While Molson is the official brewery sponsor and beer vendor of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, visitors will be able to enjoy much more than just bland lager at fine establishments throughout Vancouver and Whistler. Below is some information I put together after visiting Vancouver in 2008, as well as a trip to Whistler in 2009. For anyone headed to the games, hopefully this can help you find some liquid gold (god that’s cheesy). If you have additional questions about the beer scene in British Columbia, or Canadian beer in general, I’d try Canadian Beer News (I’m not sure if there is any beer blog that is BC specific?)
Before I get into the beer, though, Vancouver is just an amazing city overall. Beautiful surroundings, great food, active nightlife and arts scene, Stanley Park etc…I’ll look forward to going back. The highlight was probably the local public market on Granville Island. WOW. Pike Place in Seattle is great and all, but the offerings at this market just looked amazing. Fresh seafood, pasta, meats, veggies, bakeries and tons of other offerings galore. While nice to visit as a tourist, the market really would be amazing for locals. Like I said, it reminded me of Pike Place, but much more functional and impressive for the food.
Our first beer stop was at the Granville Island Brewery. Granville uses this location primarily to make their seasonal and specialty beers, while they produce their regular lineup at a larger location in Kelowna. They had their English Bay Pale Ale, Island Lager, Robson Street Hefeweizen and a seasonal Ginger Beer. The Pale Ale and Lager were both pretty awful, and the Ginger beer was like sucking on a chunk of ginger. As my girlfriend said, “It’s like Asian noodles, without the noodles.” The Hefe was pretty solid. Clean and refreshing with a decent amount of banana and light spice. My only real knock on it was it was a bit thin. Worth stopping in because of its location; any visit to Granville Island brings you right by it.
After checking into our hotel near Gas Town, we headed over to the Steamworks Brewing Company and shared a sampler out on their patio. Besides their normal lineup, they had a Belgian Dubbel, Ginger Beer (is it ginger beer month in Vancouver?) and a Nut Brown. Their Ginger was a godsend after the one at Granville Island; strong ginger aroma but a very balanced amount in the taste. The Dubbel and IPA were also both solid. The IPA isn’t going to blow you away, but it’s balanced and well made. The Oatmeal Stout was pretty brutal, though. Overall, Steamworks is a great place to grab a beer, and it sounds like they rotate seasonal offerings fairly often.
The culinary highlight of our trip was dinner at Boneta. We went all out at this trendy, but beautiful restaurant in Gas Town. We weren’t there for the beer, but it turns out they had the Brooklyn Blast Imperial IPA on tap, which was a great way to start the dinner off. That was followed by a cheese plate and then a feast of:
Smoked Bison Carpaccio, Sherry Vinaigrette, Walnuts, Roasted Tomato
Heirloom Baby Beet Salad, Buffalo Mozzarella, Granny Smith Apple Vinaigrette
Seared Pacific Scallops, Celeriac Ravioli, Braised Oxtail, Mushrooms, Kale, Brown Butter Sauce
Roasted Lamb Rack, Braised Lamb Collar, Quinoa, Roasted Peppers, Pine Nuts
Coconut Bar & Flourless Chocolate Cake dipped in Milk Chocolate, Mango Chantilly
Caramel Bavaroise, Breton Sable, Caramelised Apple, Vanilla Parfait
I know this is a beer blog, but wow…what a meal. Throw in a couple of glasses of wine, and you’ve got gluttony at its finest. This was one of my most memorable dinners in some time, and it was well worth what we paid (Happy Birthday, Jeanne!).
To top off the night, we managed to make it over to the Alibi Room and check out their impressive lineup of beer (see the full tap list from during our visit here). They have about 15 taps, and all of them were pouring a beer from a different BC craft brewer. It’s impressive when you can sit down at a bar like that, and realize that you have never had ANY of the beers that they have on tap. I had small samples of a couple beers, but we were tired and called it a night after that. The bartender informed us that they will be adding five more taps this week, and they will soon have a beer engine installed that will allow them to have cask beer every day. Hell yeah.
I’ll look forward to hitting this place for a longer session in the future. It’s a welcoming lounge that is focused on beer, but is also quite a trendy spot with a varied cocktail list, an interesting food menu, a relaxing vibe upstairs, and a DJ downstairs. This is a place that men should have no problem getting their girlfriend/wife to visit.
After a well rested night, we spent a couple of hours on Sunday walking around and exploring Stanley Park, which is a water-front wilderness paradise right in the middle of the city. It was a beautfiul day to be out and about, and this was just another highlight of a great trip.
On the way back to Seattle that afternoon, we made our last beer stop of the trip at Boundary Bay Brewery in Bellingham. I love their beers (especially the IPA), and this was just my second time visiting. Their Imperial IPA was on tap, and I also picked up the last bottle of it that they had to take home. Awesome. Don’t forget to hit Chuckanut Brewery when in Bellingham as well.
Overall, this was a great trip and I loved the city. It lived up to my expectations and exceeded them for the beer that I found…can’t wait to go back.
Up in Whistler, we visited the BrewHouse at Whistler, which is a Mark James Group Brewery/Restaurant. They were advertising a “new” IPA that was very good, and they had a smoked porter that was pretty light all around, but still worth trying. We also tried the Alexander Keith’s IPA (awful; but drinking it at the top of Whistler Mt. made it better), and we picked up several beers at the liquor store that I haven’t tried yet.