BC's Best Microbreweries
These home-grown BC beers will tickle your taste buds with everything from traditional pale ales and lagers all the way to fruity nectars flavoured with pumpkin and raspberry undertones
It’s an exciting time to be a beer lover. Visit a beer store, even a government-controlled booze bunker, and unless you’ve done your homework you’re likely to be overwhelmed. Even pubs, restaurants and bars are getting into the act by stocking more and more craft brews, from Belgian-style beers to IPAs (India Pale Ales) to seasonal brews.
Perhaps nowhere in North America has the beer revolution been more pronounced than on the West Coast. Here in BC, we’ve seen our fair share of microbreweries or, as the tide turns, "craft" breweries pop up in the last decade. Here are some of the best.
Driftwood Brewery, Victoria
Thanks to its distinctive labels, this Victoria-based brewery makes some of the most recognizable brands – Farmhand, Driftwood, White Bark – you’ll see behind sliding glass doors.
Only four years old, Driftwood took the Beer of the Year award at the 2011 Canadian Brewing Awards for its Fat Tug IPA.
Central City Brewing Co., Surrey
Speaking of labels, it’s hard to find a more sharply styled can of beer – featuring a redhead on a red bike – than Central City’s brand.
The Surrey beer-maker and brewpub produces a number of different types of Red Racer, including a raspberry wheat ale, an IPA and an ESB (Extra Special Bitter).
Another award-winner, Central City has recently received accolades for Thor’s Hammer, a barley wine. In 2010 Central City was chosen Best Brewery in Canada at the Canadian Brewing Awards.
Howe Sound Brewing, Squamish
Howe Sounds Breweing, the Squamish brewery, sells its Howe Sound Lager (bronze medal at the 2011 Canadian Brewers Awards) in hockey-fan-friendly six-packs of cans.
However, if you want to try the Megadestroyer Imperial Licorice Stout, Pumpkineater Imperial Pumpkin Ale or King Heffy Imperial Hefeweizan, you’ll likely be bringing it home in a one-litre pot-stopper (re-closable) bottle.
Howe Sound Brewing also does seasonal beers, and its summer brew Total Eclipse of the Hop is a strong (8% alc/vol) IPA that is finding favour with beer lovers all over the Lower Mainland.
Russell Brewing, Surrey
Another Surrey-based beer-maker, Russell Brewing makes standard fare like a pale ale and a lager.
But beer lovers are more likely to turn to Russell’s Brewmasters Series, which includes Blood Alley ESB, IP’eh!, Black Death Porter (seasonal – fall/winter) and A Wee Angry Scotch Ale (2010 World Beer Cup bronze medal winner) for a more flavourful experience.
Lighthouse Brewing Company, Victoria
In suds circles, Lighthouse is known for award-winning libations like the Navigator Doppelbock (silver medal – 2011 Canadian Brewing Awards) and Overboard Imperial Pilsner (bronze).
But the Victoria-based brewery also offers a Big Flavour Series which includes the Belgian Black and the Shipwrecked Triple IPA and its most recent release, the Dark Chocolate Porter.
Its website also offers recipes (beer puffs, pale ale vegetarian chili) and a nutritional guide that compares food to beer (i.e. one doughnut = two 355ml servings of Lighthouse Race Rocks).
Phillips Brewing Company, Victoria
Definitely tops when it comes to names ("Hoperation," “Hop Circle,” “Dr. Funk”) as well as labels, this Victoria-based microbrew offers a large number of beers in various formats, from regular-sized bottles and cans to 650ml bottles.
Probably best known for its Blue Buck beer, Phillips also offers a selection of hoppier beers, a coffee stout, what it calls a "rye PA" and a ginger beer.
Coal Harbour Brewing Company, Vancouver
This new kid on the block (actually, an Eastside block – Triumph Street to be exact) seems to be taking pains to produce some unique flavours.
Until recently available only on draught, Coal Harbour has begun selling its earthy, somewhat bitter Triumph Rye Ale in 650ml bottles in private liquor stores. It’s also available at select restaurants, bars and even Legions around Vancouver.
Townsite Brewing Inc., Sunshine Coast
Another new kid, Townsite is the first and so far only brewery on the Sunshine Coast. It rolled out its first kegs of a blond ale, labelled Zunga, March 24.
Two other beers, a porter (Pow Town) and an IPA (Tin Hat) are also available in kegs and bottles (and are coming soon to the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island).
A pale ale, Suncoast, is available only in draught “and will not be delivered off the coast,” brewery co-owner Karen Skadsheim says. "Folks will have to come for a visit and enjoy it in one of the many fine restaurants and pubs from Langdale to Lund."