Vancouver has a serious crush on craft beer. Since January 2012, eight new breweries have opened in the city, with another dozen or more new facilities in the suburbs; at least five are in the works right now. Tap houses have sprouted across the city, and any self-respecting restaurant now has to have at least a handful of craft beers on tap—if not 20—to satisfy customer demand. Plus, there are all the great bottle shops stocking unusual options from near and far.
It’s increasingly challenging to keep up with everything beer-related in Vancouver, so don’t fret if you can’t name the latest release from Parallel 49 Brewing (Filthy Dirty IPA) or ex-Yaletown brewmaster Iain Hill’s new brewery (Strange Fellows). Here are my picks for the best of Vancouver’s craft-beer scene in 2014.
Best brewery neighbourhood
Main Street/Brewery Creek
It’s amazing how quickly this brewery neighbourhood came together: 33 Acres Brewing (15 West 8th Avenue) opened in summer 2013, followed by Brassneck (2148 Main Street) that fall and Main Street Brewing (261 East 7th Avenue) in the spring of this year. Each member of this trio of pedestrian-focused storefront breweries has its own style—pick one based on your mood on a given day or swing by all three for a fun, beer-soaked afternoon or evening.
Best place to check off beers on your phone app
Olympic Village tap houses
First to arrive on the scene in the Olympic Village was Tap & Barrel (1 Athletes Way) with 24 craft-beer taps, as well as an amazing two-storey patio overlooking False Creek. Then, Craft Beer Market (85 West 1st Avenue) and its 140 taps took over the Salt Building last November. If that isn’t enough, the Steel Toad Brewpub & Dining Hall (97 East 2nd Avenue) hopes to entice Olympic Villagers when it opens in the Opsal Steel Building at the end of September. Perfect for all you beer tickers. (Okay, I do it too: I’m @thirstywriter on Untappd.)
Best brewery you’ve never heard of
Green Leaf Brewing Co.
123 Carrie Cates Court, North Vancouver
Green Leaf Brewing, which opened quietly last December, is the first thing you encounter as you enter Londale Quay Market after leaving the SeaBus terminal. Brewer Bill Herdman ran Tall Ship Ale Company in Squamish from 1992 to 1998, where he earned a great reputation with his beers, many of which were ahead of their time. He’s on the cutting edge again, brewing mixed-fermentation beers and brett IPAs (which use funky Belgian brettanomyces yeast rather than typical ale yeast) and creating crazy contraptions such as a cider press powered by a stationary bike—with the juice used in a sour apple saison. Some Green Leaf beers are available in 650-millilitre bottles in Metro Vancouver bottle shops, but I recommend visiting the brewery for a taste, especially if “Wild Bill” is there for a tour and a chat.
Best place to meet your wine-loving friend
55 Dunlevy Avenue
Postmark Brewing opened in June in Railtown’s Settlement Building—two blocks east of the Alibi Room (157 Alexander Street)—joining Vancouver Urban Winery and FreshTAP, a company that provides wine by the keg to restaurants. The winery and brewery share a tasting lounge and restaurant called the Belgard Kitchen; the charcuterie plate I enjoyed there could easily make a best-of list for “snacks that go really, really well with beer”. Postmark beer is served along with 36 wines on tap, hence the title of this category; while your friend mulls over red, white, pink, or bubbly, you can sip a Postmark pilsner, stout, red IPA, or saison.
Best beer day trips outside the city
1. Visit the Four Winds Brewing Co. tasting room (4–7355 72nd Street, Delta) and then stop for lunch at the Big River Brewpub (180–14200 Entertainment Boulevard, Richmond), where the innovative brewing team known as Fuggles & Warlock have become resident brewers.
2. Take a ferry from Horseshoe Bay up the Sunshine Coast to visit the farm-based Persephone Brewing (1053 Stewart Road, Gibsons). Heck, I know a beer blogger who did it by bike; the brewery is about four kilometres from the Langdale ferry terminal.
3. How about a SkyTrain brewery crawl to Dageraad Brewing (near Production Way station, at 114–3191 Thunderbird Crescent, Burnaby) and Steel & Oak Brewing (near New Westminster station, at 1319 Third Avenue, New Westminster)? Ambitious types can go all the way out to Central City Brew Pub & Restaurant (near Surrey Central station, at 13450 102 Avenue, Surrey).
Best way to meet other beer geeks
The Campaign for Real Ale’s Vancouver branch is active both socially and politically. Get involved if you just want to meet other beer lovers, or you could volunteer at one of the many beer events CAMRA organizes. Or, join the executive if you want to help advocate. This group played a big role in pressing the city to allow breweries to open the tasting lounges that are making the craft-beer scene here so exciting right now.