By: Andrew Latimer
While the origins of St. Patrick’s Day stem from Irish religious and cultural traditions that date back centuries, the holiday has become a global excuse to drink above-average amounts of alcohol. While many people will spend this weekend exploring the inside of a toilet seat, this saint’s day is an excellent opportunity to tour through the Lower Mainland’s rich brewery scene.
Breweries offer an chance to try a wide range of interesting beers straight from the source, support local establishments that are facing rising rent prices, and get a social night out of it. There are dozens of breweries scattered across the Lower Mainland, and Vancouver in particular has had a lively craft beer scene going back decades. There are also plenty of restaurants and eateries that grow and thrive in this hoppy ecosystem, giving you all the ingredients for a fun night out.
The breweries around Main Street, East Vancouver, and Port Moody are accessible, popular, and clustered within easy walking distance. These are the three districts most suited to an exploratory brew crawl. It’s worth trying a few flights to find those beers you truly enjoy, and then you can fill up a growler and take it home with you!
Of course, please drink responsibly and don’t drive while drinking. These routes were planned with walking and transit in mind. It’s also worth pacing oneself throughout the night and grabbing food to mitigate the effects of a long crawl.
Finally, this is by no means an exhaustive or ranked list of breweries in the Lower Mainland, so edit this route based on your own tastes and experience. Without further ado, let’s get to the breweries!
- Parallel 49 Brewing Co. (1950 Triumph Street) – Let’s start with one of the breweries that has grown and thrived the most, in the heart of East Van. Parallel 49’s beer is carried in liquor stores all across the Lower Mainland, and its large tasting room consistently fills up on weekend nights. It’s easy to see why: P 49 boasts a truly impressive selection of beers. From the smooth Craft Lager or Tricycle Grapefruit Radler to the Trash Panda or Filthy Dirty IPA, there is something for all beer-drinkers here. Get there early to beat the crowds or hang outside by the food trucks while you wait for your group’s table.
- Storm Brewing (310 Commercial Drive) – The oldest craft brewery in Vancouver also may have one of the most distinct styles, encapsulated by their much-repeated review “So sketchy, but great beer!” Indeed, while the entrance looks like a parking garage and the standing-only tasting room is surrounded by vats and ingredients, the beer is top-notch. Their mainstays are good, but where Storm really shines is with their “Brainstorms,” rotating batches of beer in the most unusual of flavours. Try the favorites like the Pineapple Pilsner or Vanilla Whiskey Stout, or one of the weekly weird ones such as the Cucumber Dill Pilsner or Orange Creamsicle Ale.
- Powell Brewery (1357 Powell Street) – This small brewery burst onto the craft beer scene when their Old Jalopy Pale Ale was awarded the “Beer of the Year” award in 2013. Their tasting room is still small and a little off the beaten track, but they pack plenty of flavour into their beers. With their Lazy D’Haze IPA and Dive Bomb Dark Ale, they continue to place high as critically acclaimed beers.
- East Van Brewing (1675 Venables Street) – One of the newer breweries on Commercial Drive, this place has a large and atmospheric tasting room that feels like a dark and woody old-fashioned pub. They leaned into an East Van aesthetic (like cross shaped six-beer flights), and their beers tend to be dark and rich. The Unholy One Stout is a perfect example; smooth, dark, and creamy.
- Strange Fellows Brewing (1345 Clark Drive) – Last but not least: this is my favorite brewery, hands down. It has everything: great beer, an old-world folklore inspired art style, a high ceilinged and spacious tasting room, grub inside, food trucks outside, and even a small art gallery! I go there for the reliable Talisman West Coast Pale Ale, and the strange and strong beers on their vintage bottle list. They also host lots of community events.
- Brassneck Brewery (2148 Main Street) – Right beside Cartems Donuts (if you want to get something to soak up your beer between flights), Brassneck is a first-class brewery that makes first-class beer. Their wood-paneled tasting room is always popular, and they consistently experiment with their brews to find new and interesting flavors. Try their flagship Passive Aggressive IPA or their Stockholm Syndrome farmhouse saison.
- Main Street Brewing (261 East 7th Avenue) – Right around the corner from Brassneck is this brewery, housed in a lovely heritage building with an open tasting room. The shiny beer vats are visible behind the counter and seem out of place in the old-fashioned brick interior. It’s hard to find a good brown ale, but the Westminster Brown Ale is sweet, dark and rich. This place is often missed because it’s just off Main, but it’s well worth tracking down.
- R&B Brewing (54 East 4th Avenue) – When it warms up, R&B’s patio is a lovely place to enjoy a beer in the sun, but even in cold weather their tasting room, beer, and homemade pizza will keep you warm. Their beers are highly rated and the names play on familiar aspects of Vancouver life, like the award winning Vancouver Special IPA or the crisp Stolen Bike Lager.
- Faculty Brewing Co. (1830 Ontario Street) – This is one of my personal favorite hidden gems around Main Street. The tasting room is tiny, but the beer is high-quality and they have really interesting rotating taps, like the minty and wheaty Minzweizen and the rare London Fog Ale. If beer isn’t your fermented drink of choice, they also have kombucha!
- 33 Acres Brewing Co. (15 West 8th Avenue) – The trendiest brewery around Main Street, 33 Acres has a whitewashed minimalist aesthetic that sticks out on their beer labels and in their tasting room. Their 33 Acres of Ocean Pale Ale tastes fresh and clean, while the 33 Acres of Sunshine is a bright French blanchè. With food trucks outside and a range of refreshing beers and ciders within, take your time with this one.
- Moody Ales (2601 Murray Street) – Port Moody’s Brewer’s Row houses four great breweries along three blocks of Murray Street. Whether you start or end your crawl here, Moody Ales is at the Western end. It has a mixed space that blends the brewing equipment with the tasting room. You get to have an inside look at the beer production process as you sit and sip your drink. Mainstays like the Affable IPA and the Vienna Amber Lager keep bringing regulars back, and I don’t think it’s hard to see why.
- The Parkside Brewery (2731 Murray Street) – True to its name, this brewery looks out on Rocky Point Park and has a pretty good view of Burrard Inlet and Burnaby Mountain. It’s the newest brewery on Brewer’s Row, and its tasting room is clean, spacious, and spills out onto a green picnic area. The Dusk Pale Ale and the Dreamboat Hazy IPA are two of my personal favorites.
- Yellow Dog Brewing Co. (2817 Murray Street) – Lots of breweries try to have a theme, but few commit as wholeheartedly as Yellow Dog has to its canine aesthetic. In no time, you’ll be lapping up the Play Dead IPA, Retriever Golden Ale, and Shake a Paw Smoked Porter. It’s usually pretty busy, but you’d have to be barking mad to skip it because of a 10-minute wait. I’ve been hounding after their seasonal Chew Toy Coconut Porter ever since I first tasted it.
- Twin Sails Brewing (2821 Murray Street) – We have come to the end (or the beginning) of Brewer’s Row. Whether it’s the first or last stop on your list, Twin Sails’ tasting room is quiet and understated, and their beer design is simple and elegant. They don’t need to show off, because the beer here is just fantastic. They’ve got plenty of interesting flavors (Dat Juice Citra Pale Ale, Cherry-ish Wild Golden Sour, or the Back to Basics Dry Hopped Lager) but for me, the Con Leche Horchata Milk Stout is the perfect sweet, dark beer with a dash of cinnamon.
With this guide in hand, I hope that your journey through the Lower Mainland’s craft beer world has only just begun. Cheers!