You know how much Stephen loves beer, right? And you know how much I love independent people who follow their passions, right?
And, of course, you know how much we both love biking in Vancouver.
Well, the other day we merged our passions into one awesome mash-up:
A Vancouver craft beer ‘n’ bike crawl through the brewery district!
With six breweries and one distillery on the list (and the six people we know in Vancouver by our side) we had our work cut out for us.
Luckily, these brewery tasting rooms are set up for just such an event. They all pour sample-sized glasses, ideal for sipping a variety of beers without getting too wasted. The glasses range from $1 to $2, making a Vancouver beer crawl a surprisingly affordable way to while away the evening.
We know that everyone’s taste buds are radically different, especially when it comes to beer. So this guide is not for beer snobs who want to know the nose and IBU of every brew. Nor are we going to rate the breweries (but we will tell you which one is our favourite) or tell you which beer to like (though we’ll tell you which ones we like).
Related: Don’t miss this great craft beer roundup of Burlington Vermont by Two Drifters
Instead, we proudly present the layperson’s guide to having an awesome Vancouver craft beer crawl.
Let the drinking begin!
Address: 1950 Triumph St
Tasting room open: Daily 11am to 11pm
Core beers: Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale, Filthy Dirty IPA, Jerkface 9000 Northwest Wheat Ale, Craft Lager Munich Helles
Other beers: A large stable of seasonal, nitro, and barrel aged beers
Ones to try: The Seedspitter summer seasonal watermelon Wit is a favourite of Jane’s. We also liked (a lot) the Apricot Sour Saison and the Grapefruit Radler.
Stephen’s note: I was really surprised by how much I liked the Grapefruit Radler. I generally think fruit does not belong in beer, but on a fun summer night out with friends this was great. Really it just tasted like fizzy grapefruit juice. The alcohol hidden within was just a bonus.
We started at Parallel 49 which was the furthest from home and consequently the best one to bike to fully sober. It’s the least indie of the Vancouver’s indie beer scene, having experience massive growth right out of the starting gate. The large tasting room was crowded and buzzing when we got there. A few of our crew made the rookie mistake of ordering full flights or large glasses of beer. Start slowly people, this is only stop one!
What sets Parallel 49 apart:
This is the big brother of the brew scene, though they have only been open a few years, they have quickly grown into a powerhouse brewery. They have broad distribution and were even featured in the Molson beer garden (with duelling pianos!) at Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibition this summer. While they are still an indie venture we wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve been fending off buy-out offers from the corporate beer contingent.
Address: 1830 Powell St
Tasting room open: W & Th, 12pm–9pm; F & Sa: 12pm–11pm; Su: 12pm–9pm
Core beers: Rye IPA, Kolsch, Altbier
Ones to try: Why not try all of them? They only have three after all!
Stephen’s note: I am a big fan of Rye IPA’s and wish more people experimented with them. Boxing Cat in Shanghai brew one as a seasonal beer and it’s exceptional. The challenge, for my taste, is to not allow the beer to edge too far into whiskey territory. Doan’s Rye IPA played the edge well, but this early in the crawl it was a touch rye-heavy for me.
The tiny Doan’s tasting room is a homey affair with a large communal table filling up most of the tap room and a fun wall mural providing eye candy. A new kid on the block, the family-run brewery is starting small, sticking to just a few brews. Their tasting room is more homey and less uber-modern-hipster-cool than some of the rooms in the area.
Address: 310 Commercial Drive
Established: Way back in 1995!
Open: Su & M, 1pm–6pm; T-Sa, 10am–6pm
Core beers: Highland Scottish Ale, Hurricane IPA, Black Plague Stout, Imperial Flanders Red Sour Ale
Other beers: Vanilla Whisky Stout, Basil IPA, Apple Pie Ale, Pineapple Paradise Pilsner, and the Storm Drain Sour
Ones to try: The Storm Drain Sour is by far the sourest sour we’ve ever tasted (it really could clean out your storm drains) and it garnered mixed reviews from our group. The Pineapple Paradise Pilsner is a flavourful fruity experience that even Stephen liked.
Stephen’s note: The Hurricane IPA is one of their original beers and as such isn’t as hoppy as a modern IPA. This is a more subtle balanced IPA – so not quite hoppy enough for me.
The folks at Storm make it very clear that they do not have a tasting room. Rather, you walk in right onto the brewing floor and stand amongst the tanks, pipes, and kegs. That means you might be sloshing around in wastewater and other beer-making slop while you drink.
Since this isn’t a tasting room, their beer isn’t for sale. But fear not. Anyone older than 19 is welcome to sample up to six beers. Samples are provided in exchange for a cash donation in the amount of your choosing.
What sets it apart:
In Vancouver craft brewing time, Storm has been around forever! They are always experimenting so you can be sure they’ll have some amazing (and strange) flavours to try. They’ve created more than 90 varieties since 2013. You can also order a keg for you next kegger!
Address: 1725 Powell Street
Tasting room open: Th 1-7 pm, F & Sa, 1-11:00 pm; Su 1-6pm
Core spirits: East Van Vodka, Wallflower Gin, Crème de Cassis, Canadian Single Malt Casks
Other drinks: Oaken Gin, Cocktails
Ones to try: We love the Oaken Gin and the BC Bramble cocktail.
Stephen’s note: Their gin is fantastic. From label to bottle to contents, Odd Society is exquisite. Embibe!
