Vancouver's craft brewery insiders share their favourite local beers

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      Who better to trust the decision of your next pint to than the brewers on the frontlines of Vancouver's craft beer industry? The Straight asked more than 20 local brewers what they reach for from their own breweries, and what they're digging from other local breweries.

      David Varga of 33 Acres Brewing Co.
      Amanda Siebert

      David Varga

      33 Acres Brewing Co., 15 West 8th Avenue

      Put your best brew forward: That’s a toughie. However, if pressed, I would probably say 33 Acres of Darkness. It is a contradiction in appearance and flavour—being so dark in colour with a crisp, clean character all at the same time. That beer always surprises my taste buds, and I always find something else I like about it every time I drink it.

      Best local beer not brewed by you: There are so many new breweries out there. I haven’t had a chance to check out all of them yet, but I really like the Guardian White IPA from Strange Fellows. There is such a great balance between the fruitiness and strong hop character to that beer. It’s very well made.

      Jody Hammell of Big Rock Brewery.
      Dustan Sept

      Jody Hammell

      Big Rock Brewery, 310 West 4th Avenue

      Put your best brew forward: My favourite Big Rock beer right now is my new Mosaic Lager. It’s a perfect summer fit. It just showed up in cans and is a unique, drinkable lager with enough flavour to keep me interested.

      Best local beer not brewed by you: There’s so much to choose from, and everybody is so good at something. But, if you’re making me choose one, it’s anything Conrad makes at Brassneck.

      Blair Calibaba of Bomber Brewing.
      Amanda Siebert

      Blair Calibaba

      Bomber Brewing, 1488 Adanac Street

      Put your best brew forward: My favourite beer we make right now is the Russian Imperial Stout. I love how it evolves and develops as it warms up. I also enjoy the warming sensation it imparts as one imbibes. And I haven’t seen many of that particular style in a tall-boy can. I hope we end up making that one year-round.

      Best local beer not brewed by you: I think the beer I enjoyed most from the past few months is Powell Street Brewing’s Mosaic Sour. It is like a delicious bridge beer between the ever-popular IPAs and the steadily-rising-star that is sour beers. This was just a fantastic study in how to please the craft beer masses with an aromatic yet tart, dry sipper. Please make more, [brewmaster] David [Bowkett]!

      Hamish McRae of Bridge Brewing Co.
      Twitter/Bridge Brewing Co.

      Hamish MacRae

      Bridge Brewing Company, 1448 Charlotte Road, North Vancouver

      Put your best beer forward: At the moment I am really enjoying our North East IPA called Side Cut. It is based on an emerging style of IPA out of Vermont, which is all about bringing out as much hop flavor as you can. It’s like a big ol’ glass of hop juice, which is exactly what ours is like: huge aroma, big flavor, and beautifully hazy. It looks like a glass of grapefruit juice!

      Best local beer not brewed by you: While a lot of the local breweries are knocking it out of the park, my current favorite is Four Winds. They consistently create great seasonals, which are always a pleasure to drink.

      Chris Lay of Callister Brewing.

      Chris Lay

      Callister Brewing Company, 1338 Franklin Street

      Put your best brew forward: Our beers change regularly, so we do not have the same beer on for very long. As a result, usually my favourite beer is one of the most recent. In this case, it would be our Animal & Thing English Brown Ale. Roasty, biscuit-malt flavours, a touch of caramel, and a slightly bitter finish make for a well-rounded, refreshing, malt-forward style. I can drink this again and again. Hurry, though: it won’t be here long!

      Best local beer not brewed by you: One of my favourites in the city right now would have to be Doan’s Rye Stout. I love rye malt in beer, and I love stout! This hits all the right notes with a dry, coffeelike taste, a touch of rye spiciness, and enough of a hop presence to make this a year-round sipper. I would go out of my way for this one. Fortunately, we’re neighbours!

      Gary Lohin of Central City Brewers + Distillers.
      Amanda Siebert

      Gary Lohin

      Central City Brewers + Distillers, 11411 Bridgeview Drive, Surrey

      Put your best brew forward: Central City Brewing has been around for 13 years, and a lot of people have tried our beers, including our well-known Red Racer brands. We are constantly trying to innovate here at the brewery, so the beer we make that I’d like everyone to try is our Sour No. 1. It’s our first release of a style of beer that not everyone will understand.

      It’s filled with microflora that you would typically try to keep out of a normal beer, like a pale ale, but instead we purposely sour this beer by dosing in a controlled amount of sour culture yeast. Then we just let them do their thing. This is a slow process, so the maturation in oak barrels over two years produces this magical elixir of sweet malt combined with the lactic acidity produced by the microflora and the tannins from the barrel ageing.

