Hopscotch goes beyond whisky and beer
> BY GAIL JOHNSON
When Hopscotch started out in 1995, the craft brewing scene had yet to come to life, and the single-day festival dedicated to whisky and beer featured fewer than three dozen vendors. Along with those beverage industries, the local fest has grown up over the years.
The 2017 fete lasts nearly a full week, wrapping spirits, cider, wine, and cocktails into the mix, and at its signature weekend tasting event plays host to more than 130 exhibitors with about 400 products available for tasting.
Given Vancouverites’ love and knowledge of so many types of artisanal drinks, it’s hard to remember to take over when Barnett was ready and Canapes Catering and Events. the days when the beer selection at to move on to other things. Droski is also a partner in the Deighton most bars and restaurants was limited Bloch met Droski years ago after Cup, an annual gala held at the to a handful of pale-yellow pours. the latter had left Ontario for B.C. in Hastings Racetrack in partnership
“Twenty years ago, beer was 2000 with the intention of completing with the Social Concierge. beer,” says Adam Bloch, Hopscotch a business degree. A musician, The two friends bring different talents executive producer, speaking to the he played in several bands and, along to the table; Bloch, whose dad was Straight on a conference call with with a DJ pal, ended up putting on an accountant, describes himself as associate producer Dax Droski. blowout year-end college parties at the one with the mathematical mind “That’s not the case anymore. There the now-defunct Purple Onion. He who pores over numbers and details; are so many different brands, varieties, went on to start his own events and Droski, who helps companies with flavours, and accents—chocolate, “brand activation” company called branding strategies, is the ideas guy. peach, grapefruit, cinnamon, Parade Agency as well as Cocktails “Sometimes we butt heads,” bacon… On an educational level, the
2 festival gives people an opportunity to really learn what’s out there, and on a micro level, to learn what makes With dozens of satellite events, dinners, and tastings, it can be hard to nail down your road map every one so different.” for the 22nd annual Hopscotch Festival of Whisky, Beer and Spirits. Here are a few suggestions
Adds Droski: “Hopscotch is to pare down your options. known for being Scotch- and beerfocused, and whisky is very much GRAND TASTING HALL (November 24 and 25 at the PNE Forum) Hopscotch’s premier the event’s anchor, but we’ve gone in experience, this is a fest within a fest. Alongside live music and plentiful food options, look for hundreds the direction of adding other spirits of products to experience, from makers like 4 Mile Brewing Co., Aslan Brewing Co./maui Brewing Co., because people want to try a number Auchentoshan (whisky), Bench 1775 Winery, Bridge Brewing, Forty Creek Distillery, Glendalough, Glenfarclas, of different artisan products. On the Indigenous World Winery, Merridale Cidery and Distillery, Ole Smoky Moonshine, Red Racer, educational side, people have the opportunity Woodford Reserve (bourbon), and many, many more. to try products that they may never pick up on their own. It’s a festival of libations.”
While Bloch and Droski are running the popular fest together for the first time this year, neither is new to putting on massive, successful, funfuelled events. Bloch’s involvement in Hopscotch, in fact, goes back well over a decade, to when it was being helmed by Dave Barnett. Bloch— who had moved to Vancouver from Toronto, where he finished an economics degree, via Los Angeles, where he had pursued acting—had met Barnett at the Media Club, and the two became fast friends. Having started producing events to make money to support his film work here, Bloch, eager to be part of Hopscotch, helped get the word out by handing out flyers. As time went by, he started doing more and more, so it only made sense for him
Where to start at the 22nd annual Hopscotch Festival WOMEN AND WHISKY > GAIL JOHNSON
Corner, the Rose Garden (wine), Spirits of the Globe, and Craft Cocktails, for instance. Each will have a different feel, too; look for live music at the beer section by jazz-funk band Electric Monks and a more mellow vibe where spirits are being sampled.
There’s also a strong focus on B.C. products, including the tasting hall’s Local: B.C. Craft Beer Pavilion presented by the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild. “We really wanted to emphasize the local aspect,” Bloch says. “There are so many amazing B.C. breweries; they definitely needed their own space.”
Then there is the tasting hall’s food. Look for Pawn Shop’s tacos, Dixie’s BBQ brisket, and BKH jerky and Singaporean short ribs, and bites from La Pentola, Steel Toad Brewing, and other eateries. There will also be a hotdog showdown that will see Juno Kim, a creator of successful pop-up restaurants, face off against other local chefs.
“We really wanted to up the restaurant game this year,” Droski says. “We’ve changed it up and really taken it up to a whole new level.”
While the substance is there, the new Hopscotch doesn’t forgo style, either. The fest outgrew its original digs at the Rocky Mountaineer Station, having moved the Grand Tasting Hall to the PNE Forum. However, the two overseers say the venue will be entirely unrecognizable once people step inside. Think magnificent, tall drapery and just the right lighting, the latter being provided by Atomic2 Lighting, which works with major film companies.
In addition to Hopscotch’s Grand Tasting Hall (for which about 3,000 attendees are expected each evening) the fest features dozens of other events, including master classes and dinners. (See sidebar.) And despite the festival’s firm focus on alcohol, it’s not intended as a place for public drunkenness. The PNE has easy access to public transit, Bloch notes, and Hopscotch is hoping to once again be part of the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch’s Get Home Safe program. “Our number one priority is safety,” Bloch says. “You shouldn’t drink and drive, and it’s not a festival to come and get drunk.”
Holding the fest in their hands for the first time, Bloch and Droski couldn’t be more excited about what’s to come.
“There’s such a buzz about the festival,” Droski says. “Consumer palates have completely changed, and people want to learn about what they’re drinking.”
The Hopscotch Festival of Whisky, Beer and Spirits takes place November 20 to 26 at various Vancouver venues.
Liberty Distillery’s Robert and Lisa Simpson make Trust Whiskey Single Grain and Single Cask Madeira from B.c.-grown organic barley. Amanda Siebert photo.