Vancouver: Beer City?
On our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, Boardwalk and I ventured up to Vancouver. This happened to correspond to Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals. We decided to head out to experience hockey in Canada and I figured this would be a good opportunity to try some of the beer offerings.
I knew hockey was big in Canada and that they take pride in their country, but I didn’t realize to what extent until I experienced it first hand. First, everywhere you looked were Canucks jerseys. They had a big screen TV setup in the street so people could watch the game. All the bars were packed, but we managed to find a hidden gem within a bar based on a tip from a local. The bar had only micro brews on tap and a solid list of locals, imports (the good kind – Belgians), and American beer. I ordered a pale ale (don’t remember the name of it) and waited for the game to start. The beer was decent, more malty than hoppy, but I couldn’t complain. About halfway through the beer, the national anthems began to play and I didn’t think much of it, then “O Canada” started playing and everyone, and I mean everyone, besides Boardwalk and I sang along. It was unlike anything I’d seen before.
I continued sampling the various pale ales and IPAs on draft and noticed a trend among these styles of Canadian beers. They are much maltier and less hoppy than their American counterparts. I’m not saying this is bad, just different than what I was used to. Overall these we all solid, but not outstanding or unique.
Next I switched to the Steam Whistle Pilsner because I wanted to go a little bit lighter (it was still early since the game started at 5:00PM local time). I had this beer years ago when at the brewery in Toronto and had fond memories of it. These memories were affirmed when I tried it again. This beer is light, crisp and refreshing – a perfect sports watching beer; so I stuck with this for the rest of the game. Speaking of light beers, I was shocked how many people were ordering Budweiser, not Bud Light, but Budweiser (or Bud Diesel as I call it). The only thing I could think is that Bud is Canada’s Corona. During the second period one guy came up to the bar next to me to ordered a beer, saw me and profusely apologized for cutting in front of me. He had not cut me (I still had half a beer) and I told him it was okay and not to worry about it. He apologized again and offered to buy me a beer on one condition: that I was rooting for the Canucks. After I assured him I was, he bought me a beer as a kind gesture that is purely Canadian. Anyway, the Canucks won this game so we were safe from riots and looting. Everyone was joyous and giving high fives on our way back to the apartment where we stayed.
Throughout the next couples days in Vancouver we came across a few breweries/brewpubs. The first was Steamworks Brewing Co., which is named after the Gastown steam line. Interestingly enough they have Gastown Brewing Company on site brew all their beers and they use steam to fire their kettles. I went with their Oatmeal Stout. It was a lovely black with a solid aroma and good taste up front, but finished a bit watery. We also hit up Granville Island Brewing, where I had a three samples: the first was an IPA which fit right into the mold of all the other Canadian IPAs I tried – more malty the hoppy, but solid; the second was the Hefeweizen which was a solid wheat beer, perfect for the nice warm sunny day we had; and the third was the Maple Cream Ale that had the distinct maple syrup finish that made it quite different than any cream ale I’ve previously had. I was ready to sample some more of the brews, but they had some sort of law that since itwas a tasting room they could only sell 12oz (either 3 samples or 1 pint) of beer to a person. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed.
On our last night in Vancouver I went in search of a big bottle to try and Boardwalk spotted one that I just had to try: it had a red maple leaf label and was named “IP’eh!” I enjoyed this brew on the balcony overlooking the Rogers Arena (where the Canucks play). Again this was a very malty IPA, but I could not complain.
As a whole Vancouver had a large variety of different beers to offer. Unfortunately, none particularly stood out as being overly unique or great. I would have to call this an up-and-coming beer city.