      This beer should be consumed at a cellar temperature, and shared with friends. If one wants to explore the boundaries of craft beer, Sour No. 1 is a must try, especially for all the beer geeks.

      Best local beer not brewed by you: This is a tough question, and it depends on what I want to drink. There’s so many good breweries these days that it’s hard to make a wrong choice. For a nice Pilsner or Kölsch, which are great on a hot day, I’d have to say Steamworks Brewing beers are really on point. They produce great examples of classic styles which are brewed around the world. For hoppy beers, and brewing styles that challenge your palate, I like Brassneck Brewing. It’s a small but nimble brewery that puts out a great variety of beers that are always a pleasure to drink.

      Ben Coli of Dageraad Brewing.
      Mitch Warner

      Ben Coli

      Dageraad Brewing, 3191 Thunderbird Crescent, Burnaby

      Put your best brew forward: My favourite Dageraad beer is the one that convinced me I should build a brewery: Dageraad Blonde. Dageraad Blonde is a Belgian-style blonde ale, with a complex, fruity, spicy, aromatic dry finish. The beer weighs in at 7.5 percent ABV, but you’d never guess it. The floral alcohol notes blend into the rich fruity aromas produced by our Belgian yeast strain and the spicy, herbal notes of the German hops we use. It’s an amazing beer for pairing with food, particularly with cheese.

      Best local beer not brewed by you: Right now, one of my favourite beers from another brewery is Talisman Pale Ale from Strange Fellows. It’s got a beautiful, hoppy aroma and a great, full flavour. You’d never guess that it’s only 4.2 percent ABV, which makes it a great little session beer for when you feel like having a few without tying one on. Its balanced, crisp bitterness makes it great for drinking with pizza and pub food, and you can toss one back and get right back to operating heavy machinery.

      Evan Doan of Doan's Craft Brewing Company.
      Amanda Siebert

      Evan Doan

      Doan’s Craft Brewing Company, 1830 Powell Street

      Put your best brew forward: My favourite Doan’s brew is definitely our Kölsch—it’s my baby. I love it on a hot, sunny summer day, but enjoy it just as much on a cold winter’s day. It’s light, crisp, easy-drinking, and low in alcohol, and just asks to be consumed.

      Best local beer not brewed by you: There are tons of local brews that I’m in love with, and choosing only one is incredibly difficult. But lately, I’ve been drinking tons of Four Winds Nectarous—it’s amazing in every single way and I can’t get enough of it.

      Claire Wilson (centre) of Dogwood Brewing.

      Claire Wilson

      Dogwood Brewing Company, 8284 Sherbrooke Street

      Put your best brew forward: Our Fest Ale, which is a 6.9 percent rich, malty-style lager. It was inspired by a 300-year-old recipe for a German festival beer and is brewed with Weihenstephan yeast from the oldest brewery in the world. It’s one our most intriguing beers because people don’t automatically know what it is by the name, and it’s incredibly easy to drink—so much so that we decided to make it available as a six-pack.

      Best local beer not brewed by you: I really love the De Witte from Dageraad Brewing. It’s a sour-fermented Belgian-style spiced wheat ale that’s perfect on a warm sunny day while relaxing on a patio. Dageraad is making some complex and delicious Belgian style beers—I’m a big fan.

      Brent Mill of Four Winds Brewing.
      Amanda Siebert

      Brent Mills

      Four Winds Brewing Company, 7355 72nd Street, Delta

      Put your best brew forward: Currently my favourite beer we produce is La Maison! It’s a wild yeast fermented Belgian table beer that we call “wild saison”, which has been dry-hopped. It’s brewed with oats, wheat, rye, and barley, which lends it a fantastic texture without being sweet. The aroma is of candied pear and guava, and it’s only 4.5 percent, which I’m always happy about.

      Best local beer not brewed by you: My current favourite local beer would have to be Burnabarian by Dageraad Brewing in Burnaby. It’s a Belgian style table beer and has classic saison character. It’s very drinkable, the kind of beer that just goes well with any meal... and it’s also 4.5 percent!

      Kevin Emms of Granville Island Brewing
      Twitter/Granville Island Brewing

      Kevin Emms

      Granville Island Brewing, 1441 Cartwright Street

      Put your best brew forward: The West Coast Pale Ale—our new year-round small batch beer. I started brewing this because I wanted a custom tailored go-to beer, and this is it! Easy choice. It is an orange coloured, American-style pale ale brewed with malt from Northern England and hops from Australia, for a nice balance between malty sweetness and tangy, tropical fruity hop flavours. It’s always in my fridge now.

      Best local beer not brewed by you: I’d have to go with Ode to Citra by Powell Street. I am really into these type of pale ales lately and this one ticks all the boxes for me! Also, I quite like the Rye IPA from Doan’s Craft Brewery.

