It turns out, Vancouver is quite the beer city. Our trip to the Pacific Northwest started in Vancouver late Wednesday, giving us three full days to explore the city, including Stanley Park, Granville Island and downtown. Unfamiliar with Vancouver, we booked an Airbnb we thought would be in a good location — close enough to the city center to remain walkable without the high price point. We found ourself in the Strathcona neighborhood, which just happened to be littered with craft breweries.
Before I get into the details of the eight different Vancouver breweries we checked out, let me just tell you, this was a beautiful destination. It was certainly a great spot to kick off our trip. You’ve got mountains, skyscrapers and the seawall all nestled together. The views are stunning and the atmosphere intoxicating. After our first day of exploring, I was thrilled we had 48 more hours left in Vancouver. Now, onto the beer!
The first brewery we visited was Granville Island Brewing, located (you guessed it) on Granville Island. Getting there was a bit tricky. It involved a hike over the Granville Street Bridge on a not-so-pedestrian-friendly path. While there are crossings and sidewalk for pedestrians, there’s no railing between walkers and cars. It was a little spooky.
Anyway, once we got to the island, we headed straight for Granville Island Public Market and to Granville Island Brewing. We enjoyed a few beers, flight included, with their Fusion Fries — a house special with Asian flare (yum). Beers tasted:
- Gose with Peach (5%, IBU: 15, Gravity: 11.7): A light subtle peach flavor comes through in this refreshing gose.
- Island Lager (5%, IBU: 19): Clean and refreshing, this recipe is one of the brewery’s first.
- BC Bitter (5.5%, IBU: 32, Gravity: 12): Malty and creamy, not our favorite bitter.
- English Bay Pale Ale (5%, IBU: 18): A distinctive West Coast character comes through in this pale ale.
- Infamous IPA (6%, IBU: 55): This is the perfect IPA with a hop-forward start and refreshing finish.
- Lions Summer Ale (4.7%, IBU: 19): A little tart, a little fruity, a lot refreshing.
After a bit of walking and a couple of cocktails at The Liberty Distillery, we found our way to Parallel 49 Brewing for a few beers and dinner and drinks to go. Dinner consisted of baked mac and cheese and the braised chicken quesadilla from their Street Kitchen. Both were outstanding. We only tried a couple of beers at Parallel 49:
- Filthy Dirty IPA (7.2%, IBU: 76): This West Coast IPA combined citrus flavors with pine and floral hints for an enjoyable taste.
- Juice Bigalow (6.3%, IBU: 80): We tried this one on tap and took it to go in cans. It was fruity, hoppy and haze, a quality New England IPA.
Day two was our official brewery hopping day, and we did just that starting out at Strange Fellows Brewing. This taproom was actually only half a mile from our Airbnb and was the start of a beer-soaked evening. Pints and flight included:
- Bayard (6.5%, IBU: 25): This farmhouse saison brings a fruity and peppery flavor, along with a dry, refreshing finish.
- Funkytown (4%, IBU: N/A): The Brett-fermented pale ale has a dank taste and smell to go with smoky, pineapple flavors.
- Talisman (4.2%, IBU: 29): A West Coast pale ale with tropical, citrusy flavors and a golden hue.
- Guardian (6.5%, IBU: 60): As a typical white IPA, the Guardian is bold and flavorful.
- Cyclhops Amarillo (6.5%, IBU: N/A): Juicy and fruity, Cyclhops is a single hop (Amarillo, that is) IPA.
- Roxanne Raspberry Sour (4.5%, IBU: N/A): Made with blackberries, this sour grisette tasted like juice rather than beer — unfortunately.
Easily one of our favorite breweries of the trip, Bomber Brewing was our next stop. In addition to good beer, this taproom has a nostalgia for hockey. The small taproom featured paninis and other snacks. I would definitely recommend a trip here if you’re in the neighborhood. We hung around long enough to try several of their brews:
- Park Life Passion Fruit Ale (4.5%, IBU: 15): This one was very good, it’s an American blonde ale with passion fruit (obviously) that’s both refreshing and tart.
- Wyldwood Pale Ale (5%, IBU: 25): A light pale ale that offers a slight citrus flavor. Not too wyld.
- ESB (5.2%, IBU: 40): Extra special bitters can be hit or miss with me. This one was decent with a malty flavor that stood out most and a hop-heavy finish.
