While Merideth and I felt we could spend the rest of our trip traveling around Vancouver Island, it was time for us to move over to the mainland. There were more breweries to visit and more of the British Columbia beer scene to explore.
We left the aptly named Departure Bay early Monday morning destined for the Lower Mainland. It was a beautiful, sunny day. With the gorgeous weather, Merideth and I enjoyed crossing of the Straight of Georgia from the upper deck. With the backdrop of the massive mainland coastal mountains, the scenery was spectacular. I almost wished we could do it all over again, but we disembarked at Horseshoe Bay and journeyed north.
Our first destination of the day was Whistler, the famous ski resort known most recently for hosting events during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Even in summer, the semi-posh Whistler Village teamed with tourists and outdoor-types strolling its quaint pedestrian zone. Not being skiers, Merideth and I took it all in with a bit of curiosity.
Normally, we would set out for a hike first, but Merideth was hungry. Instead, we wound our way to the far end of Whistler Village destined for High Mountain Brewing. Under a brilliant sun and snow-capped peaks, we settled into one of the outdoor high bar tables.
Starting with the light-bodied Lifty Lager and ending with the seasonal Imperial Stout, Merideth and I sampled the brews in the six beer flight. All the beers were very drinkable, with the Alta Lake Amber Ale and 5 Rings IPA being the favorites for Merideth and I respectively.
The network of hiking/biking trails around Whistler was quite impressive. Wanting to set out from the Village, we settled on a 7-8km loop around Alta Lake. Our hike was more of a long walk on paved paths around the lake, but Merideth and I enjoyed the exercise and being out in the sun.
Post hike, we had another quick beer at the Brewhouse before heading back down the mountain to Squamish.
Squamish billed itself as the “outdoor recreational capital of Canada.” Merideth and I were oblivious of this claim to fame as we exited off Hwy 99 at Cleveland Avenue, the town’s main drag. Squamish was our destination because of Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company. The seventh brewery of the trip was also our hotel for the night.
Checking into the hotel, we quickly dropped off our bags and headed back downstairs to the pub.
There is no better reward for staying at a brewery hotel than a dozen brew-flight. Merideth immediately fell in love with 4 Way Fruit Ale, a Wheat Beer made with mango, passion fruit, raspberry and pomegranate. Light-bodied and full of fruit flavor, 4 Way tasted exactly like a breakfast juice.
Merideth’s other favorite and go to beer during our stay at Howe Sound was Rail Ale Nut Brown. A silver medal winner at the 2012 North American Beer Awards, the brew had the nice nutty flavor that she enjoys. My stars were Devil’s Elbow IPA and Baldwin Cooper Best Bitter, a bronze medal winner at the 2012 North American Beer Awards.
Merideth and I were both fond of Megadestroyer, an Imperial Licorice Stout. Maybe an ‘acquired taste’ brew, this 10% ABV full-bodied Stout had, as the name would suggest, a wonderful licorice flavor.
Sitting in the pub, we couldn’t help notice the huge granite monolith that looms over Squamish. Known at the Stawamus Chief, the huge rock face towers 2,300 ft. over the town. Merideth and I joked that we would climb the face before we left.
Later, we learned from our friendly waitress that there was a hiking trail to the top that offered amazing views of Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains. Inspired, we vowed to get to the top of the Chief the next day.
The following morning we awoke psyched up to conquer the Chief. Doing some trail research online before we left, I saw a notice on the BC Parks website that the trail to the top of the Chief was closed for maintenance that very day (and only that day). Not really believing our unlucky fortune, we drove to the trail head to confirm that it was true.
Extremely disappointed, Merideth and I settled on another 7-8km hike at Alice Lake Park that wound around four different lakes. A bit more remote than our Whistler hike, the ‘Danger bear in the area’ warning added a bit of excitement. But, we still weren’t climbing the Chief.
Back at Howe Sound and again under the gaze of the Chief, Merideth and I lamented our missed hiking opportunity over a few pints. In the end, we re-framed our day. We didn’t conquer the Chief, but that just means we need to return to Squamish.