As the name suggests, Odd Society Spirits is not a brewery at all, but a craft distillery. Still, it is physically impossible to pass by without being drawn inside for a sip of their tipples or one of their creative cocktails. In a converted motorcycle garage, the Odd Society tasting room and distillery manage to be upscale but a little odd at the same time – which is why we love it.
What sets Odd Society apart:
There’s no beer here and therefore Odd Society presented the perfect palate break sandwiched between breweries. Everything here is made from 100% BC agricultural products. Oh, and you can order yur very own private 30-litre cask of 3-year-aged Canadian Single Malt.
Address: 1357 Powell St
Tasting room open: M-Th 12pm-9pm, F-Sa 12pm-10pm, Su 12pm-8pm
Core beers: Old Jalopy Pale Ale, Dive Bomb Poter, Hopdemonium IPA, Ode to Citra Pale Ale, White IPA, Right Kind of Crazy Double IPA, Grisette, Czech Style Pilsner, Amarillo Sour
Ones to try: The Hopdemonium IPA is one of Stephen’s favourite BC beers and trust us, he has tried a lot! I liked the Amarillo Sour, too.
Stephen’s note: There’s a good view into the brewing room and I like the clean, bright space they managed to create. As Jane says, the Hopdemonium IPA is a great brew. I drink it regularly.
Admittedly, things were getting a little foggy by this point in the tour, possibly because of the full-size cocktails we all enjoyed at our last stop, but the Powell Street tasting room didn’t really stick in my mind. What does stick in my mind is Powell Street’s outstanding label design for their core brews, Old Jalopy Pale Ale, Hopdemonium, and Dive Bomb Porter.
What sets Powell Street apart:
Powell Street’s Old Jalopy Pale Ale won the Canadian Brewing Awards Beer of the Year award in 2013 when they were a brand new nano brewery. The ensuing buzz prompted them to expand quickly and in 2014, they opened their new tasting room.
Address: 1338 Franklin Street
Tasting room open: W 2pm-8pm, Th-F 2pm-9pm, Sa 1pm-9pm, Su 1pm-6pm
Regular beers: Real Cask Burnley Bastard Mild, Real Cask Blackburn Best Bitter, Brewery Creek Saison
Guest and seasonal: Machine Brewing Sesh’uinox, Machine Brewing Dank Williams IPA, Callister Hastings Sunrise American Wheat Ale, Callister Round 2 Rye Pale Ale, Callister Das Alt
Ones to try: The beer list changes pretty quickly at Callister, so you’ll have to just experiment with whatever’s available when you stop in.
Stephen’s note: The pictures prove I did go to Callister but I sure don’t remember it. I may have been getting a little lightheaded by this point because Jane assures me it was one of the most memorable tasting rooms on the crawl.
The brand new tasting room at Callister was one of the most appealing on our tour. They don’t depart far from the standard polished concrete floors, natural wood tables, and colourful chalkboards common in craft breweries around the world, but somehow they have managed to create an especially enticing space.
What sets Callister apart:
The Callister Brewery is actually a brewing co-op, renting space to other brewers who want to make great beer without owning a brewery. Right now, three brewers with impressive Vancouver beer pedigrees operate out of the Callister space.
Real Cask is being brewed by former CAMRA Vancouver president Adam Chatburn, Brewery Creek comes from the team behind the Brewery Creek speciality liquor store on Main Street, and Machine is being created by the guys behind Copper & Theory, artisan beer suppliers.
Address: 1488 Adanac Street
Tasting room open: Daily 12pm-11pm
Core beers: ESB, IPA, Pilsner
Seasonal: Marzen, Blonde, Superpest Double IPA, Absolute Horizon CDA, Shut Out Stout, Bike Route Best Bitter, Choqlette Porter, Park Life Seasonal Passion Fruit, Old Fat Heather Winter Ale, Oktoberfest
Ones to try: I’m a fan of the summer seasonal Parklife (and not just because it’s named for a song by my favourite band). The Bike Route Best Bitter gets a mention too, not because either of us likes bitter, but it does have a great name.
Stephen’s note: Bomber Brewing’s IPA, simply called IPA, is perfectly named. It is a straight ahead, no messing around, hop-loaded IPA. And I love it. Because it’s canned, easy to carry, and delicious, this is my go-to IPA when in Vancouver.
Bomber Brewing has become our favourite tasting room in Vancouver and if you only have time to visit one (god forbid!), we recommend Bomber. Its cozy seating area is always full and the tight squeeze necessitates camaraderie with your fellow drinkers. There’s just something in the air at Bomber that makes any time a great time to visit.
What sets Bomber apart:
They have an ample bike rack outside (crucial in this bike-friendly city) and even provide an air pump in case your tires are a little low. Their outdoor signage and bottle label design are just lovely. And finally, a stack of board games (including table top curling, which actually works better on the tasting room floor) awaits if conversation hits a lull.
But Wait, There’s More
It may seem like six breweries and one distillery all within easy biking distance of each other is more than enough. But wait, there’s a whole other tour to be made from the nearby breweries we didn’t get to: Coal Harbour Brewing, Off the Rail, Main Street, Strange Fellows and Postmark Brewing. Good thing we live so close to Vancouver we can easily go back for another round.
If you can’t ride a bike and don’t want to walk between breweries, the Vine & Hops shuttle can take you around to a selection of breweries in town.