Echoing its local food movement, Vancouverites have had a growing affinity for regional libations in recent years. It’s safe to say that wine from the Okanagan Valley kick-started the trend, closely followed by smaller operators in the Fraser Valley, on Vancouver Island and in Richmond. Not to be outdone, regional beer makers have caught up in recent years and the city is now packed with lip-smacking brews from dozens of producers across the province. But if wine is the foundation of Vancouver drinking and beer has risen to join it, what’s the next big thing? Craft distilleries are now popping up across the region and Vancouver is becoming a capital of great and innovative cocktail makers.
A four-hour drive from the city brings you to the rolling, lakeside hills of the Okanagan, home to one of Canada’s top grape-growing regions. Luckily you don’t have to drive that far for a sip: the tipples created by the area’s 100 or so wineries – including celebrated producers like Quail’s Gate, Mission Hill and Sumac Ridge – are readily available in Vancouver bars and restaurants. Ask you server for some recommendations. And don’t forget the province’s other, smaller wine regions: Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands are home to some popular wineries, while closer to the city – and easily visited on a day out – Richmond and the Fraser Valley have their own smattering of producers. Wherever you end up drinking, save time for a sip of icewine. A sweet dessert tipple produced from grapes frozen on the vine, it’s one of B.C.’s signature drinks. For more information on the region’s wine industry, visit www.winebc.org.
Where to drink: Time your visit for the annual Vancouver Playhouse Interna-tional Wine Festival (www.playhousewinefest.com) or head to wine-loving local spots like Salt Tasting Room (www.salttastingroom.com), Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar (www.brixvancouver.com) or UVA Wine Bar (www.uvawinebar.ca).
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With such a ubiquity of sushi joints and great Japanese restaurants, it was just a matter of time before the sake bar emerged in Vancouver. And who better to lead the charge than the city’s most colourful sushi chef? Hidekazu Tojo attracted diners to his old Broadway restaurant for decades but when he made the move to a new venue along the street in early 2007, he added a new feature. Adventurous visitors who sit at the giant curved Maplewood sake bar can expect plenty of help on matching premium sake with what many regard as Vancouver’s best sushi and sashimi. He also serves Canada’s first craft sake, made right on Vancouver’s Granville Island.
B.C. is one of North America’s top emerging craft beer regions, with distinctive, lip-smacking beverages in production at small facilities across the province – many of these beers are available at bars throughout Vancouver. Next time you’re in a city pub, ask for a regional brew: you might find yourself enjoying a concoction from Crannóg Ales, Nelson Brewing, Phillips Brewing or Storm Brewing. Also try a Honey Lager or Maple Cream Ale from Granville Island Brewing, Canada’s first microbrewery. This Vancouver beer maker’s products are available on tap around the city – or you can head to its facility on Granville Island for a brewery tour. Several city bars also produce their own beer on site, including Steamworks (www.steamworks.com), Yaletown Brewing Company (www.drinkfreshbeer.com) and Dockside Brewing Company (www.docksidebrewing.com).
Where to drink: Time your visit for the annual Vancouver Craft Beer Week (http://cms.tourismvancouver.com/cms/pages/content/http:www.vancouvercraftbeerweek.com) or down a few brews from B.C. (and beyond) at Bitter Tasting Room (bittertastingroom.com); Irish Heather (www.irishheather.com); and The Bimini Public House (www.donnellygroup.ca). And look out for guest B.C. casks at many bars around the city.
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Vancouver was founded on booze – just ask the jaunty statue of John “Gassy Jack” Deighton perched atop a whisky barrel in Gastown’s Maple Tree Square. The statue is close to the spot where Deighton built his first saloon, a shack that sparked a rash of development that later became the city of Vancouver. Plot a bar crawl around Gastown, one of the city’s leading nightlife areas and packed with unique watering holes. And if you fancy company, consider a guided craft beer tour of the area via Vancouver Food Tour (www.vancouverfoodtour.com)
After its wine and beer revolutions, the latest tipple to hit the big time in Vancouver is the cocktail. A new generation of innovative young mixologists – each with a reverence for the classics as well as a drive to try something new -- has risen through the ranks of the city’s bar scene, with many now opening their own bars (or transforming existing drinks menus) across the city.
Where to drink: Pull up a stool at the bars in the Opus Hotel (www.opushotel.com), Pourhouse (www.pourhousevancouver.com); George Lounge (www.georgelounge.com), Yew Restaurant (www.yewrestaurant.com) and Hawksworth Restaurant (www.hawksworthrestaurant.com) or learn a few tricks of the trade at The Diamond (www.di6mond.com). Time your visit well and you can also partake of the annual Tales of the Cocktail touring festival (www.talesofthecocktail.com).