Last month’s Thirsty column described the craft beer boom that we are enjoying in British Columbia and introduced three of BC’s newest breweries: Tofino Brewing, Hoyne Brewing (Victoria), and Coal Harbour Brewing (Vancouver).
This month, I’ll pick up where I left off with descriptions of three more brand new breweries, but first I want to mention a few newsy items from the craft beer world. First of all, if you’re interested in checking out Victoria’s “Beer Mile,” read my story here.
Secondly, the BC Beer Awards ceremony will be held on Saturday, October 13 as part of BC Craft Beer Month. I am mentioning it now because tickets will go on sale on September 1. The event will be connected with CAMRA Vancouver’s Harvestfest Cask Room.
Speaking of CAMRA, if you are interested in finding out more about craft beer, one of the best ways is to join that excellent organization. BC’s Campaign for Real Ale has local chapters in Vancouver, Victoria, and the Fraser Valley that stage cask festivals and other beer-related events. It’s a great way to meet other people interested in craft beer, and there are also numerous volunteering opportunities, from serving beer at events to playing a role on chapter executives.
Finally, I wanted to mention that I am writing a guide book to BC craft breweries called Craft Beer Revolution which will be published next May by Douglas & McIntyre. As part of my research (tough job, I know!), I’ll be heading out on a “BC Beer Odyssey” research road trip at the end of this month: 8 days visiting 9 breweries and 2 hop farms in 14 communities from Squamish to Fernie and back. I’ll write about the adventure next month but if you want to follow along, I’ll be tweeting the whole time.
OK, here are descriptions of BC’s three newest breweries. Well, that’s not entirely accurate because one more just opened: a nanobrewery in North Vancouver called Bridge Brewing, which is producing just one beer, North Shore Pale. It’s available in growlers at the brewery (check with them before you go—the website currently says they are sold out) or on tap at Frankie’s Italian Kitchen & Bar in downtown Vancouver. I haven’t had a chance to visit them or taste their beer yet, but I will do so in September and report back after that. And by then, there might even be another new brewery open in BC—the Powell Street Craft Brewery.
I already wrote a bit of back story about this great new Powell River brewery in my review of their Charleston Triple last month. I won’t repeat what I wrote there, other than to say that this is a first-rate operation in one of the most beautiful and interesting parts of BC. If you haven’t visited Powell River, as I hadn’t before attending Townsite’s opening launch in March, I highly recommend planning a weekend getaway (or midweek if you have some holidays leftover) this summer.
Townsite has really impressed me: they brew great beer, they use interesting and stylish marketing, and everyone involved is personable, enthusiastic and fun—with a bit of the quirky vibe that makes Powell River such a special place to visit.
You can find most of Townsite’s beers at private liquor stores in the Great Vancouver area, but there’s nothing like getting it directly at the source—plus, Townsite has one beer, Suncoast Pale Ale, that is only available on the Sunshine Coast. Their regular line-up includes Zunga Golden Blonde Ale, Pow Town Porter, Tin Hat IPA, and a summer seasonal, Westview Wheat. The fall should see the release of two more exciting seasonals: Shiny Penny Belgian IPA and Time Warp Wet-Hopped IPA.
Head up the coast, buy a growler of your favourite style, find a secluded spot on a secret beach and enjoy some of the best sunsets anywhere in BC.
6077 Main Street | Oliver
I went to Penticton in April to attend the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale for the first time, which gave me a chance to visit some local breweries, Cannery Brewing and Tin Whistle Brewing in Penticton, Tree Brewing in Kelowna, and this tiny, new brewery in the heart of wine country, the Firehall Brewery.
As its name implies, the brewery is indeed based in Oliver’s original firehall, which was built in 1948 for the town’s volunteer fire department. After a new facility was built in 2003, the building was renovated to house a restaurant space upstairs, which is currently the Firehall Bistro. The brewery was set up downstairs by a young, local musician named Sid Ruhland, who pours his enthusiasm and energy into every batch of beer.
Ruhland grew up in Oliver and then went to business school in Kelowna. In first year, he was too young to buy beer so he brewed it in his dorm room, which undoubtedly made him very popular. Later, he spent a year abroad based in Austria where he travelled far and wide in search of beer. After graduating, he decided to apply his brewing skills and business knowledge to opening this brewery.
Music is a big part of the brewery’s makeup. As Ruhland showed me around the small brewhouse on my visit, I noticed the different pieces of equipment each had an unusual name on it. The brew kettle was “BB King,” and the hot liquor tank, “Hendrix.” The fermenters were “Led” and “Zeppelin,” and another one read “Floyd.” In the cold room, Ruhland watched me read the names on the two aging tanks, “Crosby” and “Stills,” and with a wry smile between his thick mutton chop sideburns, pointed to the other, empty side of the room and asked, “Can you guess who will go here one day when we expand?”
This summer, the brewery is staging a series of four concerts behind the brewery in the Firehall Bistro Back Alley Concert Series.
If you live in the Okanagan, or if you’re visiting this summer, drop by the brewery for a chat and a growler—Sid is always ready with a smile and story. Or visit on a summer night for what I’m sure would be a great concert.
Parallel 49 Brewing
1950 Triumph Street | Vancouver
Tel: 604-558-BREW (2739)
If you live in Vancouver and like craft beer, you’ve probably been to St. Augustine’s, the popular beer-focused restaurant on Commercial Drive close to Broadway. I see it as the photonegative of the Alibi Room–each has a crazy number of taps pouring incredible beers from BC and around the world, but the vibes are completely different: St. Augustine’s is where I like to go to watch a Canucks game; the Alibi Room doesn’t even have TVs.
The owners of St. Augustine’s originally wanted to open a brewpub, but when they visited the Planning Department at Vancouver City Hall and asked how to begin the process of opening a brewpub, the clerk answered, “What the Hell is a brewpub?” At that moment, co-owner Anthony Frustagli says he knew their dream was over. (For more on how difficult it is to open a brewpub in Vancouver, read my story here.) Sure enough, after exploring the application process a little further, he and his partners settled for opening their beer-focused restaurant in 2008 with the plan to open a brewery later.
Parallel 49 Brewing is that brewery. Situated on Triumph Street (right across from Coal Harbour Brewing), the brewery opened in May with three core brands—Old Boy (a British-style brown ale), Hoparazzi (an India Pale Lager, not ale), and Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale—as well as a summer seasonal watermelon wit called Seedspitter. You can buy their beer in 6-packs and the Unparalleled mixed 12-pack in government and private stores, or on tap in numerous spots around Vancouver—just not at St. Augustine’s since BC’s bizarre and archaic Tied Houses rules prohibit them from serving their own beer there. Hopefully, those laws will change soon. MLA Rich Coleman said as much in a recent interview in the Globe and Mail: “It’s a silly old rule. Its date passed a long time ago.”
Frustagli sees it as a nuisance but not a problem: “Our business model requires us to sell our beer to a lot more places than St. Augustine’s anyway.”
The brewery recently opened a snazzy tasting room with a special growler station that purges the jugs with carbon dioxide while it fills them, which means their growlers can last two to three weeks in the fridge if you don’t open them. How cool is that?
Parallel 49 also plans on releasing its first bomber (650-ml bottle) in the fall, a chocolate pumpkin porter called Purgatory. They’ll also replace Seedspitter with Schadenfreude, a Pumpkin Oktoberfest ale. Great names to go along with great beer.