Many of our readers already know that Vancouver, Canada, is a great urban base for outdoor activities. This beautiful city is surrounded by water and mountains that offer excellent ocean sports, winter sports, hiking, mountain biking and more. Vancouver is also quietly becoming a premier North American beer destination. The website BeerMeBC.com lists more than 60 breweries in the greater Vancouver area, with two areas of particularly high concentration.
Brewery Creek is a historic site for local beer production, dating back to Vancouver Brewery, which was the largest on the Pacific Coast when it opened its doors in 1888. The surrounding Mount Pleasant neighborhood went through a lot of ups and downs in the years since, but it is currently in a renaissance, and there are six breweries within a block or two of an eight-block stretch of Main Street.
These include 33 Acres Brewing with a variety of solid traditional-style beers, Red Truck Beer whose flagship is an award- winning amber ale, the cozy and tasty Brassneck Brewery and the spacious Main Street Beer, with a wide variety of brews in the historic Vancouver Brewery building. The even more up-and-coming brewery neighborhood is near the hip and popular Commercial Drive (or “The Drive”) in the East Vancouver area. There are so many breweries there (10 and growing) that locals have started calling it “Yeast Van.”
The neighborhood’s best-known brewery is Parallel 49, founded by three guys who grew up in the neighborhood. “P-49” served delicious seasonals while I was there, including a kettle sour with apricots called Apricotopus (6.3%) and a very balanced IPA called Dumb Funk (6.8%), brewed with a “wild” yeast called Trois whose fruity esters perfectly complement the hops.
Also of note is the “co-working brewery incubator” Callister Brewing Company, which hosts four breweries in the same space. Vancouver rents are very high, so this collaborative approach allows emerging professional brewers to get in the game before being able to afford their own space.
When I was there, the tap highlights were Terry’s Orange Chocolate Ale (5.3%) from Lightheart Brewing and The Technique (4%), a barrel-aged golden sour from Boombox Brewing Company. I spoke with a couple of the brewers there who really appreciated the ability to grow their brand and work on pro equipment before making the leap to their own facilities.
There are lots of breweries taking advantage of the cheaper rents on the outskirts of town. Four Winds Brewing Company opened in Delta in 2013 and became known nationally two years later when it won Brewery of the Year at the 2015 Canadian Brewing Awards. Their standard beers are all quite good, but their award-winning seasonals are excellent, especially their barrel-aged saison Operis (7%), a tripel made with wild sage honey called Triplicity (9%), and the dry-hopped sour Nectarous (5.5%), named Beer of the Year at the 2016 CBAs.
Of particular interest to our readers is Fuggles and Warlock Craftworks, which just opened a production facility in Richmond last year after doing contract and collaboration work.
The founders grew up in the Steveston Village area of Richmond, which has a big Japanese population from the fishing industry, and the head brewer and his wife (who designs the Japan-inspired labels) are both of Japanese background. Moreover, all the founders self-identify as “geeks” or otaku, and their love of video games and anime make their brand quite distinctive. The Last Strawberry (4.9%) is a Belgian white beer brewed with strawberries and lactose to give it a sweet fruitiness that plays very well with the wheat and spice notes and make the beer a great complement to pancakes or dessert.
Its anime-inspired label is very kawaii. Their summer seasonal was a delicious plum sour called Kiwami (6.3%), packaged with a gold calligraphy label to look like high-end sake, a style they first explored with a collaboration dry-hopped sour called Hikari (7.2%). If you can’t get around to all the breweries, there are a number of great beer bars to sample the goods from the region. The Alibi Room in the historic Gastown neighborhood in the heart of the city might be the best and emphasizes excellence and localness in both the tap selection (which also has some from just south of the border) and on the food menu.
On the Drive, check out St. Augustine’s (owned by the P-49 guys) for more than 60 excellent rotating taps and BierCraft for a mix of BC and Belgian beers and a Belgian-inspired menu including delicious mussels. So, next time someone brings up the incredible skiing, hiking, kite surfing or mountain biking in coastal BC, you can add, “I hear the beer is really good too.”