While I don’t proclaim to be any kind of beer expert, I am a seasoned beer drinker and have had a great deal of the best brews in Vancouver and the surrounding area. In honour of our Beer Issue, here are a couple of local breweries that I am especially fond of, along with some local beer picks for those among us who don’t actually like IPAs. (We exist, I swear!)
33 Acres Brewing Company (15 West 8th Avenue)
Founded waaaaaaay back in 2013, 33 Acres is practically ancient when you consider the rapid rise of Vancouver’s craft brewing scene—and the experience shows. Unsurprisingly I tend towards the brewery’s 33 Acres of Darkness, a five-percent Schwarzbier that’s deliciously bitter and dry. Hopheads will love 33 Acres of Ocean, a light amber IPA that I can only describe as bracing. They do growler fills on-site, so be sure to bring a bottle along for filling. There is usually a food truck parked outside if you need a nosh, and you can get beer in 24 oz. Mason jars for $7.50, which just might be the best non-happy hour deal in the city.
Strange Fellows Brewing (1345 Clark Drive)
Full disclosure: I’ve only visited Strange Fellows’ tasting room once; however, I cannot stop raving about the ingenuity taking place at Strange Fellows Brewing. Co-founders Iain Hill and Aaron Jonckheere have created a beautiful space in the heart of East Vancouver. Brewmaster Hill crafts unique yet accessible ales with unusual and inspired ingredients. Their Jongleur Belgian Style Wit is a spicy, sprightly offering, perfect for warm-weather patio sipping. Be sure to check out the tasting room’s art gallery space when filling up your growlers
I have a lot of love for extra special bitters (see the Blood Alley Bitter entry below) and Bomber Brewing’s offering is one of my go-to picks. It’s a simple yet elegant showcase of this style of beer, and one that I’m glad to see gaining in popularity. (For more on Bomber Brewing, check out actual beer experts Joe Wiebe’s picks.) A growler fill at the brewery will run you $6 for a one-litre or $10 for two litres; stop by on Tuesdays for an extra $2 off your fill.
The day I saw this in bottles in the liquor store, I nearly cried with joy. Extra special bitters are a sub-variety of pale ales, noted for a slightly higher ABV and, true to their name, a marked bitterness. Russell’s Blood Alley Bitter is one of the best local iterations of this style; at 50 IBUs, it’s a little more bitter than a typical ESB, but the warm malt balances it out well. Find it at B.C. Liquor Stores for $10.89 for a six-pack of 341-millilitre bottles.
Surrey’s Central City lucked out when it recieved the exclusive brewing and distribution rights for a series of beers based upon The Hobbit trilogy, and this trio of beers is certainly inspired.
The Smaug stout is my personal favourite. Modeled after a Russian Imperial Stout and spiced with Habanero peppers, it has the slightest bit of burn in the aftertaste, although you might not immediately notice it unless you're expecting it. The Bolg Belgian Style Tripel isn't too flowery, which is usually my main complaint with Belgian beers; its sharp malt balances well with the bright hops and sturdy alcohol (Central City says it's eight percent, but the labels says 9.5 so proceed with caution!).
Gollum's Precious Pils is a gorgeous shade of gold and certainly drinkable in any and all situations—if you had to pick one beer to rule them all, you could do worse than Gollum’s. Large 650-millilitre bottles will run you $5.09 to $6.29 at B.C. Liquor Stores.
If you can’t track down a bottle of those limited-edition brews, Central City has recently released its Detective Saison ($5.20 for a 650-millilitre bottle), a light ale made with the addition of pink peppercorns, giving it an ever-so-slight spicy tone.
Ugh. I’m thirsty. Let’s go find a patio!