One of the significant advantages of visiting a city for the second time is that it affords you plenty of time to dig into it much deeper. For my most recent visit to Vancouver, one of the things I wanted to explore was the thriving craft beer community on the west coast. On my previous trip there a few years back, I had a quick taste of west coast craft beer on a night at the Alibi Room. On this visit, although I had more in depth explorations planned, I found myself back at the Alibi for a couple of sampler trays and a delicious bison cheese steak. My favourite beers? In the first sampler tray (photo on the left), the Brassneck Staircase wit (beer on the far right) and the Four Winds pale ale (beer on the far left) were outstanding. In the second sampler (photo on the right), the Red Truck lager (left most beer) was a wonderful easy drinking sessional. Another Brassneck beer, the white IPA (second from right), was truly exceptional – a piney, citrusy mashup of a west coast IPA and wit. My multi-day Vancouver beer crawl was off to a great start.
A couple of days later, I was able to visit four breweries in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood of Vancouver, all within a twenty minute walking radius. My first stop was 33 Acres Brewing Company on 8th Ave. They’ve set up a welcoming cafe at their location that is inspired by Scandinavian design. I chose a sampler of their Life, Ocean, Darkness and Nirvana beers and particularly enjoyed the bracing hoppy and piney Ocean pale ale. Their kitchen makes a pretty fine German pretzel which helped fortify me for an afternoon of beer tastings.
A less than ten minute walk away was Main Street Brewery. A couple of the beers here were memorable. My first sample (beer on the left) was their pils. I’m a big pilsner fan and Main Street’s had a slight sulphur nose with a bit of spice and floral and compared very favourably to my baseline for an outstanding pils – unpasteurized Pilsner Urquel from an oak barrel in Pilsen. I also really enjoyed the spectral/tart saison (glass on the right) which was unlike any saison I’ve tried before – to me it tasted of nerds candy and tart apple. Afternoon pretzel number two was delicious, and necessary, to give me any chance to completing two more brewery visits.
My third stop confirmed my suspicions that Brassneck Brewing would end up being my favourite Vancouver brewery by the time I left the city. Already loving the two beers I sampled at the Alibi Room earlier on the trip, I got to try four more of their beers at their brewery. The standout for me was the hibiscus wit (on the right below). One smell and one sip and I had memories of beer tastings in Belgium flooding back to me. Their “Old Geezer” dry English porter (on the far left) was another favourite – maybe not the ideal match for a warm afternoon, but the dark roast coffee and bitter chocolate notes would make for a wonderful fall/winter beer. Here on stop #3, there was no pretzel, but instead, my snack was a piece of bison jerky. Another reason I loved my visit to Brassneck was their resident dog, Tito. I was missing my dog back home in Halifax, and Tito gave me some doggy love while I enjoyed my samples. I briefly considered taking him back home in my carry-on, but he’s a dog that lives in a brewery, and that has got to be a great gig for a dog. The last stop on my afternoon crawl was Steel Toad Brewery. By far they had the fanciest and most elaborate home with a full gastro pub. I took advantage of that to get a more substantial snack of arancini and frites as I sat down to my fourth set of samples. The beers here were good, but nothing struck me as outstanding. I tried a diverse sample – a rye IPA, witbier, common and saison.
After four breweries worth of samples, I felt like I had a much better appreciation of the exploding craft beer scene in Vancouver, or at least in this neighbourhood. Time on this visit wouldn’t allow for any more brewery visits, but there’s always next time. In the meantime, I’ll hold out hope that Brassneck will start shipping some of their creations out east so I can add them to my rotation.