An Introduction to Craft Beer in Vancouver, Canada
by Sandy Smith
Monday, March 20, 2017
There’s nothing like a cold beer after a day of voracious sightseeing. Vancouver has the sightseeing covered- from crossing suspension bridges to literally climbing up a mountain there’s tons of ways to get very thirsty. Luckily Vancouver also has the best Craft Beer scene in Canada. Even the dodgiest little hole in the wall will have at least one local offering! These are some of the can’t-miss places from the party district and the suburbs.
St. Augustine’s is often considered the hub of craft beer in the city. All the servers are Cicerone certified and love giving recommendations. It’s on Commercial Drive so it has the bonus of being in a very cool area to explore. They have sixty taps that constantly change so there’s always something new. They have everything from sours to ciders to the hoppiest of IPA’s. Both TV’s in the bar and their website have real time tap levels. Never again will you order a beer only to be disappointed by an empty keg. It’s also fascinating to see what your fellow drinkers are guzzling down. Are you brave enough to order whatever’s popular? If so, you’re probably in for a treat.
Tucked away beside Stadium/Chinatown Station, Devil’s Elbow is quite the discovery. They have Howe Sound Brewing options as a permanent fixture, but they also have guest taps that change frequently and include some hard to find brewers like Tofino Brewing Company. Not only are they great for a quick lunch or a small bites happy hour, they’re also close to the Queen Elizabeth and Playhouse theaters so a pre or post show drink is a must. One of their offerings is the beer, bacon, and bourbon combo that comes with… well, exactly that. The staff are definitely knowledgeable and are willing to help make sure your bourbon and beer pair perfectly with each other or any one of the amazing dishes they serve.
You can get Red Racer, Central City’s main brand, at any liquor store in the city. However, to get the true experience you need to go to their original brewpub in Surrey. Luckily it’s right at Surrey Central Station so it’s just a SkyTrain ride away. Sadly the main brewery’s moved offsite, but the brewpub hasn’t changed their amazing food and surprisingly cheap prices on their beyond delicious beer. The entire company is quite diverse and has branched into the distilling market. This is the perfect place to go with that one friend who despite your best efforts just doesn’t like beer. When you’re ready to move the party home stop into their liquor store in the mall. They have a lot of really weird, fun craft beers from all over the world.
The appeal of Steel Toad is obvious before you even step into the building. A short walk from Main Street/Science World Station the entire brewpub is in an old steel manufacturing building. The interior is overtaken by the brewery that’s visible on all sides through glass. Steel Toad has eight brews they make in house and if you’re adventurous you can try every one with two tasting packs. The best part? A pint of whichever beer is your favourite will only set you back five bucks during happy hour.
Planning a day in Gastown? Steamworks is a great place for a good meal and even better beer. Their building had a steam powered heating system, so they used it to their advantage and created a steam powered brewery. Whether you choose to sit in the upstairs dining room, the downstairs casual pub area, or even outside the service is quick and the beer is good. The team at Steamworks must be creative masters as their seasonal concoctions are nothing short of show stopping. What’s winter without a salted chocolate porter? Visiting in the summer? You’ll learn there’s no refreshment like a cucumber ale on a hot day.
You’d be forgiven for thinking 33 Acres is a hip cafe when you first walk in. Hiding out on West 8th, just blocks from Broadway, the open, airy concept feels like a refreshing breath of fresh air. The warm neighbourhood vibe is further accentuated with long, communal tables. There’s no two ways about it, this is a busy space. Luckily they have a standing license so you can sip on something while you wait… and it’s always worth the wait. Interesting concepts like their 33 Acres of Sisu- a Finnish farmhouse ale that’s a bit sour and spicy- are offset by more traditional offerings like a hybrid lager ale aptly named 33 Acres of Life. They have an early eleven o’clock closing but luckily you can pick up a growler to go.
There’s lots to do on Granville Island, but for those of us that love craft beer a tour of the Granville Island Brewery is a must. While they have their more popular beer made off site, they’ve kept the original brewery open for small batch offerings. A tour of their brewery is a step by step class in how great beer is made. From the raw ingredients- which you get to look at and smell- to bottling and labeling this is a look at what really goes into making a quality beer. The tour ends in a tasting and it’s slightly easier to get a table in the brewpub if you’ve participated in a tour. If you skip the tour you can still see a lot of the brewery action through glass walls and a full tasting mat will give you a good sense of the beer on offer.
*Though Vancouver, and Canada in general, is pretty chill about pub etiquette, it is important to note there’s a definite tipping culture. As servers make a lower minimum wage, ten to twenty percent (depending on how good or bad you think the service is) is expected.