Over our week in British Columbia, Merideth and I explored the beer scene from breezy Vancouver Island to snow-capped Whistler to bustling Vancouver. With a baker’s dozen of new breweries already added to the List, we had one more day to finish things up before family time began.
We began our day in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey at the glass-enclosed, modern Central City Brewing. This was a much anticipated stop as Central City has won a number of beer awards, most recently being named “Best Brewery” at the Canadian Brewing Awards a few weeks prior.
The brewery was also well-known for losing a legal dispute with Healdburg’s Bear Republic Brewing over its Red Racer brand. Too closely resembling in name Bear Republic’s iconic Racer 5 and Red Rocket beers, Central City brews distributed in the States now go by the moniker Red Betty. Red whatever, I was anxious to try the beers.
The lunchtime crowd was mainly gathered to watch the European Football Championship semifinal between Germany and Italy. Used to being amongst other German fans, Merideth and I found ourselves in a bar full of blue-shirted Azzurri supporters. Locating some open seats on a deserted corner of the bar, we ordered a sample flight.
The dozen brew flight was the most diverse since the similar-sized selection we sampled at Howe Sound earlier in the week. Ranging from a light-colored, Bavarian-style Lager to an ink-black, smokey Stout, we tasted some of the best beers of our Canadian trip. In between, we tried a Pale Ale, Raspberry Wheat, Wheat, and smoked beer to name a few.
Merideth was sold on the crisp lager when she heard the words “Bavarian-style”. I was most impressed by both the Canadian Brewing Awards gold medal winners, Red Racer ESB and Central City Imperial IPA. Their assertive, floral bitterness contrasted sharply with the unpleasant bitterness I felt with Germany losing 2-0 to Italy.
I would be remiss not to mention the wonderful food. The Red Racer IPA Bangers and Mash paired nicely with a pint of the Red Racer IPA.
On a rainy evening, we took the Sky Train from our airport hotel into central Vancouver.
Walking through Gastown, we marveled with a multitude of other tourists at the steam-powered clock, a Vancouver landmark since 1977. Passing the Steamworks brewpub, which Merideth and I visited in 1998, we gave each other the puzzled “that doesn’t look familiar at all” look. But it’s on The List, so we knew we had, in fact, been there.
On the far edge of Gastown almost back in East Vancouver, Merideth and I reached our final beer stop of the Canada trip, the Alibi Room.
Over the course of our journey, we were told a number of times, we HAD to visit the Alibi Room. Peering into its arched windows as we walked past, the Alibi Room’s popularity was confirmed by the large number of beer drinkers filling its long communal tables.
I somewhat panicked, worrying that we came all this way to have a long waiting list or no place to sit. Much to my relief, we were able to grab a corner of one of the high tables in front of the bar. (We later discovered there was a downstairs. While less spacious, the basement was complete with bar and duplicate set of taps.) As numerous customers came and went, Merideth and I settled in for our trip swan song.
Over the course of our trip, we had been introduced to the wide variety of local beer. Now, it was all here in front of us one more time to enjoy. Though they had a few beers from the States on their 44 taps and three hand pumps, British Columbian beer was front and center at the Alibi Room.
I already knew I was going to start with the R & B ESB on cask, a beer even more delightful than the keg version I tried the previous day at the brewery. The soft carbonation really brought out the hoppiness of the brew.
Merideth went with Driftwood Farmhand Ale, a 5.5% ABV version of a Saison. Black pepper gave the brew an extra layer of spiciness. After I tasted the Saison, I again regretted that we didn’t get to visit the brewery during our stay in Victoria.
While Merideth stuck with the Saison throughout the evening, my next (and next) beer was Driftwood’s Fat Tug IPA, maybe my favorite brew of the week-long trip.
The Alibi Room was a perfect way to end the trip. With its wide selection of local beer, we were reminded of the strength of BC’s beer scene.