Craft can mean many different things – and especially in the creative province of British Columbia! We are celebrating the craft of both beer and design at our fundraiser on Saturday November 5, Celebrate Craft…Beer! This fundraiser plays host to 18 local BC breweries, and a host of local artists and artisans displaying proudly that BC is the perfect place for craft of all kinds in Canada!
I met with Mike Sharpham, a self-proclaimed craft beer enthusiast and Beer Merchant of Granville Island Brewing, and Olympia Komianos, a talented local goldsmith & CCBC member, to discuss what they mean by craft.
CD: The craft beer scene in British Columbia has a great community feel. Most of the craft breweries seem to know and work well with each other.
MS: It’s a good industry. Most of the brewmasters know each other. Our brewmaster Kevin went to school with Clay from Moon Under Water who’s on [Vancouver] island, he’s worked with a ton of different brewers. It’s a very tight community.
OK: I feel that it’s a very young community, from what I’ve seen so far.
MS: Not all of them, but it is capturing a younger generation. There are brewmasters of all ages, and different levels of experience. There are so many breweries these days – we went from 3 breweries that you could buy beer from in BC (when we opened in 1984), in the late 70s/early 80s, and we’re now at over 100, I think around 120 breweries in BC. So over the last 30 years we’ve grown!
OK: It’s not the same in goldsmithing, you see a lot of old school, and everybody new is doing casting. They’re getting to the product faster and easier with casting. With Jurgen [Schonheit], who I mentor under right here at Forge & Form, he’s like “No, No, No…I don’t want you to do casting, you are going to take that piece of metal and you are going to form it into what you want”. He’s very strict!
Olympia started her craft after moving to BC from Calgary, she decided to take a silversmithing course – all because it sounded like fun! A huge change from her previous job as an executive assistant, Olympia took on this challenge and it soon turned into a life’s passion. She honed her amazing talent and now is a self-taught goldsmith that hand forges every step of her work. Based in Fort Langley, she embodies the BC spirit of craft whilst also teaching yoga and contributing further to the craft scene as a board member of Portobello West.
CD: Was that the main reason for you to decide to hand forge your work?
OK: No, actually he designed our wedding bands and I was his first raw tension diamond customer 15 years ago! I would buy my silver ready – silver rods and silver sheets – and I would form it and make it into pieces, but then he kept saying to me “no, no we’re going to melt silver coins and turn them into ingots and then it’s your silver. Now you can make it into whatever you want. You want a sheet – then we can take that little square and roll it out, hammer it out and use your muscles, use your brain, and I want you to make mistakes”. So I do make mistakes, because if you do it perfectly every single time you won’t know what not to do if something goes wrong!
CD: Mike, have you always had a passion for working in the craft beer industry?
MS: Beer is a very interesting beverage and so just changing the aspects of 4 different ingredients you can really affect different styles of beers, and different variations on those styles. Everyone has their own approach. For example, there’s some old school guys who are very particular about their yeast. Yeast is super important to beer, and a lot of the time it’s sort of glossed over, there are some brewers who are very dedicated to and concerned about the yeast health and how the yeast strains are being used. Then there are other brewers who just use standard yeast strains and focus on other ingredients. Hops have been super popular over the last 5 years – but each brewer has their own approach to it, and their own history and experience. They want to do different things and they like different styles of beer. So it’s great having so many different brewers around these days – to try all the different styles. The growth of craft is great – everyone wants something different, and now we’re getting access to all those different things.
CD: It’s similar in the fine craft world – it’s great that people can work closely with the artists. Customers can have more of an input into what they’re buying, rather than mass-produced lines of product which they have had no input into to the making process.
MS: The aspects of mass production is part of what gave rise to the craft movement. In 1842, the first modern lager was brewed – Pilsner. Prior to that lagers were being brewed but they were quite different from what we see in a lager today. And so that was really the first lager style and it caught like wildfire and it became popular throughout Europe. German influence came to North America, and that style travelled here and that light, crisp amber style became dominant. The problem was, that it became so popular and it happened at a time when a lot of conglomeration between breweries was happening so it became the only style available. There were a few other styles of beer on the market, but those pale light American lagers would be all you’d be able to find. It’s a great beer style, but when it’s the only beer style it gets a little boring. And so that’s where the craft brewery movement in North America came from. It started with home brewing, grew into microbreweries, cottage breweries and it’s been growing since then over the last 30-40 years (depending on where you are). But it’s essentially rediscovering old styles that haven’t been brewed in North America for the last 100 years or so, just due to the popularity of the modern lager.