Breaking news: A running/drinking team from Canada won 2015’s Beer Mile World Classic. Did you miss it? Of course, you did. But the win should come as no surprise; Canadians are notoriously good drinkers (anyone seen Strange Brew?). What might be surprising, is that Canadians are now drinking really good beer. The craft beer scene is booming throughout Canada’s provinces, and Vancouver, British Columbia is leading the charge.
Five years ago, Vancouver’s craft brewers were a small batch—just over 10. Then something spectacular happened—an old liquor bylaw which only allowed breweries to operate tasting-rooms that sold, at maximum, a single 12-ounce glass (that’s per customer, per night) was righteously amended, lifting the cap altogether. The relaxed bylaws (and the region’s realization that craft beer is freaking awesome) coaxed new craftsmen from the woodworks. By 2014, over 30 new breweries had opened, and if 2015’s outlook isn’t being projected through beer goggles, British Columbia should top off at around 80 by year’s end.
Here’s a look at Vancouver’s bubbling beer scene.
Photo via Postmark Brewing/Facebook
When craft beer culture first bloomed in Canada a few years back, IPAs were among the trendier items in Vancouver, specifically ones with hop profiles so aggressive they seemed to battle each other to the bitter end. Postmark Brewing takes a soft step backwards, in a sense, crafting an approachable lineup of session beers that don’t lose their assertive kick. It’s the type of brewery that’s appealing for more than just its beer—it’s also flanked by two friendly favorites, Urban Winery and Belgard Kitchen, making a trip to this hangout an easy pursuit.
Call it a lab, it you want, because Brassneck Brewery brims with experimental batches (all small, of course). Proof of its experimental process is seen via the 4,000 liter oak fermenter specifically brought in from France for their popular Stockholm Syndrome saison, for starters. Will it be there when you are? Who’s to say: the dozen beer lineup is constantly rotating, and the brewers are always swapping and tapping new recipes for their newly designed tasting room.
No brewer looks to be called a consummate newbie, but Aaron Jonckheere, the co-founder of Strange Fellows Brewing, embraced the title outright, allowing locals to follow his brewing blunders on this blog, I’m Starting a Craft Brewery. Successfully opening just shy of 2015 with the help of his “fellow” Iain Hill (former Brewmaster at Yaletown Brewing Co.), Strange Fellows’ quickly shed amateur status. The narrow tasting room is adorned with funky papier-mâché masks looming above, each pertaining to one of their beers (strange indeed). Many of the beers on tap nod to Jonckhere’s Belgian roots like their Jongleur Style Wit with an orange-forward kick as bright as it sounds, and their Crafty Monk, a Belgian Brown Ale with notes of chocolate you won’t miss.
The brewer behind 33 Acres Brewing Company is a former art director and it shows. Consider this the face of the city’s contemporary craft culture. Fresh, sessionable brews uncompromised by trendy flavor gimmicks are served in this microbrewery’s sleek space. You won’t go wrong with their Ocean, an IPA with malty depths that part way for a botanical hop of refreshing pine, or the Sunshine, an unfiltered white ale that finishes sweet and sunny.
Bomber Brewing is no lone brewer in gritty, East Vancouver; this far-flung corner has long been an incubator for established breweries like Parallel 49 Brewing Co. and Storm Brewing, in an area that has been deemed “Yeast Van.” Started by a group of friends who enjoy ice hockey as much as their beers (Oh, Canada!), the group runs the gamut with West Coast varieties. Two to note are their strong IPA, and a deeper ESB.
Photo via St. Augustine’s/Facebook
There’s no need to pick a favorite brewery in Vancouver. The swelling craft culture finds home in tons of beer bars across the city that are bounteous in local offerings.
It seems that craft beer has long been enjoyed at Alibi Room, with a painstakingly curated 50 beers on tap, and even more by the bottle, can, and even cask. First opened with a skew towards the industry crowd, all sorts of visitors now stop by to enjoy local beers, perhaps drawn by the bar’s industrial edginess or perhaps its consistent status as the most precise collection of beers in all of Vancouver.
You’ll be counting the beers on the wall at this place, and not the taps – over 100 bottles fight for space on Biercraft Tap & Tapa’s menu. A specific mix of Belgian and British Columbian labels are among the joint’s inclination, all enjoyed in good company in a warm environment. Not to be completely known for its bottle count, another 20 beers await your word on tap.
The saint himself would find a blissful scene awaiting at St. Augustine’s, where over 60 (that’s right, 60) rotating taps source some of the best North American beers. Local favorites and far-flung microbrews aren’t uncommon at St. Augustine’s, where the classic beer bar ambience digs deeper with more choice than one drinking session can handle.