CAMRA Vancouver

A Look at “What’s Brewing”

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A Look at “What’s Brewing”

Let’s look back to the early 2000s, before our current Vancouver branch was even in existence. Paul Morris, Lundy Dale, and a few others would meet regularly at a coffee shop (!) in Steveston as part of the Richmond Branch of CAMRA BC. Paul recalls, “The Lower Mainland scene, in terms of craft beer outlets, was dontown Vancouver. Monthly cask nights had started at DIX in July 2002 and there were a bunch of regulars turning up every time. I suggested to Lundy, why don’t we form a Vancouver branch?”



Way back in 1986, after he first came to Canada from England, Paul had attempted to join a previous iteration of CAMRA BC but the organization wasn’t stable and folded around that same time. He hadn’t heard about the rebirth of CAMRA British Columbia (over in Victoria in 1990) for many years after that. But once he did, he knew that they should get a branch started in Vancouver, and that is exactly what they did. “Because I am better as right hand man, I persuaded Lundy to be President, and I was the first Vice-President,” he says.

The group, still meeting at DIX, was composed of about 25 people for a number of years. As they began to share local news and updates in the CAMRA BC newsletter, so commenced Paul’s relationship with What’s Brewing. Under the pseudonym “J. Random” Paul submitted a regular column entitled Ullage and Spillage (named after two of the most valueless portions of the cask—the empty space within it, and the liquid that hits the floor and cannot be sold or drunk). “My first articles for What’s Brewing were basically reporting on what CAMRA Vancouver was doing” says Paul. However they evolved into more general commentary on the craft beer scene in BC.

Paul continued to write for What’s Brewing for over a decade, and was sorely disappointed when publication ceased in 2014. Quietly, he was hoping to see it reborn. Enter Dave Smith.



Dave’s CAMRA story begins when, after discovering craft beer five years earlier, he finally attended Great Canadian Beer Festival 2003 and stopped by a booth manned by the Victoria Branch. He attempted to join CAMRA Victoria shortly thereafter, but as a mainlander was swiftly redirected to the new Vancouver Branch instead. Soon after that time local membership really began to take off. “Between 2005 to 2010, with the CAMRA Van executive championing craft beer in Vancouver, there was a surge in interest and we suddenly had a huge group” Dave explains. “Craft beer culture had been well established in Victoria by the 1990s, and now 20 years later Vancouver has its own solidly entrenched craft beer culture”.

Dave’s focus began with breweriana collecting and craft beer tourism. The latter point is how he came to What’s Brewing: needing a place to share stories about his regular trips throughout Cascadia. He recalls one specific piece about the Amtrak Cascades Railway that he wanted to showcase, so that more people here would know there was an easy way to get as far as Eugene OR and experience the beer scene there first-hand. Dave noticed that he wanted to do long-form writing that isn’t like social media or blog posts. CAMRA Vancouver’s then communications coordinator said ‘you know, this would be a great fit for What’s Brewing.”

It was indeed a good fit. “I’ve enjoyed doing the in-depth writing you could only really publish in a magazine format. I wrote for a year and a half, and it went into hiatus just as I was getting used to submitting things”, he explains.

After a year, Dave got tired of waiting for What’s Brewing to resume and approached Paul to share that he missed the publication. As Dave puts it, “Paul’s eyes lit up. We both missed it a lot.” So they began the process of resurrecting it, shouldering much of the load themselves. Paul tells me that he was troubled when he saw the original paper newsletter transition first to a digital PDF then eventually just a link in an e-newsletter.” “We felt there was an audience out there. It wasn’t as large as it could be. But it was out there and we wanted to bring out in a form that was more accessible for people.”

My next question was to get their thoughts about how a paper magazine might be out of date and may not be well received in a digital world. Paul admits, “We felt this was probably the viewpoint of the many new, younger members of CAMRA, and we felt those people deserved better in the way of long form writing. In that I mean something that is written, self-edited, then put away for a few days, self-edited again, fact checked, re-edited, grammatically improved and eventually available in a magazine that you would spend some time reading.” Dave adds, “In other words, a more serious, semi-professional type of writing. It’s a community publication, but is written by enthusiasts who try to take their writing seriously.” (You can imagine my nerves when composing this article as I re-listened to the interview and heard Dave explain that last section! Remember, serious writers, I am a Community guy, not a writing guy!)

That being said, they knew they had a market that was thirsting for craft beer—so why not give them a local magazine dedicated to it. With Dave’s background in Web publishing, it seemed logical to make it an online magazine. People can pull up What’s Brewing via the website, or as a tablet magazine (ebook style), or by using a mobile app, and of course they can read it in print format. What’s Brewing is using a “print on demand” model to ensure they don’t waste unwanted copies. Dave explains, “The online edition is free and available to everyone, we will never put a password on it. Printed copies are also available as a limited edition to anyone that may want to pay for What’s Brewing to be delivered to them.”

In addition to community-submitted stories, WB features great articles by professional writers covering the BC craft beer scene. If you’re a fan of in-depth features and editorials as well as a digest of some of the best of BC craft beer journalism, you can sign up for a subscription to What’s Brewing by clicking here! To check it out and start reading, just visit


David Perry – CAMRA Vancouver President


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2 comments on “A Look at “What’s Brewing”

  1. Great recap of the history of What’s Brewing! Let’s hope the magazine gets all the support it needs to succeed. Thanks Dave Smith for resurrecting it and to David Perry for writing this piece,

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