SURREY — Craft beer culture is growing in the Fraser Valley, so much so that CAMRA BC has decided to open a South Fraser branch.
CAMRA, which stands for the Campaign for Real Ale Society, promotes and encourages responsible consumption of natural, craft beers.
Previously, its members south of the Fraser River were represented by CAMRA Vancouver, but beer makers and lovers now have a local branch.
Big Ridge Brewing Company brewmaster Nick Bolton said it's fantastic that a local CAMRA branch has been established and said it certainly fills a demand.
"It's awesome to see the support coming from CAMRA for Surrey and this area. Surrey is the fastest growing municipality in B.C. right now and now we're getting the support of the craft beer industry out here."
Bolton thinks the region will see a lot more craft beer events now that CAMRA has started a local branch.
"I think there will also be a lot more knowledge about the craft beer industry. It's not just a Vancouver thing anymore," Bolton said.
President of the new South Fraser branch and Surrey resident Mike Willis said he couldn't be happier to be able to better represent the region and its craft beer consumers.
"Seeing the growing interest in craft beer in the South Fraser, we saw an opportunity to further develop the region's beer culture by establishing a new CAMRA BC branch," Willis said. "As part of a provincial group, we will give our residents a greater voice in consumer affairs."
Willis said CAMRA Vancouver is leading the way with liquor policy review and the group wants to give its South Fraser residents, organizations and corporate supporters a voice.
Last Saturday, the provincial government launched the public phase of its liquor review online. CAMRA BC says it is the only organization representing beer consumers in the review. Members are set to meet with the ministry on Sept. 24 and the group plans to discuss discretionary pricing, legal parity for all liquor, allowing farmers' market sales and tastings, creating a craft beer listing similar to wine, as well as reforming and modernizing regulations and policies surrounding special occasion licensing.
Willis said beyond provincial matters, he would personally like to see improved transit for the South Fraser, which would help support CAMRA's impaired driving policy. Members are committed to never driving while impaired, he said.
"We don't want people jumping behind the wheels (when intoxicated) and I think that's an important mission for us," Willis said.
He also hopes to see a craft beer festival in Surrey or White Rock, throwing out Holland Park or White Rock beach as ideal locations.
Developing the craft beer culture in the region is important, Willis said.
"Being a resident of Surrey, going to an Indian restaurant for example, there's often not a good variety of craft beer. An IPA pairs perfectly with a bowl of butter chicken," he said. "I had a bit of a dispute recently with a restaurant manager when I was having lunch with my girlfriend. We inquired about an IPA and they didn't know what it was. We want to reach out to our existing corporate supporters, but we also want them to reach out to other people to expand where craft beer resides in the region."
CAMRA South Fraser is throwing a launch party this Saturday (Sept. 21) at Big Ridge Brewing Company, in co-ordination with the Big Ridge Brewing Summers End Cask Fest.
"I'm really fired up about the event. We're going to have a booth, introduce ourselves and hear people's concerns, questions about local issues and liquor policy," Willis said.
In co-ordination with the event, CAMRA South Fraser will be selling raffle prize tickets, the proceeds of which will go to Children's Charity of B.C. The event will kick off at 3 p.m. and will go until about 7 p.m. - or until the casks run out. For more information, visit camrabc.ca.
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