If you are a beer drinker, there's good news. The local beer scene has never been better. Expansion of breweries both in size and numbers and a huge increase in the availability of both local and imported craft beers from around the globe has provided residents of the Lower Mainland with a never-been-better selection of well made, interesting beers.
So, for those of you looking for something a little different than our mass-produced domestic brews, listen up.
The Craft Beer Revolution (for B.C. at least), really started in the '80s with the opening of Vancouver Island Brewing and Granville Island Brewing (now owned by Molson), along with a few other pioneering brewpubs.
Craft beer is essentially a smaller production, quality-orientated style of beer making. Today, there are more than 50 craft breweries in B.C., including 25 in the Lower Mainland. Even better, half of those have a brewpub where you can go and try their wares.
But what's happening right here in Richmond? I recently stopped in at Big River Brewpub, as Richmond's first and only brewpub. I was pleased to find these guys have made some encouraging progress in the last year.
Micheal Stewart a veteran of more than 20 years in the Lower Mainland brewing scene has taken the reins as brewmaster and given the beers a local identity, and they've never been better. Though my personal favourites were the Sawmill Alley Brown Ale and River Pilot ESB, all eight of the beers I sampled were well crafted and true to style.
They also offer their beers in refillable growlers, kegs and casks to meet any beer enthusiast's needs. Stewart also brews a number of seasonal beers with a black IPA and Cranberry beer coming out this fall.
Here's a selection of some beers, brewpubs, bars and retailers: Beers Big River - Sawmill Alley Brown Ale English style brown ale brewed with Pacific Northwest flair. Full favoured with a nutty, caramel and coffee profile and just enough hops to balance it out. Well done! Driftwood - Farmhand Ale Saison is a traditional style of Belgian beer, and this one does not disappoint. Loaded with bready malt character and hints of banana. It's the specialty yeasts that add complexity and spice here. Try with mussels or braised meats.
Russell Brewing - Blood Alley Bitter Named after the infamous Vancouver alley, this ESB has just the right balance of traditional elements and Northwest zing. Strong citrus-hoppy character, bitter but balanced malty flavours and hints of orange rind on the finish. Can't help but order up the fish 'n' chips or meat pies.
Hoyne Brewing - Pilsner Light in colour with the perfect balance of malty character and hop influence. Just a small step up in punch from its European cousins. A nice alternative to some of our Northwest monsters. Bring on the Schnitzel.
Howe Sound - Devils Elbow IPA Hoppy and full flavoured with citrusy aromas this North American Style India Pale Ale is a favourite summer beer of mine. Love the one litre re-sealable bottle. This one has the guts to stand up to your favourite spicy dishes.
Brewpubs Big River Brew Pub - Richmond
Steamworks Brewing - Vancouver
Yaletown Brewpub - Vancouver Howe Sound Inn - Squamish
Central City Brewing Co. - Surrey
Bars & Restaurants
Blue Canoe - Steveston
Hog Shack - Steveston
O'Hares Gastropub - West Richmond
The Pumphouse Pub - Central Richmond
Beer Craft - Vancouver
St. Augustines - Vancouver
Alibi Room - Vancouver
Craft Beer Retailers
O'Hares Liqour Store - West Richmond
BC Liqour Stores Craft Beer Market - Vancouver
Brewery Creek Liquor Store - Vancouver
O'Hares Pub & Liquor Store presents Steveston Beer Fest on Saturday, Oct. 5. Oktoberfest will be at Bean & Beyond Cafe on Oct. 4, 11 and 18 at 6 p.m. Ryan Lewis is a sommelier and beer, wine & spirits professional, writer and consultant with two decades of experience in the industry here in the Lower Mainland and internationally.
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