Vancouver’s small-batch beer revolution
Vancouver's Powell Street Craft Brewery opened its tiny, art-lined storefront location in December 2012. (John Lee)
When Vancouver’s newest brewery opened its tiny, art-lined storefront location in December 2012, a gaggle of local beer nuts rushed in, thirsty for a taste of malty Old Jalopy Pale Ale, hop-packed Hopdemonium IPA and smoothly java-esque Dive Bomb Porter.
But while the jam-packed launch day at Powell Street Craft Brewery kept beer maker David Bowkett busy, his operation was just the latest in a sudsy wave of new microbreweries and even-smaller nanobreweries that have opened in the city in recent months.
“Everyone seemed to pop up at once,” said Bowkett, a self-taught beer maker who sells his popular tipples in refillable takeout containers. “There’s been a growing demand for good beer in Vancouver. I think people like the idea of ‘local’ and ‘craft’, and they like being able to meet the maker of the beer they’re drinking.”
Taking advantage of East Vancouver’s low rents – this historically gritty industrial area is a labyrinth of century-old factories – small-scale newbies such as Parallel 49, known for its citrusy Hoparazzi lager, and Coal Harbour Brewing, which makes a malty Triumph Rye Ale, have also opened in the neighbourhood over the past 12 months. They join established older brother Storm Brewing, which launched in 1995 and counts a heady, winter-warming Black Plague Stout among its popular beers.
Add North Vancouver’s new Bridge Brewing, which opened in summer 2012 and which makes a hoppy North Shore Pale Ale, plus the soon-to-launch Brassneck Brewery on Vancouver’s Main Street, and it’s easy to spot a fresh surge in British Columbia’s well-developed craft beer scene. They’re the creamy head on a lip-smacking regional movement that’s seen several dozen local beer makers emerge over the past decade.
“For me, brewing is very creative – it’s an artistic kind of science. I’m not interested in making lots of different beers. I’d rather make a few but make them great,” Bowkett said, adding that he’s planning a new Belgian-style witbier for springtime visitors to the Powell Street brewery.
John Lee is the Vancouver Localite for BBC Travel