In early 2013, British Columbia changed their liquor license laws for craft breweries. In the short time since, Vancouver’s craft beer scene has been booming. As in other cities, breweries are concentrating in industrial parts of the city, close in for neighbors to call it their local, but where the leases are cheap and landlords are amenable to the production industry that breweries are.
In Vancouver, that neighborhood is East Vancouver, normally nicknamed East Van, and now taking on the new brewing-oriented moniker of “Yeast Van.” There are now a plethora of breweries just east of Downtown Vancouver, many of them in two clusters, each close enough for beer hiking from one to another.
On a recent rainy weekend, we paid many of them a visit. Compared to the U.S. brewery start-ups we’re familiar with, most of the breweries seem extremely well funded right from the get-go. They purchased new, large brewing systems, ordered plenty of tanks, hired experienced brewers and devoted time (and money) to developing their brands as well as their brews.
Of the breweries that we visited, only two, 33 Acres and Main Street Brewing, serve a small menu of food. Mostly they are pure taprooms with growler fills, pint sales and taster trays galore.
Commercial Drive Area Breweries:
Storm Brewing – 310 Commercial Drive. Storm is the wacky grand pappy of Vancouver BC breweries, and unique in that their tasting room only sells by the growler or keg. If you are out tasting and don’t want a whole growler, stop by anyway. They offer up to six tastes of their wildly imaginative beers for a reasonable price – they just ask you to donate what feels right to you.Be sure to try their infused beers, which change frequently, and their Flanders Sour Ale. On this visit, we particularly enjoyed a Blood Orange IPA made by infusing not just the juice but also the peel of the oranges.
Bomber Brewing – 1488 Adanac Street. Open just a year, Bomber Brewing is a comfortable addition to the Commercial Drive area. Their line-up is the stark opposite of Storm, very traditional. We particularly enjoyed seeing a Marzen and Pilsner on the tap list, and their IPA is top notch.
Strange Fellows Brewing – 1345 Clark Drive. Open less than a month, the long, narrow taproom at Strange Fellows was packed with beer touring patrons toting boxes of tasters. Thankfully the room’s layout offered plenty of room to share table space, leading to friendly conversations between strangers and strange fellows. The beers have a Belgian bent, with some favorites being the Jaune Fizze Helles Style Lager, the Talisman West Coast Pale, and the Golden Strong Belgian Strong Ale.
Additional breweries we didn’t hit on this trip: Parallel 49 Brewing, R&B Brewing, Steel Toad Brewing (which we understand is a brewpub with full kitchen). Also in the area: Brewery Creek Cold Beer & Wine Store (bottle shop), and Craft Beer Market (beer-focused restaurant).
Main Street Area Breweries: Main Street Brewing – 261 E Seventh Avenue, Vancouver. We hit Main Street just in time, stomachs growling from a delayed lunch. One of the few breweries that has a kitchen, Main Street also has a solid line-up of beers. Over a delightfully messy Latin-style pulled pork sandwich, we sampled the Pilsner, award-winning Session IPA, a Galaxy dry-hopped cask version of their new Red Back Ale, and a special chocolate-infused cask version of their Westminster Brown, brewed with the infamous Brewdogs.
Brassneck Brewery – 2148 Main Street, Vancouver. Not to play favorites, but here goes. For two visits to Vancouver in a row, Brassneck Brewery has my favorite beer line-up, poured in the most comfortable taproom to pull up a stool and stay a while. They pride themselves on small-batch, one-off beers that are both solid and creative, putting unique spins on traditional favorites. Theirs might be the only white IPA I’ve ever truly enjoyed. But I won’t get too attached to it, because it may never happen again.
33 Acres Brewing – 15 West 8th Ave. We visited 33 Acres on a trip about a year ago, and since then they have added a kitchen (the brunch waffles with bacon looked and smelled amazing), and updated their beer list with more options and new branding. What didn’t change? Their cheerful, hipster-chic white and black taproom, friendly service and tasty beers including 33 Acres of Coff33, made with local Matchstick Roasters coffee (which you can get fresh pour-ever style with brunch). This place was packed on both visits, and we heard it’s always that way because the Hootsuite headquarters are right next door. Lucky them.
Additional breweries we didn’t hit on this trip: Powell Street Brewery, Doan’s Craft Brewing, Off the Rail Brewing (looks like they are about to open), Callister Brewing (coming soon). Also in the area: Odd Society Spirits and Micro-Distillery. There’s more beer touring to do around and outside of Vancouver too. Watch for more Vancouver, BC beer touring recommendations, coming later this week.