, prior to its public release in bottles; Ravens Brewing brought some of their Dark Mild, and Steamworks brought some of their new Flagship IPA.
And the live music was excellent too. There were definitely a few times that one of the bands was playing covers so close to the originals I actually caught myself wondering if Elle King was on stage…
Probably the best bit was the VIP pass. It was a bit more expensive than the regular ticket but a move toward a punch card made getting that next beer so much easier to obtain. The punch card included about 15 beers, making the extra cost worthwhile for that alone. There was also a VIP tent with some charcuterie and other snacks (and in this year’s case, an opportunity to get out of the rain when the occasional deluge rolled across the prairie).
Rain or shine, this festival is well worth your time. If you weren’t able to make it this year, be sure to make the trip out to Abbotsford next time BC Hop Fest comes around.