An Insider’s Guide on Where to Find the Hoppy Brew
Hot on the heels of the 2nd annual Steveston Beer Fest and entering the month of October, which is officially B.C. Craft Beer Month, I was given the assignment to source locations in Steveston village where craft beer is sold.
Grant and Erinn Bryan operate O’Hare’s GastroPub and Liquor Store. Grant Bryan says Steveston is a hot spot for craft beer drinkers and attracts people from across Metro Vancouver. What is the fuss about? He says craft beer is cool, quirky and fun. He calls it “an equalizer,” providing an opportunity for people to converse about what they are drinking and share their recommendations. It also makes people feel good to support local producers.
While those in the know will laugh to think that craft beer needs defining, I discovered that the meaning is not common knowledge, and requires some explanation.
Craft beers are made by hand in small batches. The Brewers Association of Canada defines a microbrewer as one that produces no more than 250,000 hectolitres of beer annually. Currently B.C. has approximately 80 microbreweries and the numbers are continuing to climb annually.
The focus is on distinctive full-bodied taste and aroma achieved by using the best ingredients. Generally craft beer is made locally, although some establishments also carry craft beer from the United States and Europe.
A number of Steveston’s restaurateurs are passionate about the unique and distinct beer being produced by microbreweries, and are eager to share these flavourful bevvies with their customers.
O’Hare’s has been instrumental in driving the local craft beer business. The Gastropub dedicates over half of their twenty taps to craft beer, of which five are rotating guest taps. Be sure to consult the chalkboard for their latest offerings.
Inside O’Hare’s Liquor Store you will find a full wall dedicated to single bottles. In addition you will find B.C. craft beer in cases, along with American, French, Belgian and German selections although Bryan says the majority of the beer is from North America. Their two-year-old O’Hare’s Craft Beer Club now has over 130 members who receive approximately 10 craft beers every two months along with tasting notes and pairing suggestions. Another way to learn about craft beer is to attend O’Hare’s Friday Night Beer tastings.
O’Hare’s Gastropub dedicates over half of their twenty taps to craft beer
Grant Bryan was kind enough to give me a crash course in Craft Beer 101. He is passionate about the topic and eagerly shared his enthusiasm and knowledge. He introduced me to a variety of styles including Parallel 49’s Tricycle Grapefruit Radler, which he jokingly describes as a “breakfast drink.” This seasonal low alcohol beer is comprised of 50% grapefruit juice and is a great patio sipper. I worked my way up the hoppy ladder to Elysian’s Superfuzz Blood Orange pale ale with an orange taste and a dry and bitter finish. Four Winds is a Delta microbrewery. Bryan describes their delicious pilsner as malty and full bodied. The final beer I tasted was Driftwood’s Fat Tug IPA. This brewery is located on Vancouver Island. Sold year round at O’Hare’s, this bitter and full-bodied brew pairs well with spicy or Asian food.
Pairing food with craft beer is all the rage, and the myriad of different tastes lend themselves to considering what beer you should drink alongside curry, burgers, sushi or even some desserts.
Everyone has his or her personal favourite. Steveston Insider’s publisher Carolynne Palla is drawn to Chainbreaker White Indian Pale Ale (IPA) brewed by Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. You can find it on tap at Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant where you can also enjoy a fabulous water view to go with your craft beer.
At O’Hares, Carolynne Palla seeks out Mill Street Brewery’s Original Organic Lager, which can be found in bottles in the Gastropub and liquor store. Whenever she drinks beer she prefers to drink from a frosty stem glass (no mugs please). Her husband, Karel Palla, likes to quench his thirst with a pint of Occidental’s Hefeweizen sold seasonally at Blue Canoe.
Some craft beers are seasonal, so be open minded to priming your taste buds for whatever the season has to offer.
Blue Canoe owner Jim van der Tas points out that some craft beers are seasonal, so be open minded to priming your taste buds for whatever the season has to offer, wherever you choose to drink craft beer.
When van der Tas opened Blue Canoe in 2008 he committed to offering Steveston new and different food and beverage choices. Each year he has seen growth in craft beer sales as more and more clients are trying microbrewery creations and are curious to pair these drinks with their meals.
