Slow down and savor one of Vancouver’s craft beers, like those from Main Street Brewing Company. (Photo: Courtesy of Main Street Brewing Company)
Vancouver’s stunning seascapes and mountain views were once the city’s main draw for tourists, but reasons to visit keep expanding. Today, the chance to wet one’s whistle on some of North America’s best craft beers is quickly becoming a major attraction for travelers to Vancouver.
Just five years ago, only a handful of microbreweries called the city home. Now, more than 45 artisanal ale-makers pepper the (clearly very thirsty) metropolis. Vancouver is home to the largest number of breweries in Canada, with East Vancouver laying claim to the densest,and wonderfully walkable, concentration, earning it the moniker “Yeast Van.”
Here are just a few of the city’s must-try, hop-happy establishments.
If residents were forced (heaven forbid) to choose only one watering hole in which to sate their thirst, it would likely be Brassneck Brewery. It’s a favorite among Vancouverites as much for its welcoming, laid-back vibe as for its plethora of thirst-quenching offerings.
If you’re having a hard time choosing, start with the long-standing crowd pleaser, Passive Aggressive. There is a small snack menu available, but a better option is to get your meal from one of the food trucks that often park along the street (bringing in food is encouraged at Brassneck — they like to focus on the beer).
Be warned: At night it can be tough to get a seat in the tight-fitting tasting room, so expect elbow-to-elbow evenings and consider the close quarters a chance to get to know kindred local beer lovers.
Vancouver’s beer scene centers around two main areas: the Brewery Creek district and East Van. Main Street Brewing, along with 33 Acres and Brassneck, was a leader in reviving historic Brewery Creek’s frothy past.
Located in one of the city’s few remaining historically significant industrial buildings, Main Street’s cool, cavernous, brick and wood interior offers ample space to imbibe. The drinking menu features an impressive selection of beers, as well as daily rotating casks, which are always satisfying.
The Westminster Brown and Main Street Pilsner are favorites, but give in to your indecisiveness by trying a flight or two of samples and see where your taste buds take you.
Beer aficionados know that although the descriptor “sour” is certainly not sought after when drinking fine wine or most other spirits, sour beer can be a real palate-pleaser. While Powell Street earned its beer-brewing cred with a bevy of smooth, crisp beers, its sour beers are especially popular.
One of Yeast Vans most beloved nanobreweries (a scaled-down microbrewery), the location had to be expanded in 2014 because of overwhelming demand. Its reputation as a leader in lager was solidified when — only a few months after opening — Powell Street’s Old Jalopy Pale Ale won Canada’s coveted “Beer of the Year” award at the Canadian Brewing Awards.
Don’t be intimidated by the modern, minimalist style of this hop-loving, hipster hangout. At 33 Acres, the welcome is warm and the beer is crisp and cool (much like the décor). The brewery’s small menu of beers is likewise well thought out and original.
Try the 33 Acres of Ocean if you’re in the mood for a full-bodied, flavorful, quintessentially West Coast brew. When you’ve had your fill of beer (yeah, right), try something different and go for a pint of the 33 Acres of Cid3r, which somehow manages to be sweet and sour all at once. Their appetizing snack menu proves that pierogies and pretzels are indeed a beer’s perfect companion.
This unique tasting lounge bills itself as Canada’s “first collaborative brewery,” and who are we to argue? This “co-working brewery incubator” is home not only to Callister, but to a series of alternating independent small brewers who would otherwise not have the facilities or equipment to make their own beers.
This year Boombox Brewing, Real Cask and Lightheart Brewing join the Callister crew. The result is a rotating alchemy of ales that ensures your taste buds are always challenged with new and interesting libations. The love of beer and creative energy here is infectious, and it’s hard to know whether one’s ebullient mood is due to the good cheer or the bubbles in your belly — likely a little of both.