Welcome back! I have to admit to nothing much of anything happening since I started my blogging empire a week or two ago. I did get angry again at another beer calling itself a hazy, but being nowhere close…slap on the wrist to you Abbey “Brewing”, a winery by day I see! Their Calypso APA was so so, but no no no , you were not a big delicious juicy New England IPA! Ruined my Sunday evening*
So, I am going to regale you all with some Vancouver tales for now. Where to start?? The scene and general excellence in this spectacular city is worthy of numerous posts so I’m going to start with a run down of some of the new breweries I visited on my Summer 2018 trip, and at some point in the future I will pull 4-5 years of “research” together into a best and not quite as best post. I don’t think there are any that could be categorised as “worst”.
One note before I proceed, why is the beer selection on board and in the Air New Zealand Koru Lounge Beer so shocking?…for an airline which proudly celebrates the best of kiwi culture, it is sadly lacking in this department. At least Singapore Airlines have cottoned on teaming up with the excellent Garage Project to offer us mortals some decent ales whilst stuck in their tin tubes.
Anyhow, per the latest update on the BC Ale trail website there are some 178 breweries in business for our quaffing pleasure. This takes in the wider British Columbia area , which is, well, fucking huge. The entirety of the UK can comfortably fit inside as this hastily put together image proves!
Of the 36 dotted around Vancouver and North Van I am proud to say I have visited at least 23 (from a hazy memory). Add the four from Port Moody, a couple around New West / Burnaby / Coquitlam then a few over in Vancouver Island, up to Whistler…well, you get the picture. Not too bad when your generally limited to the Sky Train, 2 legged transport and time ….Pipe Band is a serious business y’all, cant be rocking up to practices drunk. Light headed? sure!
In addition there are many solid brew pubs around hosting many local beers – I recommend The Alibi Room in Gastown which is one of the best. Exceptional food, wings a highlight, and a majestic beer selection taking in many of the weird and wonderful from the region.
St Augustines on Commercial Drive, is not only located right at the Skytrain stop at one of the most eclectic streets in the city, but is a superb starting point for your brewery crawl in East Van, plus it’s a cracker spot for people watching. A past time that you could waste days on here!
I also make a point of visiting CRAFT each year. Yes, its a bit “big” and slightly commercial, but with over 100 taps and a regular seasonal rotation you can’t really argue. The food is decent but certainly had not changed over the 4 years I have visited ..however the views out back and on the way are exceptional.
And, not forgetting the John B in Coquitlam, no frills but now with over 80 taps and very good rotating seasonal selection. Exceptional for a local pub, and the Monday Wing nights are epic!
I also make a point of going to the Black Frog, next to the Steam Clock purely because it was one of the first bars I visited back in 2015 so it holds that nostalgic place in my heart. It is perfectly fine, but nothing that sets the heather alight. Super friendly but not amazing any more it pains me to say.
On to my 2018 explorations. It turns out I managed to hit 6 new breweries this time around, which is not too shabby given the aforementioned limitations. First I made it too Electric Bicycle Brewing situated on East 4th Ave, just off Main Street (which in itself is worth a day or two if you have the time).
It is certainly one of the quirkiest tap rooms I have visited and I believe was only a few months old when I went. Totally unpretentious and certainly not afraid to experiment. They only had a small selection but all four I tasted had something unique about them. Most notable were the “It’s No Game” American IPA, which was delightful and the “Frosty Mugs Brown Ale”, made with lactose, sassafras, fresh ginger, juniper and certainly star anise was evident! Also, excellent but no longer brewed as a regular ale. The others on the flight were a Strawberry Lemonade IPA and a Session Ale. I was always going to go back here and one look at their current list makes this decision a no brainer.
Another free day rendered a trip to one that had been on the list for a few years. Postmark Brewing, on the corner of Dunley and Alexander right in the heart of Downtown Eastside. For those unfamiliar…it can get a little sketchy down here. You wouldn’t know it upon stepping inside the brewery though. It is strikingly grandiose, almost perversely so compared to some of the dereliction of its surrounds. On my way back toward the Alibi Room this was most evident by some locals enjoying the fruits of their long glass pipe.
The beer here – meh, unremarkable. Their Kettle Soured Saison and Juicy Pale Ale were pretty good but generally just a little tame overall. In total contrast to Electric Bicycle, this place felt just overly lavish and like they were trying too hard too impress. That can be forgiveable if the beer has some sort of wow factor…but it didnt.
With a few hours to kill I headed out once again to Commercial Drive, walked its length from the Skytrain and took up a pew at East Van Brewing, another new kid on the block. It is a sensational tap room. Spacious, friendly and comes with pinball! However, 4 of the 6 beers were exceptionally timid, only the “Double Venom” DIPA and “Unholy One” Stout offering any sort of excitement. From memory they had a dozen or so to choose from, and maybe I got unlucky with my choices but, I would much rather see 3 to 4 staples done exceptionally well with a couple of excellent seasonals on top, then mix it up with a regular flow of the experimentals, the more outrageous the better too! These guys seemed like they just wanted to offer everything at once. Would be keen to give them another chance though!
Onward to Callister Brewing, a collaborative brewery which allows independent brewers access to their equipment in order to start and progress their business. It is also the home of Good Buddy and Sundown Brewing. Sounds Great and it is great! It provides plenty of choice which is not ideal when faced with just 4 on my flight in the effort to remain untainted for practice later. Well worth the trip and plenty to choose from
Just down the road from Callister is Strathcona Beer Co. By now,I had limited time so ended up hoofing back a ‘Canned Heat’ hefe and grabbing a takeaway pizza. Both were excellent, Hefeweizen is certainly not a style I regularly enjoy but this was remarkably pleasant as were the surrounds. Although Strathcona Beer Co have been around for a number of years the building had recently had an overhaul. Well worth going and I certainly intend doing it more justice another time.
Lastly, and closer to “home”I made it to Mariner Brewing in Coquitlam – another newbie on the scene and a first for Coquitlam. Overall, it is pretty good! They do a decent meat & cheese platter if you are peckish, the beer…yeah, it’s not bad. It again seemed just a little timid overall, I get that they are probably feeling their way into a reasonably crowded market , but you aint gonna turn heads by producing middle of the road fare. The Sour needs more sour, the Berliner Weisse is ok but give me more! The Hazy…no, more Hazy please! Their NorthEast IPA was by far my favourite – big, bitter hops with a smooth balanced finished. A growler of this was certainly enjoyed later.
All being well I shall be back over in July 2019 for more pipe band and ale quaffing antics. I note at least three or four more Breweries in the locale as “Opening Soon”, which is exceptional. I fully intend to finally hit up Luppolo Brewing this trip. The last 2 years I have tried to find this place but for whatever reason I fail each time. It can’t be that hard surely? (in fairness I don’t actually think it was open in 2016 despite it being listed, 2017…who knows?)
There are also plans afoot to spend a day and a night up in Squamish. A beautiful, quaint town about an hour or so north of Vancouver. I passed through a few years ago on the way up to Whistler. A sensational drive and home to three breweries; Howe Sound, A-Frame and Back Country.
Howe Sound was awesome so I thoroughly look forward to this new adventure.