It’s beautiful, hot and sunny in Vancouver, and you want a beer! One way to enjoy some new beers and not worrying about driving is to take a tour with Vancouver Brewery Tours, as I did. I received a Media pass to attend, and I am glad I did. We visited 3 breweries of various sizes and complexities:
All the breweries are within a 5-10 minute drive to each other.
Brassneck was our first stop (on Main and Broadway), and was formed by two brew masters, one of which used to work at Steamworks. It has a fairly standard layout, where you can order your beer at the bar, samplers also available, and when you are ready to leave and you want to take home some beer, you can get a new growler, or bring one from home, and have it filled. Brassneck provided us with 4 beers to sample:
- Same Brain (Dageraad & Brassneck collaborate on a Belgian Blonde)
- Hibiscus Wit (Belgian style wheat beer with hibiscus)
- Passive Aggressive (Dry hopped Pale Ale)
- Blacklight (Black Alt beer) – not too sure if this one is right
Of these 4 beers, I think the consensus amongst are group was Same Brain and Blacklight were our top choices. I am partial to Belgian style beers so enjoyed the Same Brain. I also liked the chocolate/dark malt in the Blacklight. One of the really interesting things about Brassneck is that the spigots where the beers are poured into your glass come directly from the tanks. No filtering here. FYI, if you live in Burnaby, Dageraad is a new brewery in Burnaby that makes Belgian style beers. It is on my radar of breweries to visit.
Big Rock Urban is the BC branch of Big Rock Brewery from Alberta. They came into BC, but as I was told, not to simply brew the same beer as in Alberta and sell it here; rather to create new beers for the BC palate. I am not sure what a BC beer palate is though. I do know that many of my friends do like IPAs, so maybe we are more on the heavily hopped beers compared to Alberta? The beers we tried at Big Rock Urban:
- Pale ale
- Red ale
Big Rock Urban besides having a tasting area where you can also purchase beer to take home, also has a restaurant, so you can enjoy a beer together with some food. It is a nice airy room, and everything looks brand new, as it just opened in April 2015 I believe. The Hefeweizen was liked by us all. The Pale ale was a bit too hoppy for some of the tour group, but if you like IPAs this one is not too much of a challenge. I quite enjoyed the Red ale.
Storm Brewing was out last stop. It is the oldest craft brewery in BC, established in 1994. I am amazed that I did not already know about it. I would call it a “garigiste” brewery, as it to me is very similar to garigiste wineries, where small batches of wines are produced by wine makers out of their “garage”. This is a big compliment. No food, or tables here. Just interesting beer, and it was evidenced the day that I was there, with a continual line up of people out the door. The brewery equipment at Storm is made by the owner, through purchasing or acquiring used equipment, not necessarily meant for beer brewing, and modifying it for this purpose. We all were able to try 6 different beers, although we did all together try the first two in my list below. The beers I tried at Storm Brewing (some through sharing with others on the tour):
- Imperial Flanders Sour Ale
- Highland Scottish Ale
- Mojito Pilsner
- Vanilla Whisky Stout
- Apple Pie Ale
- Basil IPA
The brew master, and owner, at Storm is James Walton, and he has quite an imagination and skill at making beers. The last 4 beers I listed are what he calls “Brainstorms”, which I assume means he is trying it out, and it will be a limited production, so if you go now, you may still be able to taste these beers, or you may be pleasantly surprised by a brand new batch of new beers. James it appears makes his own flavourings for the beers, which he somehow steeps/concentrates/creates in large bottles, from natural ingredients. Do you like sour ciders? Like from Normandy? If so, you will probably really like the Imperial Flanders Sour Ale. Once brewed, it is oak barrel aged for 1 year. It is truly sour, and I think you either really like it or not. There is no middle ground for this beer. So if you are not sure, give it a try, as you can pick up to 6 beers to try at Storm.
I really think that this brewery is a must visit place. It is impossible to describe it in words; you have to experience it in person.
Complements and New Knowledge
I must compliment Paul, our tour guide, who is also a certified cicerone. As he drove us to each brewery stop, he would let us know about other breweries that were just down this and that street. He also gave us a brief introduction to how beer is made, before we began our tasting. I think that it is always makes you appreciate a beer, or wine, more when you learn about the processes required to produce the beverage in the glass in your hand. My main take away from Paul is that there are 2 kinds of beer: Lagers and ales. All other beers derive from these 2 major kinds. Ale fermentation is warmer and the activity in the fermentation tank is more active. Fermentation happens at the top of the tank, and takes about 10 days to ferment. Lager is fermented cooler, and most activity takes place at the bottom of the tank. It takes about 7 weeks to finish fermentation. Interesting.
I recommend taking this tour. Mine took approximately 3.5 hours. Father’s Day is coming up, so maybe treat your father or husband? Or just go because you like beer! Here is a link to Vancouver Brewery Tours. Enjoy.