      Jack Bensley of Main Street Brewing Company.
      Amanda Siebert

      Jack Bensley

      Main Street Brewing Company, 261 East 7th Avenue

      Put your best brew forward: I’m loving our Saison #7 right now. It’s an evolving beer in that we are continuously playing with the blend of four yeasts that we use specifically for the saison. The yeast character is what makes a saison—that and a little crack of hops. Ours has the perfect ratio of fruity esters and spicy phenols. It pairs so well with so many foods that I find myself choosing to drink it more often than not.

      Best local beer not brewed by you: Sticking with the saison theme, I am in with love the Dageraad Randonneur Saison. I prefer dry beers, and Randonneur is bone dry with just the right level of hop character. The bottle conditioning gives it such a lovely tight, pillowy head too. I’d walk to Burnaby for even a mouthful.

      Graham With of Parallel 49 Brewing.
      Amanda Siebert

      Graham With

      Parallel 49 Brewing, 1950 Triumph Street

      Put your best brew forward: My favourite beer changes with the seasons so right now, I’d say our Jerkface 9000 Northwest wheat ale. It’s light and refreshing, but also packs a lot of flavour and aroma of hops. It’s a fairly unique beer in the B.C. market. We just put it in tall cans recently, so it’s been great to have that camping or at the beach.

      Best local beer not brewed by you: A different brewery’s beer that has always been solid for me is Storm’s Black Plague Stout. It can vary batch to batch, but when it’s on point it’s a very drinkable eight-percent ABV. It’s also pretty tasty when James [Walton] adds one of his brainstorm ingredients to the mix and you get something like the echinacea stout, which is pretty cool.

      Dominic Giraldes of Postmark Brewing.
      Amanda Siebert

      Dominic Giraldes

      Postmark Brewing, 55 Dunlevy Avenue

      Put your best brew forward: This is not an easy answer for me as they are all my children and I have a love-like relationship with all of them as the mood strikes. I have one single-batch tank that is just for this—one brew that is only served at Postmark and a few taps around town. I like it as it is always unique. Right now, it’s a traditional English ale made from 100 percent British malts and hops—it’s very nice. Also, I am reintroducing a saison yeast that got great results the last time we had it in-house. Sorry, I can’t pick just one—they might get jealous and misbehave!

      Best local beer not brewed by you: This is one difficult question—it changes from week to week as the brewers in the Lower Mainland do incredible things. One beer that blows me away? There is way more than one. That said, it was really hot this weekend in Kelowna and sipping on the Four Winds Berliner Weisse was quite festive.

      Rod Hughes of R&B Brewing.

      Rod Hughes

      R&B Brewing, 54 East 4th Avenue

      Put your best brew forward: I am really enjoying our Vancouver Special IPA right now. It’s been an evolving beer since I started here at R&B in December. We’ve gone for big hop flavour balancing between fruity, pine and dank flavours from a variety of great hops including Columbus, Chinook, Eureka, Citra and Simcoe. The malt bill is simple and provides a moderate amount of sweetness that allows the hops to shine.

      Best local beer not brewed by you: I’ve been a huge fan of Doan’s Craft Brewing Company ever since they opened their doors. The Pacific Northwest Rye Stout is always a favorite of mine. It’s got great roasted flavours and the rye provides a perfect spiciness. It’s exceptionally balanced in terms of bitterness, sweetness, chocolate, and spicy character.

      Justin Vickaryous of Red Truck Beer.

      Justin Vickaryous,

      Red Truck Beer Company, 295 East 1st Avenue

      Put your best brew forward: This is actually a difficult one for me to answer because beer is very situational. But since we are entering summer, I would have to say my current favourite beer at Red Truck is our Golden Ale. This is our summer seasonal beer and it is a true patio beer. It is an unfiltered ale with subtle orange and coriander flavours and a beautiful biscuitlike malt character. It is packed with flavour, extremely refreshing, and a very easy to drink on a hot day—this means I usually end up having at least two! Red Truck Golden Ale will be a huge player this summer!

      Best local beer not brewed by you: There is a very long list of amazing beers in the Lower Mainland, and it is hard to focus in on just one. That being said, for me, there is a real stand out: I often find myself heading over to Main Street to have a Pilsner or two. It’s a great beer and it really showcases the noble hops that they use in it. It is extremely well-balanced and has a nice, clean finish. This is truly a great pilsner and definitely worth trying out—if you haven’t tried it already, that is!

      Julia Hanlon of Steamworks Brewing Company.
      Amanda Siebert

      Julia Hanlon

      Steamworks Brewing Company, 3845 William Street, Burnaby

      Put your best brew forward: My favourite Steamworks beer right now is our Kettle Sour. It’s a dry-hopped kettle sour that packs a tropical fruit punch and a refreshingly tart flavour. You could be easily be fooled into thinking we have added fruit to this beer, but really, all that juiciness is coming from Mosaic and Nelson Sauvin hops that we used for dry hopping. A great patio sipper, for sure!

