Undoubtedly embedded in our culture, Vancouver’s craft beer scene is growing exponentially despite being one of the last cities to get on board with the trend. Beer is refreshing, sometimes bitter, and can be brewed into a multitude of tasty flavours to match any season. Not to mention it’s fun to enjoy with friends, and pairs perfectly with everything from hot wings to burgers to pie.
Local brew is quintessential to true Vancouver living, so much so that The University of British Columbia and Kwantlen Polytechnic University are now offering courses in microbrewing.
To pay homage to all of the beerducation going on in our beautiful city, I set out on a rainy Wednesday afternoon to get a first hand lesson from Vanicty’s top locations. With all of the fantastic fall seasonals on tap, it really took some dedication to sip down all of the information, especially since I have never been known as a ‘beer drinker’. Ahh, the things we do for the sake of education.
Here’s what I learned:
Beer-jargon was definitely my first obstacle. Is there a difference between microbreweries and craft breweries? Does it matter? Apparently so: Microbreweries have a limit of 460,000 American gallons of beer per year, and must sell the majority of this beer off-site. A craft brewery has a limit of 2 million gallons and include traditional malt versus other flavoring components such as oat, barley, and wheat found in many beers.
Hops comes from a flower, is used for flavoring and as a stability agent in beer. It also is used for brewing for its antibacterial properties in reaction with yeast.
Apparently, India Pale Ale (IPA) beers were created because increased hops prevented traditional pale ale’s from spoiling as they were exporting it from Europe to India in the 18th century.
Some popular fall beer flavors include chocolate stouts and not surprisingly pumpkin ales.
A ‘saison’ is a pale ale that is highly carbonated, fruity and spicy.
I feel smarter already! And here’s where to go and what to try:
Six Acres – 203 Carral, Gastown
The atmosphere at this location is tight and cozy, right in the heart of bustling Gastown, with an authentic vibe to match. Casual and knowledgeable staff, and an impressive beer list.
Persephone black lager: easy drinking, extremely dark in color, smooth wheat finish with a cocoa aroma.
Driftwood Farmhand: hazy copper pour, black pepper notes paired perfectly with fruity citrus notes. From Vancouver Island.
Four Winds Brewing Witticism: a cloudy light beer with a taste similar to a hefeweizen, citrusy, light, refreshing, not very bitter. Black lemon is the star of this beer- a must try.
The Alibi Room – 157 Alexander, Gastown
This location has earned its way onto pretty much every Vancouver Craft beer roster ever made, and with good reason. The beer list is absolutely massive and features a wide range of different colors, flavors and carbonation in their barrels. My fantastic bartender Teresa was warm, and incredibly knowledgeable. She picked out some diverse seasonals for me to taste. The Alibi Room is family owned, and serious about beer.
Tofino Brewing Tuff Sesh: an amber pale ale, with a typical hoppy flavor and medium amber colour.
Dieu du Ciel Vanilla cocoa stout: dark, full and incredibly smooth and flavorful with a coffee aroma, literally screaming fall/winter.
Gigantic Imperial IPA: more traditional flavor, higher liquor content- and what’s not to love about that?
Red Racer Smoked märzen Oktoberfest lager: Has a literally smoky flavour, almost campfire-like, that goes down smooth like an IPA
Red Racer Spiced Pumpkin Ale: strong cardamom flavor with cinnamon and nutmeg- pretty much pumpkin pie in beer form. If you try only one beer on this list, let it be this one. It’s crazy festive.
Parallel 49 Lost Souls chocolate pumpkin porter: Extremely rich and robust and tasted delicious mixed with the pumpkin ale listed above.
Yaletown Brewing Co. – 1111 Mainland, Yaletown
Yaletown Brewing Company has been brewing it’s own beer for over 50 years and was the first beer pub in the area, starting the long standing trend of local on site brew pubs. They love to have a variety of beer on tap and try new things. Manager Shane set us up with an impressive tutorial that set this location apart in quality of service, knowledge and variety, which explained why it too is a frontrunner in Vancouver’s beer scene.
Mainland Lager: Czech and German hops give flavour to this very light, easy drinking beer with a crisp light taste that appeals to many palates.
Roundhouse Wheat Ale: this hefeweizen has lemon to cut in extra taste without ruining the complexity of the beer, this is a summer beer, so get it while it’s still around.
Cascade Pale Ale: a bitter IPA with a medium body as well as hoppyness- very well balanced.
Yaletown Brewing Co. Dark Mild Ale: Drinks smooth, with a malty flavour and dark colour. 17 IBU (International Bitterness Unit)
Wrath of Cahn: A Nitro tap beer, creamy, smooth and really carbonated. 40 IBU.
Steamworks Brew Pub – 375 Water, Gastown
Steamworks is always bustling and has an extensive food and beer menu. To get the full on-site brewing experience, grab a drink in their basement where there is a full bar. All of the beers served to us were brewed on site.
Pilsner: Steamwork’s pilsner is very light, easy drinking, and not super bitter. This is a more traditional beer for people who are just starting to delve into the beer-world.
Ipanema Summer white: A Belgian white beer, the Ipanema is extremely fragrant with smooth carbonation as well as light citrus flavour.
Jasmine IPA: Obviously very hoppy, but the jasmine aroma pairs wonderfully with this ale.
Pumpkin Ale: A little lighter than the other pumpkin ale’s I tried on my tour, but still well spiced. A lighter consistency than I would prefer but definitely more of an easy-drinking pumpkin beer.
St. Augustines – 2360 Commercial drive
A great location for food and beer, there’s always a large variety of beers offered at St.Augustines, only steps away from the Commercial/Broadway skytrain station.
Central city Pumpkin ale: Clear and smooth with a beautiful amber color. In my opinion however, Red Racer still takes the cake on the pumpkin debacle.
Hillard’s Saison: This oak aged saison is fresh tasting and hoppy. This very clear brew was aged 10 months!
Storm Brewing’s Scottish Highland Cream Ale: Ridiculously smooth and creamy viscosity gives this beer a unique texture that almost makes you forget it’s beer. The taste is super light, not bitter whatsoever and hardly carbonated.
These five establishments are great, but they are by no means the only great places in Vancouver. It was incredibly hard to choose a few to include in this article from the original short list I created. So, if none of these places tickle your fancy, here are so more places to try out:
CRAFT Beer Market, 85 W1 Ave, Vancouver
Steel and Oak, 1319 Third Ave, New Westminster
Yaletown Distillery, 1131 Mainland St, Vancouver
Parallel 49 Brewing Co., 1950 Triumph St, Vancouver
The Oakwood, 2741 W4 Ave, Vancouver
Bitter, 16 W Hastings, Vancouver
Tap and Barrel, 1 Athletes’ Way, Vancouver
Biercraft Bistro, 3305 Cambie St, Vancouver
Granville Island Brewing, 1441 Cartwright St, Vancouver
Written/photos by: Alycia Sundar