beer column

Because I just can’t say it enough times, lemme tell you what a great time it is to be a craft beer drinker in Vancouver.


Yes, I know I’m always saying that it’s a great time to be a craft beer lover, but it is true!  And it just keeps on getting better. The nay-sayers are predicting that this is a bubble that will eventually burst, and maybe they’re right. But for right now, and the foreseeable future, craft beer is booming, and we’re all the winners.


2015 is a mere four months old, and already we’ve had several new breweries open Province-wide; a couple of breweries have added craft cider to their line-ups; two out of town breweries are opening up brewing spaces in Vancouver; and one of Alberta’s large breweries has opened a Vancouver location – Big Rock Brewing opened an Urban Eatery on West 4th (coincidently at the corner of Alberta) on April 10th.  Big Rock says that it’ll keep the Vancouver location local by brewing small batches on site from local ingredients.


Of the other new openings so far in 2015, two are in Vancouver and one in Abbotsford.  Off the Rail Brewing opened in February, across the street from Bomber Brewing.  Their Limited Edition Raybuck Red is available in cans at private liquor stores.


Dogwood Brewing, an all-organic Brewery opened just off Marine Drive and Knight Street in late March.   And Old Abbey Ales opened in Abbotsford in early March.  Bottle-conditioned Old Abbey Ales are available at private liquor stores, and if you’re out that way, they tap a cask every Friday at 2:00 p.m.


Central City has taken over the old Dix Brewpub space on Beatty street, where they will be focussing on brewing sour beers.  I have heard that the brewpub is expected to feature 40 draft taps, half of which will pour creations brewed by its parent company in Surrey, with the other 20 devoted to beer from other local craft breweries. A cocktail list will draw from Central City’s line of gin, vodka and (eventually) whisky.  Look for that to open at the end of May.


Dix Brewpub was the hangout of beer geeks before the craft beer explosion, but has been closed for 5 years now.  It is high time that yummy beers are once again being made there – I’m a happy camper that Central City has taken over the space.  Also sours!?  That someone will be making more sours in Vancouver makes me positively giddy!


The other new opening is also kind of a closing.  Howe Sound Brewing from Squamish has purchased R&B Brewing.  They will be continuing to brew R&B’s core beers, plus their own lager, which they can’t keep up with demand for at the Squamish brewery.  I have heard that they have also acquired the space next to the brewery and will be opening a tasting room in it (E 4th & Quebec). 


While I’m sad to hear that R&B has been sold, I’m happy that it has been sold to a BC brewery who intend to keep it running, rather than to someone who intended to dismantle it.  And the original owners, Rick Dellow and Barry Benson, are staying on as employees. With this purchase, Howe Sound keeps BC from having its first casualty of the beer boom, and keeps one of the oldest breweries in Vancouver going.  This purchase is the second move by Howe Sound into the Vancouver market.  Last year they opened Devil’s Elbow Ale & Smoke House also on Beatty Street.  Devil’s Elbow is a pub and BBQ restaurant that serves a full range of Howe Sound brands along with a few local guest taps.


As the star of craft beer rises, so do those of craft beverages across the board, including cider. The process of making cider is not the same as that of beer, but there are some commonalities.  Like the use of hops.  Hoppy ciders are so very fashionable right now.  If you are pressing apples yourself, you can press tart cider apples rather than sweet dessert ones.  If your volume is such that you’re having to buy concentrate made from dessert apples, one way to cut the sweetness is through the introduction of hops.


It also makes sense for breweries to add cider to their line-ups as ciders are naturally gluten-free.  It can be easier to add cider-making to a brewery than to add a gluten-free beer, as the potential for cross-contamination is very high in a brewery making regular beer. With the amount of competition we have now in tasting rooms ciders also make sense from a marketing standpoint.  If you brew beer, distill spirits and press cider, you’re a triple threat and that can’t hurt in your quest to get people through the tasting room door.  Although, I will gladly point out that all the tasting rooms around town have line-ups most of the time, leading me to believe there is still room for more of them in Vancouver and environs!


Central City launched its Hopping Mad dry-hopped cider in early March.  “...creating a dry hopped craft cider makes perfect sense for us,” says Gary Lohin, Brewmaster at Central City. “Our cider will satisfy thirsty craft beer enthusiasts who enjoy cider, and cider enthusiasts who enjoy hops.” You can buy Hopping Mad in six packs of cans at the liquor store, and find it on tap around town.


33 Acres Brewing has a cider as well. “Blending three honourable styles of apples, 33 Acres of Cid3r is our interpretation of an Old English Scrumpy.”  You can only get the 33 Acres of cider at the brewery.

Big Rock Brewing has had a cider on the market for many years.  The big boys jumped in a couple of years ago - Labatt's with their Alexander Keith's cider in 2012 and Molson's cider in 2013 (which has just found it's way to BC).


I think we’ll be seeing a lot more craft cider being made in the Lower Mainland, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see more coming from local breweries.  What I am still waiting for though is for someone to open up a mostly cider taproom.  It can’t be long now... and then I can start saying what a great time it is for craft beer and craft spirits AND craft cider in Vancouver!


Beer Picks:


Hip as Funk Farmhouse IPA from Moon Under Water – brewed for international women’s day this beer is generously hopped and tart, with brett sourness. 650ml bottles at private liquor stores


Right Kind of Crazy Double IPA from Powell Street – is a 9% hop-bomb of citrus - available at the brewery and in 650ml bottles at private liquor stores


Rye the long face Imperial Rye IPA from Parallel 49 – the punniest brewery in town’s latest offering is an 8.5% imperial ipa with rye malts.  Available at the brewery and in 650 ml bottles at liquor stores.


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