There’s arguably no better use for the Rocky Mountains’ crystal-clear waters than as an ingredient in a frosty microbrewed beer. The pure water is one of the driving forces behind the increasing popularity of craft brewing and brewpubs in Vancouver. For our money, an evening spent sipping the local brews and communing with other pub-goers is the perfect way to get to know Vancouver.
The past five years have seen a spike in taste and interest in ales, lagers, stouts and pilsners brewed in Vancouver and British Columbia. Currently, more than 50 brewers are creating upwards of 200 beer varieties, from crowd-pleasing pale ales to smoked-malt porters for those with a more adventurous palate.
Many of these craft brewers take advantage of the rich ingredients produced by the province’s mild climate, including hops, barley, honey, yeast, raspberries, cherries and other seasonal fruit. The result is fresh-tasting beer with more complex flavours than many of the national and international brands, and it’s because of the quality of the region’s brews that there’s increasing demand for them.
The best way to sample Vancouver’s locally brewed flavour is to set up camp in a brewpub. By definition, a brewpub makes 100 percent of its beer on site. Part of what makes these beers so special is limited availability -- you won’t taste Lions Gate Lager anywhere but Steamworks Brewing Company, and because it only has to be transported to the back of the bar, it can’t get much fresher.
Steamworks, located in Gastown, has six regularly featured beers -- from a citrus blond ale to a hearty oatmeal stout -- and a rotating menu of seasonal ones. You can’t pass by this place in the fall without stopping in for the beloved Great Pumpkin Ale.
Yaletown Brewing Co. is the city’s oldest brewpub, and while any time spent sipping their signature spicy Hills Special Wheat Hefeweizen and nutty Downtown Brown is worthwhile, Thursday is the night you want to find yourself bellying up to their bar. It’s cask night, when a special barrel of fresh, small-batch beer is tapped just for that night’s thirsty revelers.
The patio at Dockside Brewing Company in the Granville Island Hotel is one of the most popular places to savour a Vancouver brew. Opt for the sampler to try six of their eight beers. Go for at least one that’s a little unconventional -- the chocolate-y Pelican Bay Brown and hibiscus-blended Jamaican Lager are local faves.
These brewpubs aren’t only enticing for what they’ve got on tap. They also have great food, and knowledgeable waiters and bartenders can help you choose the beer that will complement your meal and bring out the brew’s finest notes.
Most any pub -- different from brewpubs in that they sell craft beer made in microbreweries, they do not make it -- in Vancouver will have a selection of microbrews that highlights British Columbia’s beer-making bounty. Ask the bartender for the latest and greatest suds to come from Vancouver’s kegs.
To truly celebrate Vancouver’s growing love affair with local brews, find a hefty stein and show yourself at one of the city’s beery events. The Canada Cup of Beer, held each July, features more than 200 varieties competing for awards voted on by festival goers. And each September, beer lovers head over to Victoria’s Great Canadian Beer Festival, which attracts craft brewers from across Canada and the nearby U.S. states of Washington and Oregon. Both festivals feature live entertainment, delicious food and a mind-boggling number of tasting options.
For information on beer-and-food pairing events, tastings and all other things beer in Vancouver, visit justhereforthebeer.com.