A Vancouver Brewery Tour, Baby!
Last year, My Beautiful Wife and some friends surprised me for my birthday with a night out on the town. The town in question was Vancouver and the friends were Emily & Craig (AKA the Maestro, from my Vancouver Craft Beer Week Blog). A central part of that plan was for the fellas to go on a Canadian Craft Tours exploration of some breweries while the ladies went shopping. That weekend was amazing for many reasons, but the highlight for me was definitely the brewery tour. The Maestro and I had so much fun bussin’ and bustin’ about the breweries that, when an opportunity arose to take another tour with CCT we jumped at the chance! Yes, we would miss our significant others dearly. But absence makes the heart grow fonder and adjuncts make the beer go farther so I figured we’d survive one night away.
We arrived with enough time to park, check our bags, then walk a couple blocks to Canada Place: the jumping-off point for the night’s activities. As a small-town guy, when I’m in Vancouver I’m constantly absorbing the city-centric experience so foreign to my rather rural existence. A large part of that involves people watching, and I try to be inconspicuous and chill and nothing-phases-this-guy about it but on this day something was most definitely up!
Standing in line in the food court at Waterfront Centre, we spied Princess Leia in pleasant conversation with a Storm Trooper. Seemingly of her own volition. Also, she’d gone blonde. Sailor Moon, to my mind a pioneer of anime’s proliferation and acceptance in North America (although historians might disagree) had not aged well and was perhaps at a midpoint in her gender re-assignment. Waldo was right there and easily found. Harry Potter was outside hacking a butt. What the hell, pray tell, was going on here? When that question was posed to the normally-clad couple beside us, the answer was, “Fan Expo”. Apparently Fan Expo is a full-tilt, movie/comic/gaming/pop-culture convention that looked pretty damn cool (if you’re into the whole Cosplay thing) and was taking place right here at Canada Place.
We finished our food, tipped our cap to the cartoon-clad keepers of the flame, then sauntered across the street for our CCT pick-up. Our guide for the night, Oliver, was a fine young fellow who ushered us into the bus, introduced himself and encouraged all of us to do the same. Once formalities finished up, Oli dropped the locations, popped the clutch and we were on our way. The first stop? Strathcona Beer Co. baby!
I just love the Strath’. From its clean lines & cool vibe to the skateboard-chic aesthetic, the place just reeks of radness. And… I can’t believe I just wrote skateboard-chic. I know more than a few OG’s that would murderize me for that one. Listen: everything under the sun that’s cool and underground eventually gets blasted-out: runway models are wearing Thrasher T’s for Phelps sakes! And so it goes…
Thankfully, the Strathcona Beer Company also reeks of authenticity. And what does that smell like? Skill and sweat and style and getting up after every bone-bruising bail and turning up the hustle ’till the trick is made and the job is done. So ya, I love Strathcona’s authenticity and the skate culture that reverberates thru their house like a sonic blast by Sonic Youth, but none of that really matters if the beer’s no good. Thankfully, SBC makes amazing beer, and I’ve sampled much and many of their wares. The father/son brewing duo (Bruo?) of Fezz and Nick make killer beers and chemistry plays a large part of the art of the cook. The flight we had housed some of their finest, including the recently released North East IPA and the collaboration beer with Superflux (the gypsy brewers who, as it happens, also make their magic at The Strath’) I could blather on about the SBC for days, so my suggestion for you is to seek’em out yourself and taste what I’m talking about.
Our next stop was Parallel 49. These guys are one of the biggest craft breweries in BC and for some reason that makes me, more often than not, pass them up during my weekly beer purchases. I tend to favour the little guys, and that’s fine and that’s okay and everyone can do what they want with their hard-earned money but the consequence of my personal bias is that I miss out on some truly fantastic beer. Now was my chance to play catch-up. The four-on-the-flight were the Trash Panda (Hazy IPA) the Bodhisattva (Dry-hopped Sour) the Old Boy (Classic Brown Ale) and the Parallelogram (Coffee Porter on Nitro). They were all tasty as hell (although one of our crew cried, “this tastes like vinegar!” after taking a pull off the Bodhi’. Not everyone is down with the Sours) but my absolute favourite was the Parallelogram. That beer was darker than a moonless night and smoother than a polished stone and tasted so damn good I bought a donut from their kitchen to accompany the ‘cold-brewed coffee’ sitting front-row centre on the sample. As you may or may not know, P49 has a metric tonne on tap. Here’s the list:
Usually during a tour with CCT, you’d check out the brewing space of the first brewery then hang out in the lounge/tasting rooms of the other two. But some of us wanted to check behind the curtains at Parallel 49 as well and Oliver was happy to oblige. Wow. The scale of P49’s operation is pretty damn serious. Here come some pictures:
I was thoroughly impressed with P49 and swore an oath to my beer-buying self to seek out more of their heavenly liquids. I started by picking up a bomber of their Lost Souls (Chocolate Pumpkin Porter) right then and there!
Our last stop on the night was Luppolo Brewing, and my only experience with them was a sample I’d had during Vancouver Craft Beer Week. I’m pretty sure it was good, but it was near the end of the Fest and my palate was starting to crash so I can’t recall for certain. So basically, I came into this Brewery blind and unbiased and ready for anything. Luppolo is a small outfit by most standards (certainly when compared to P49) but thankfully, that means next to nothing when it comes to quality of product. Their tasting flight was terrific and triangular and housed some real gems within the radical equilaterals.
Highlights for me were the Brett IPA (which won a silver medal at this year’s BC Beer Awards) and the Experimental Pale Ale. The Experimental was so named due to the fact they weren’t sure what type of hops they had. The Luppolo crew had come in contact with some mystery hops from Gambier Island and decided, “Why not?” and threw them into the mix. The result was fantastic and I hope they do that one again. Before leaving Luppolo, the Maestro and I both picked up a bottle of their one year anniversary beer, Evoluta. It’s is a bourbon barrel aged Dubbel that I’m dying to dig into but the patience-is-a-virtue part of me thinks I should hold onto it for a bit.
When the tour’s completion finally came to call, Oliver gathered up his lightly lubricated cats with little difficulty. We were all in our cups to one degree or another but more than that, there was an aura of contentedness about the crew that’s hard to find and just as hard to hold onto. There we were, all of us: curiosities satisfied and palates gratified. I would recommend a brewery tour to anyone looking for a good time or a great gift. And holy red-nosed Rudolph* but Christmas is just around the corner! So, if you’re of a mind to, get bookin’ baby!
Thanks again, Canadian Craft Tours, you host one helluva show. And good luck on your doctorate, Oliver. If you ultimately decide computational biology isn’t your in your DNA (trying to make a computational biology joke but I get the feeling they don’t exist) Ninja Tour Guide ain’t a bad fallback plan.
*Little known fact: the real reason for Rudolph’s red honker? Too many cold-filtered MGD’s while getting blitzed with Blitzen.