Vancouver, BC and the quest for beer

With local brewing making a comeback in the US, (even if it’s just for another lager) I wasn’t sure if similar things would be happening up North. From my childhood I remembered my Dad going on ‘Moosehead trips’ with his buddies. These were basically excursions to Canada to go camping and drink in a time honored tradition going as far back as I can remember. The beer was better there, or so I’d been told, so why not go enjoy some sometime?

To my surprise, I had difficulty finding the range and quality of beers in Vancouver that I have found in Seattle or Portland. I realize that it may be a bit of a fallacy to presume that things would be the same, but for some reason I’d gotten it in my head that Vancouver would be a bit like Portland and because of the broader cultural range and numbers of people this would mean a great variety of beer, and moreover, that it would be easy to find.

But for the first couple days, what I saw were lagers and pilsners, frequently honey lagers or ales, and the abomination of a beer that Alexander Keith’s called an IPA. I swear, I thought that the wrong beer had been served when I first saw it; yellow of hue and crystal clear, it had to be the wrong beer, right? And then I drank it; tasted like a lager to me. Maybe slightly more piney in the nose, but nothing distinctive. Had to be the wrong beer, because it bears no resemblance to any IPA I’ve had.

But no. We shall speak no more of this.

The limited varitey of beer may have been due to the strong influence of Asian culture in the city.  Stouts and ales generally don’t pair with sushi and duck. Not that they can’t, but generally I find much lighter beers served with Chinese or Japanese food.

It wasn’t until late in the day on the second day of vacation that I saw some variety, and this was at Yaletown, which seemed like the Rock Bottom of Canada. Here I drank an amber ale that was passable and a brown ale that was quite creamy and delicious.

At this point though I was noticing a trend: ever since leaving Seattle, I was getting beers that concentrated on malts. Ambers, scotches, and the smatterings of porters, along with lagers. And way too many honey beers. Yeast and hops were apparently not interesting once you went far enough North.

But would malts be enough to sustain me for eight days?

4 thoughts on “Vancouver, BC and the quest for beer”

  1. Agh – you must just be having bad luck. Vancouver’s microbrew industry has every bit the breadth and depth of a microbrew industies in Seattle and Portland. Try to get to the Alibi Room, in Gastown, for one of the best selections (and flights). Or the Whip Gallery on Main. For the most part Downtown and Yaletown are not the best neighbourhoods for beer in Vancouver.

    Keith’s is a lager BTW, despite its name, and yes it’s terrible. Only ex-pats from the Maritimes drink it. As for the light beers/Asian theory, we make more stouts, red ales and IPAs than anything else – so I don’t know if that theory works. Again, I think you’re hitting the wrong places.

    Good luck on your beer quest. And do try the Alibi Room if you get a chance.

  2. Hello, crowspotting!

    I am back from Canada by now, but I will look for the Alibi and the Whip Gallery when I visit next. I didn’t have enough time to ask where I might find more than (or better) lagers before I went, but I was able to find some different beers (as will be shown in my future posts, I hope.)

    It may be that because I was in a more touristy section of town, with a lot of asian food restaurants, but I can only tell you what I saw, even in non-asian places.

    Still, of the beers you name, stouts and red ales are more malt driven. Nothing wrong with that!-but it does keep with the trend.

    But I’m glad to know that there are more options on my return. Thanks!

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