Blue Canoe’s current craft beer menu includes Steam Whistle’s pilsner, Tree Brewing’s Cutthroat West Coast ale, Phillips’ Slipstream Cream ale, Dead Frog’s The Bold Belgian pale, Anchor Steam ale, Fat Tire’s Amber ale, Black Butte’s porter, Pyramid Apricot Ale, Mirror Pond Pale ale, Green Flash IPA, Parallel 49, Muskoka and Driftwood (one on tap and three bottled varieties).
Hog Shack Cook House is Metro Vancouver’s only establishment offering a 100% craft beer brew list. Tongue in cheek, owners John Lim Hing and Allan Yeo apologize for not offering any mass-market beers as they feel passionately about selling flavourful beers that pair with their menu.
Here you will find craft beer in a variety of styles from Canada, the United States (Washington, Oregon, California) as well some German and Belgian beers. They offer a huge beer list from lagers and wheat beers, to fruit beers, pale ales, amber and ruby ales, IPA’s, ultra hoppy, Belgian style, porters and stouts, and even one gluten free beer form the Netherlands. Hog Shack offers six rotating taps and an impressive bottle selection. In addition, the restaurant’s reserve list boasts 11 craft beer including Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout from the United Kingdom.
Hog Shack Cook House is Metro Vancouver’s only establishment offering a 100% craft beer brew list.
While Tapenade Bistro is best known for its excellent wine list, restaurant owner Vince Morlet carries a few craft beers including East Vancouver’s R&B Brewing Company on tap along with the following bottled offerings: Switchback’s IPA, Lighthouse’s Numbskull, Pyramid apricot ale, Parallel 49’s Seedspitter Watermelon Wit, Deschutes’ Pale Ale and Driftwood’s Fat Tug IPA.
The Buck & Ear Pub, a Steveston fixture for years, has a selection of local craft beer on tap including Four Winds IPA, Four Winds Pale Ale, Four Winds Farmhouse Ale, Parallel 49 Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale, Parallel 49 Filthy Dirty IPA, and Phillips Blue Buck.
Their neighbouring liquor store at the Steveston Hotel has a large selection of chilled craft beer for sale in both single cans and cases. A good seasonal choice to welcome autumn is Howe Sound’s Pumpkin Eater ale. Other options include Howe Sound King Hefty and Garibaldi Honey, Amarillo ale, Phillips Brewery’s Unicorn, Longboat Chocolate Porter and Ginger Beer. The chilled case is filled with many other singles to pick and choose from.
If you are looking for a six-pack, some of the store’s selections include Phillips Brewery’s Bottle Rocket, Wheatking Hefeweizen, HopCircle IPA, and Blue Buck. Russell Brewing Co. offerings include Eastern Promises, Blood Alley and Hop Therapy India Session Ale (ISA), Red Racer’s ISA, Pale Ale and Extra Special Bitter.
Gudrun Tasting Room carries a selection of craft beer to pair with their cheeses and charcuterie. Gudrun staff tipped me off that the restaurant will be hosting a dinner with Brassneck Brewery in October. Contact Gudrun for more details.
Finally, as the new B.C. Liquor Policy Review changes came into effect earlier this summer, the Steveston Farmers and Artisans Market can now allow made in B.C. beer to be sampled and sold alongside the produce.
A good seasonal choice to welcome autumn is Howe Sound’s Pumpkin Eater ale.
Four Winds was a steady presence at the bi-weekly market where they offered tastings and sales of their four-pack bottled beer. Steveston resident Doug Kobylanski, considers himself to be a “beeroissuer” (beer connoisseur). He says Four Winds’ Wildflower Saison is one of the best craft beers he has ever tasted.
Ultimately what it comes down to is acquainting yourself with the wide variety of styles being produced, discovering your personal preferences, and enjoying the camaraderie of this craft beer phenomenon, which Jim van der Tas predicts “is here to stay.”
We can feel proud that Steveston village stands out as a destination that craft beer fans have on their radar screen. They travel far and wide to hang out at our local restaurants and pubs that are committed to sharing their passion for the hoppy brew.