- Pilsner (4.8%, IBU: 28): This Czech pils is a medal winner, and it’s not hard to taste why. It’s clean and light with a slight citrus zest.
- IPA (6.3%, IBU: 65): A solid Northwest IPA with a dank flavor profile, this beer offers some subtle grapefruit and floral accents.
- Prairie Baard Golden Ale (5%, IBU: N/A): Prairie Baard is what you hope to get when ordering a golden ale, offering an overall light palate that’s bursting with flavor.
Off the Rail
Next up, Off the Rail Brewing. Unfortunately, the atmosphere was lacking at this taproom, so we only hung around for one each:
- Kama Citra Ale (4.4%, IBU: 33): Kama Citra is a blonde ale with a citrus profile. A decent beer for summertime.
- Crazy Train IPA (6.5%, IBU: 75): This IPA wasn’t too crazy, but it was surprisingly sweet.
That wrapped up our tour of neighborhood breweries, and we headed for a quick bite at a local joint before retiring.
The next day we found our way to Postmark Brewing, a very unique spot. It’s located in the Settlement Building, which also houses a restaurant (Belgard Kitchen) and winery (Vancouver Urban Winery). We had brunch at Belgard — the Wagyu meatball brunch skillet and Railtown breakfast wrap were amazing — and hung around for a couple of beers from Postmark after:
- Pineapple Ale (5.3%, IBU: 18): A golden ale featuring pineapple, of course. Refreshing and bright.
- IPA (6%, IBU: 52): Malty, smooth, bitter. This American IPA’s hoppiness is cut with a zest of lemon.
- West Coast Pale Ale (4.8%, IBU: 38): Citrusy and a little bit malty, their West Coast pale offers the flavor profile you would expect with a dry finish.
We walked past Strathcona Beer Company at least half a dozen times before we finally went in, and as soon as we did I wished we’d checked it out sooner. In addition to fresh beer, Strathcona serves house-made pizza (we didn’t order a pie). On top of that, they feature a collaborative popup with the local brewery Superflux, which brews on premise. While there, we tasted brews from both Strathcona and Superflux, as well as a collaboration between the two:
- Beach Radler (Strathcona, 4%, IBU: 15): A nice radler featuring a sour, tart and juicy profile.
- Rainbow Machine (Superflux, 7.5%, IBU: N/A): A dank IPA that’s just, honestly, really tasty. Slightly dry.
- India Pale Ale (Strathcona, 6.5%, IBU: 60): A nice, hoppy IPA with a floral profile.
- Like This (Strathcona-Superflux collaboration, 6%, IBU: N/A): A perfect IPA. While the IBU wasn’t listed, it was low. Tropical and crisp.
We were thrilled when we walked into Powell Brewery to find a cute and friendly 7-month old pup named Jesse. He and his pal Charlie were available for a much needed canine play sesh. Oh, and the beers here were great too, making Powell another fav. The taproom was friendly and bright, and the brews right in line with the rest of the experience:
- Cheeky Session (4.5%, IBU: 30): A session IPA with a lot going on. Profile included fruity, hoppy and citrus flavors while remaining light and dry.
- Fresh Hop Wild IPA (6.5%, IBU: 50): I’m always excited to see a fresh (or wet) hop beer on the menu, and now is the season. This IPA, made with Amarillo hops, was most certainly fresh with a subtle flavor profile. We’ll talk more about fresh hopped beer later.
- Ode to Citra (5.5%, IBU: 35): A West Coast pale ale with a hop-forward flavor that’s smooth. True to its name, Ode to Citra brings sweet citrus juiciness.
- Lazy D’Haze IPA (7%, IBU: 58): Tropical and smooth, this is one hazy East Coast IPA. I loved the fruity profile, that was balanced out with the hop level.
- Old Jalopy (5.5%, IBU: 40): Malty, smooth and hoppy. The Old Jalopy is an English pale ale with a unique flavor.
Vancouver has some outstanding breweries, and I’m sure we only scratched the surface. While I think we did some decent damage for a three-day trip, I’m intrigued at what else there may be to explore. Overall, the city was amazing and I was sad to say goodbye. But, we were on the train headed south to Seattle, followed by Portland. Read more about the rest of our adventure in the Pacific Northwest next time. Cheers!