A recent trip to Vancouver was full of surprises. Great food, lovely people but more importantly amazing craft beer.
For a city that’s half the size of Birmingham it’s blessed with 16 craft beer breweries. So when in craft beer heaven it’d be rude not get a taste for the city.
Where to start? On a recommendation from a bartender in Gas Town we headed from downtown to East Vancouver AKA brewery central.
Our cab pulled up on Commercial Drive, a pretty industrial part of the city. Not entirely convinced about what beer we were going to find we made our way to our first destination, Storm Brewery.
What we found inside (besides a few flies) was the Willy Wonka of the craft beer world with a menu of weird and wonderful beer.
These guys were apparently the first micro-brewery in Vancouver setting up shop back in the early 90s. Their tasting set up is pretty basic – an old couch dumped in the middle of the brewery, beer spilling out all over the floor and Mr. Wonka perched on a rickety old ladder slurping his latest concoctions.
Owner James Walton is an experimental brewer, not only with flavours but also his method of brewing. Take old Pepsi canisters, fill them with the base beer and then shove in whatever flavours take your fancy. Dusty shelves around the brewery held jars of potions ready to make the next concoction.
Our favourite beer from Storm was the vanilla whisky stout, we honoured it with our ‘Wild Card’ award.
After three decent sized samples we were starting to feel a little merry. Time to walk it off and find our next watering hole.
The lovely lady who served us at Storm gave us a handy craft brewery map and recommended the other breweries we should try.
Next on the map was Powell Street Craft Brewery my favourite of the day. Despite only setting up in 2012 they have a pretty sophisticated looking operation. And from tasting their beers I can see why they’ve grown so quickly.
We purchase two flights which covered off all the styles of beer they brew and boy were they good.
As we were supping our way through the various styles we observed a few locals coming into ‘fill up their growlers’. For reference a growler is the glass bottle used to sell take-away beer.
The beer-dispensing unit is a real innovation for the nano and micro brewers. Customers bring in their pre-cleaned growler, select their desired beer and let the machine do the rest. Powell Street Brewery used the Pegas CrafTap that sucks out all C02 and re-fills with beer from the keg with no foam.
Our favourite beers from PSCB were the Citra, Hopdeminium IPA and the Jalopy Pale Ale. I’m pleased to see Jalopy has won some Canadian beer awards already.
The third stop on our tour was Bomber Brewery. Another cool looking industrial unit with a great viewing window into the brewery itself.
Again we ordered two flights which took us through all the beers on the menu. Although not my favourite of the breweries I was extremely impressed with the beer fridge and the view from the bar…
And finally we rounded off the afternoon with Off The Rails brewery, one of the newest kids on the block. So new in fact they don’t officially have a license to sell beer to the public but are allowed to sell a limited number of samples.
For a Tuesday afternoon the small tap room was pleasantly busy with cool Vancouverites.
We supped our way through the flights and found a real gem. The Smoked Porter was an absolute treat.
All in all we were thoroughly impressed with quality and accessibility of craft beer in Vancouver. Small brewers showing off some great skill and opening up their operations to the public. It just shows you don’t need to have huge budgets to connect with local customers. Good beer, small sampling rooms and take away facilities bring a new dimension to drinking, something which we should look to emulate in the UK.