Gas stations with a good beer selections and young Asian women drinking flights. It was these two among many, many other moments that made me fall in love with the beer reality in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island. We went to British Columbia for orcas, trees and coasts and we came back with a serious crush on all things BC.
„Awesome!“ It’s a word that is rarely uttered sincerely. We heard the word at a gas station in Nanaimo, where we picked up a can of beer to enjoy on the hike we were about to do. „That’s all for you?“ – „Yes, just a small beer for the hike.“ – „Awesome!“ said the guy behind the counter, who’s kingdom was small, next to a gas station, but had a good craft beer selection and all the bottles and cans were either in the cold room or in fridges. And his smile told us that he actually meant the awesome. And he’s right: Going for a hike and having a can of craft beer is awesome.
We stopped for gas and left with a newfound awe for the beer reality here.
What do you know about BC craft beer?
We probably should have or could have known how amazing the beer „scene“ is in the Southwest corner of British Columbia. But apparently we are reading the wrong publications. At the same time, what do you know about the Canadian beer scene? Here in Europe we are familiar with Dieu Du Ciel, La Trou Du Diable and Mondiale De La Biere – all from the French part of Canada. The only BC-beer I consciously registered was the odd Steamworks offering that due to its long transport time was usually aged to shit by the time it arrived here. A quick research shows me that no Canadian brewery attending this year’s Great Britsh Beer Festival or Mikkeller Beer Celebration and at Beavertown’s Extravaganza there were „only“ Toronto’s Bellwoods and Montreals Dieu Du Ciel. Only few Canadian beers were available at Beergium and none at Beer Merchants.
British Columbia craft beer is practically a terra incognita.
Craft beer is part of the „general counscousness“
So here’s what we didn’t know. Back in 2014, craft beer had 21% of the beer market in British Columbia. The metropolitan area of Vancouver has a guestimated 40 breweries, craft beer in Vancouver, so writes Joe Wiebe in his book „Craft Beer Revolution“ is part of the „general consciousness“. Craft beer in other words is part of everyday life, it’s normal, it’s everywhere and because of that, people don’t have any reticence. Which takes me to the second epitome moment mentioned above and which happened at 33 Acres: Their beer lounge (which is what they call these kinds of taprooms) is very white, was full on a Wednesday night and the audience looked international and between twenty and fifty years old. And on stools at the window, two Asian women of roughly 24 years, drank flights. This scene was so far removed from any beer-nerdism, it was „awesome“! This is what it means when craft beer is part of the „common conscious“: Drinking a flight of craft beer or getting a growler is just something you, anybody, will do. How amazing is that!?
Due to the shear abundance of options, this post cannot be a complete guide to the beer offerings in Vancouver (i.e Craft Beer Central) and on Vancouver Islands with Victoria (i.e. Craft Beer Capital). Besides, we had coasts to hike, orcas to see, bears to avoid and be awestruck by the beauty of the land. Therefore, if you want to go deeper or go there, a good start is the website of the BC Ale Trail, an organization that offers itineraries for activities that eventually lead to beer. It’s a very well done website, with great videos and even though we didn’t do any of the trips exactly as described, it helped us find our ways. All other information that you’ll need is only a google search away, so google away. However, if you do plan to go, a) here are some pointers and b) take us with you. We cannot wait to go back!
We went to more than 20 breweries and brewpubs (and had to skip several we would have loved to go to), so we cannot write a blurb about all of them. While many of the breweries are outside of cities (particularly on Vancouver Island), East Vancouver has around 20 breweries in walking distance of each other, if you have that kind of constitution. We’ve done a crawl of 7 and it took us from 13.00 to about 20.00. It was great though! There’s blogposts about the crawl as well as a leaflet available in hotels, so beer is also a tourism thing.
Of all the breweries we visited, here are some stand-outs:
Furthermore, we also visited: 4 Mile Brewing Co., 33 Acres Brewing Company, Andina Brewing Company, Bomber Brewing, Brassneck Brewery, CANOE Brewpub, Forbidden Brewing Co., Gladstone Brewing Co., Granville Island Brewing, Longwood Brewery (production location), Luppolo Brewing Company, Main Street Brewing Company, Phillips Brewing Co., Postmark Brewing, Powell Street Craft Brewery, Steamworks Brewing Co. (brewpub location), Strange Fellows Brewing, Wolf Brewing Company, Yaletown Brewing Company
Beer is popular in BC, therefore you’ll not be the only one trying to get it. There were several places we skipped (Alibi Room, Craft Beer Market and Taps & Barrel Olympic Village), because the wait for a table was up to 45 minutes; or we were not let in the door, because the place was „filled to capacity“ (Swans Brewery). Here’s where we did go though:
Grocery stores don’t sell alcohol, so you need to go to liquor stores and there’s plenty of them, some run by the government, some independent and one is even advertised on the ferry between Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo. As beer was readily available when eating out, we had little need for store bought beers and thus didn’t visit many liquor stores. Here are three we visited:
General likes and dislikes