It’s been an year and a bit since I’ve moved to Vancouver, and during that time, the beer scene has just exploded. Now, there’s quite a few numbers of breweries dispersed within the GVRD area, which is a wonderful thing for people who don’t want to ride the bus or skytrain down to Steamworks or Brassneck or Main Street Brewery, and spend an hour sobering up on public transportation.
Now there’s a lot of really good Vancouver based beer blogs out there, so the information here might be pretty redundant. However, I’m going to write it down anyway, more for notekeeping purposes than anything. I didn’t include places east of Surrey, since I haven’t been able to visit them yet. I didn’t include Central City, because I’m lazy.
By the way, I’m in no way qualified to write on something like this. Despite the fact that I consume an ungodly amount of beer, I am by no means a beer snob. I love my craft beers, I have my favorite breweries and yearly releases, but I would happily drink down piss yellow beer. I’m not a critical beer drinker. I love just about anything that’s fizzy and alcoholic.
Steel and Oak (Oatmeal Stout and Roggen-weizen from my most recent trip)
1319 Third Ave, New Westminster, BC V3M 1R2
This place rivals in hipness with Brassneck. Everything looks shiny, or old in the right way, or scuffed in the right way. The owners look hip, the customers look hip, the people working in the tasting room look hip. A meticulously clothed guy got up from his beer every half hour to change the record.
There are no excessive flavors in their beer, no mountains of hops, no overwhelming smokiness, no double-something or imperial-things. However, their beers taste very clean, not muddled, so it’s very easy to pick out the various flavor components that make their beer.
Also, they consistently produce lagers, which is not always the case with Vancouver breweries. It’s a good place to go when you want to drink some lagers, while basking in the pourover-to-order type coffeehouse atmosphere.
Four Winds (everything on that board in the picture)
This day I waited 30 min to get into a ramen place in Richmond, got a parking ticket, and spent another 10 minutes trying to find my way out of the packed parking area, so going down to Delta to Four Winds was a great relief. Also, you get astonished by how the ration of Asian people suddenly declines as you step outside of Richmond. Except for myself, there were no Asians in Four Winds. I’m still fascinated by the distribution of races within the various areas of GVRD.
Not much to say except that I have yet to hear anyone talk negatively (or even neutrally) about Four Winds. Everybody seems to love it, for good reason. The standards are good (IPA seems to be everybody’s favorite) but I got quite infatuated with the gose and nectarous (sour beer) that day. The space of the tasting room is fairly large (for a tasting room) and the composition of the room makes it feel more like a saloon than a tasting room. That might have been because of the guy playing piano in the corner, though. My opinions and impressions are very easily swayed by singular elements.
Yellow Dog (a flight of all their beers and a glass of Alt)
1-2817 Murray St, Port Moody, BC V3H 1X3
1. You get to drink inside the brewery. You can eye the fermenters while sipping their beer.
2. The brewery name derives from an animal, and the bone shaped boards for the flights are adorable.
3. Their smoked porter won an award this year, but my favorite is the altbier. Great blend of fruity, yeastiness and malty flavors. It’s also a great beer to drink when you can’t decide if you want a lager or an ale.
2601 Murray St, Port Moody, BC V3H 3R5
Their tasting room also shares space with the brewery, so on brewing days, you can smell the grains mashing, or the hops boiling in the kettle. The beer styles they offer are pretty standard (IPA, brown ale, and blonde) but the balanced flavors of their beers are quite astonishing. The highly aromatic (and none too bitter) IPA’s great, the brown is comforting with a touch of bite from dark grains, but my favorite is the blonde. I know that blondes aren’t the kind of style that you go crazy over, but the complexity that they pack into their blonde while retaining the crispness is just wonderful. This is a great place to get growlers, since it’s hard to get tired or overwhelmed by their beer. Also, they usually have a cask conditioned beer lying around, which gets me always excited.
By the way, Yellow Dog and Moody Ales are about a 5 minute walk from each other. Plan on visiting both.
Dageraad Brewing (Wet hopped blonde, amber, burnabarian, blonde)
3191 Thunderbird Crescent #114, Burnaby, BC V5A 3G1
Tiny, minuscule tasting room that fits about five people. However, the tasting room is definitely worth visiting, since their burnabarian (Belgian table beer) is only available on draft. The blonde is great (the wet hopped blonde is sublime) and the amber is tasty, but the idea of a not commonly distributed style of table beer on draft just appeals to the geek in me. The small space is also great for the person who demands constant attention. The guys serving there were extremely pleasant, and didn’t tire of my constant questions about bottle conditioning, secondary fermentation, hop use and other stuff.
Anyway, visiting the new breweries and tasting rooms around Vancouver, you get the impression that there’s already a regional style taking place despite the newness of the breweries. The beers in Vancouver seem to be much more muted than the bold, hoppy flavors associated with the beers of the Pacific Northwest. The emphasis seems to rest on subtlety, drinkability (possibly since the emergence of the beer scene coincided with the popularity of sessional beers) and tinkering with old styles rather than gutting them out.