      Best local beer not brewed by you: With all this hot weather we have been having, Brassneck’s Ambiguation, a wild fermented Belgian Wit, has ticked all the boxes for me. I drank one… two?… three?... of these at Alibi Room recently.

      Eric Moutal of Steel & Oak Brewing Co.

      Eric Moutal

      Steel & Oak Brewing Co., 1319 Third Avenue, New Westminster

      Put your best brew forward: I often stray away from it, but I always seem to go back to Steel & Oak’s Dark Lager. Its complex flavour is toasty and roasty without being overpowering and it finishes smooth with hints of caramel. While people often reserve darker beers for the colder months, this beer is surprisingly refreshing and just as great on a sunny patio as it is on a rainy winter evening.

      Best local beer not brewed by you: If Dageraad’s Burnabarian is on tap, you can almost guarantee I’m ordering it. So easy to drink yet full of flavour, this beer is one I wish I brewed. If I can figure out how they do it, you just might see a New Westarian coming out soon.

      Chris Charron of Steel Toad Brewpub.
      Amanda Siebert

      Chris Charron

      Steel Toad Brewery, 97 East 2nd Avenue

      Put your best brew forward: My Kermode West Coast IPA is the type of thing you can only get away with in a brewpub setting, due to the cost of the unreasonable amount of expensive and hard-to-source hops used. The huge and distinct hop aroma isn’t hurt by the fact that the beer is always at most three-weeks-old due to the quick turnover!

      Best local beer not brewed by you: Adam [Chatburn] at Real Cask Ales makes one of the only authentic bitters in the city, and probably the only one properly served through a beer engine in a 20-ounce glass. Definitely worth heading to Callister to have a pint, or six.

      James Walton of Storm Brewing.
      Amanda Siebert

      James Walton

      Storm Brewing, 310 Commercial Drive

      Put your best brew forward: My favourite beer is my Black Plague Stout. Named after the disease that ravaged Europe, of course. It’s rich and it’s got lots of alcohol—and I love alcohol!

      Best local beer not brewed by you: My favourite beer someone else brews is Central City’s IPA. Shockingly, it’s one of the bigger names. I’m a big hop-head. If I tried to drink a bucket-full of it though, I’d be farting hops.

      Iain Hill of Strange Fellows Brewing.
      Amanda Siebert

      Iain Hill

      Strange Fellows Brewing, 1345 Clark Drive

      Put your best brew forward: Over the years, whenever I thought of having my own brewery, there was always one particular type of beer I wanted to make. People who are familiar with my brewing might guess that it would be a sour beer, most likely the Oud Bruin that I’ve been making for years.

      I will always love and continue to make sour beers, but I really wanted to create something more subtle than that. A beer that doesn’t wave flags in your face saying, “I’m so hoppy”, but that is flavourful and very moreish. It would have lots of delicious hop flavour without testing the macho preference for massive hops, because the hops arms race is not palate-sustainable.

      The beer I’m referring to is the Talisman Pale Ale, and although it’s really a bit of an India Session Ale, it doesn’t need a label like that. It is only four percent ABV and has lovely tropical fruit flavours from the generous use of Mosaic hops. The recipe is simple, but the choices around ingredients and process are everything in this beer.

      There are so few examples of beers like this, with delicious, subtly placed characteristics and defined hop character, but still accessible to a wide range of palates. A four-percent pale ale might risk a demure image, but the Talisman is distinct enough for just one glass and restrained enough for many.

      Best local beer not brewed by you: I don’t get out as much as I should these days. I seem to work all the time and I’ve got three kids, so I don’t try other beers as much as I’d like. That said, a couple of beers come to mind. First, it would be easy to make a little fun of James [Walton]’s $1,000-a-bottle Glacial Mammoth Extinction, but the fact is that it is an awesome beer in a category all its own. It is one of the deepest tasting and most unique beers I’ve ever had.

      The second beer that comes to mind is one whose name and branding makes me want to avoid it. I’m obviously not the demography that Parallel 49’s Jerkface 9000 is aimed at, however, it is an extremely good beer that, in my mind, stands out in an increasingly crowded list of offerings. When I can’t support my brewery by ordering one of my beers, I will get a Jerkface if it’s on tap. This is another very drinkable beer with a distinct fresh, fruity hop character and a great balance of flavours.

      Of these two beers, I would probably put Jerkface first—only because I would take it to a deserted island before the Mammoth extinction. Deserts are hot and I do like to be refreshed.

      Want to know more about our local craft brewers? Check out our Straight to the Pint series, where we profile Vancouver brewmasters about everything beer-related. 

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