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Set between snow-sprinkled mountains and sparkling ocean, Vancouver’s location makes it easy to leave city life behind and immerse yourself in nature. Step out of…
By Leah Poulton February 26, 2015 #php comments_number('0 Comment', '1 Comment', '% Comments'); ?> #php echo wpb_get_post_views(get_the_ID()); ?>
As one of Vancouver‘s best known ‘hoods, you may have heard of it even if you’ve never been there – it’s a standard on “must-visit” Vancouver lists, and a common recommendation from locals. The downtown area of Gastown is perhaps best known for the infamous (loved by visitors/ignored by locals) steam clock, but it’s also a hotbed of bars and restaurants, including some great craft beer establishments. Which is why I thought it was about time to add a Gastown edition to our series of walking beer crawl routes. So, if you please, read (& sip) on:
We started our day as any smart beer crawlers would – with lunch. Served, of course, with a side of beer, at Steamworks Brewpub. One of the neighbourhood’s oldest purveyors of craft beer (they were filling growlers before most people had even heard of them), Steamworks lives up to its name: when they took over the building in 1995, they discovered a unique steam heat system, and decided to take advantage of the opportunity and become Canada’s only steam generated brewery.
While they still brew some batches at the brewpub, much of the production has been moved to a larger brewing facility in nearby Burnaby (but not TOO large – they’ve stayed true to their craft roots). Being fall when we visited, we were able to try out their just-released Pumpkin Ale, a Vancouver seasonal favourite. I’m a big fan of their Pilsner as well, which is available at the brewpub all year round, and in liquor stores.
The brewpub is quite large, with more of a restaurant than brewery vibe, which means it’s a good bet if you’re with a bigger group in busy Gastown. Their lunch and dinner menus are solid as well, and its proximity to Waterfront SkyTrain Station means it’s easy to get to from most places in the city.
Just a few blocks east, on the corner of Abbott and Water Streets, you’ll find the Lamplighter Public House. While they’ve always had a decent beer list (something its proprietors, the Donnelly Group, have put great effort into), they recently stepped it up a notch by re-vamping their entire taps system and lineup – they’re now offering up 40 options for craft beer on tap. Which meant we of course had to stop in for a sleeve.
Being part of a bigger group of establishments means the Lamplighter can offer up great deals on craft beer that normally pours at a bit of a premium (their Happy Hour specials on weekdays from 3-6 are awesome, by BC standards). On this Saturday afternoon, we ordered up a veritable rainbow of brews from their local and American craft taps.
Disclaimer: our next stop isn’t technically in Gastown; it’s two blocks east of Gastown’s official border of Main Street, which means it’s actually part of the historic Railtown neighbourhood (where the city of Vancouver was born). Let’s just put technicalities aside though, for the sake of our crawl, and say it’s close enough.
Postmark Brewing is fairly new on the scene – opened in mid-2014, it calls the historic Settlement Building home (along with the Vancouver Urban Winery). It’s an absolutely beautiful space; the owners have done a fantastic job of updating, without compromising its heritage features. One of my favourite things about Postmark is the Growler Station window, which is located just outside the main doors to the building. I know from personal experience how convenient this is when you’re looking for beer to go in the summertime.
But we, however, were looking for beer to stay, so we snagged a table and got down to it. One of the benefits of it sharing the space with several other businesses is that you can enjoy not just Postmark’s beer, but also wine from Vancouver Urban Winery and food from the Belgard Kitchen, all without leaving your seat. Some among our group decided to break up the beer tour with tasting flights of wine, while the rest of us stuck with the beer. The tasty, tasty beer.
One of the originals of the Vancouver craft beer scene, the Alibi Room should be a required visit for any craft beer enthusiast in Vancouver, regardless of which neighbourhood you’re staying in. At the very eastern edge of Gastown (at Alexander & Main St.), the Alibi has a long, yet carefully curated list of mostly local and west coast US beers – and you’re not likely to see the same list the next time you visit, as they’re constantly rotating and updating their taps. But be warned: because it’s so awesome, it gets busy. Expect a bit of a wait if you’re with a larger group.
As we were quite a large (and thirsty) group, we split into two smaller groups to fit into the available space at their long communal tables. I’m not going to recommend a specific beer, as the tap list is so constantly changing, and they really do have something for everyone’s tastes (including cider). If you’re not familiar with what’s on offer, just ask your server – they’re all well-versed in craft beer.
As we headed back west so some of our crawlers could get back on the SkyTrain, we made one final stop at The Portside Pub. They have a pretty great lineup of BC and other craft beers, plus a cozy lower level that kind of makes you feel like you’re either on a boat, or in a basement tavern in Nova Scotia. Judging by their Maritime-inspired menu, that seems to be what they’re going for. Mission accomplished, Portside.
Note that as of around 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays, the velvet ropes, bouncers and DJs come out, and Portside turns into a more of a nightclub. Which, if you’re into that kind of thing, means you’ll be able to dance your little heart out while continuing to enjoy their beer list. And if you’re not, you’ll want to visit earlier rather than later. Also, we chose to loop back to Portside at the end of the crawl, but you could also visit it on your way east, before Alibi and Postmark.
Six Acres – just across the cobblestone intersection from Portside is one of my Gastown favourites, Six Acres. Its only real downside in the context of a beer crawl is its size – if I thought there was any way our large group would get a spot on a Saturday evening (it’s only open after 5pm), it would have been on the list. That being said, if you’ve got a smaller group, definitely make a stop at Six Acres – it’ll win you over with its charm (of which its cozy size is part, as are the menus housed in old book covers, the old murder mystery radio shows playing in the washrooms and the people watching opportunities provided by its tiny patio).
Bitter Tasting Room – as per their Twitter bio, Bitter is “Vancouver’s finest bottle focused beer tasting room”. While the Alibi rules the Gastown draught game, Bitter has a great list of craft beer by the bottle, both local and import. They also serve some draught, in 16 oz. glasses or by the growler (not to go, but to drink at your table). I’ve yet to eat there, but the food menu looks pretty tasty as well.
Rogue Kitchen and Wetbar – Rogue is even closer to Waterfront Station than its neighbour Steamworks (who it shares owners with) – it’s literally inside the station. It has a big, solid beer list with lots of BC craft options, plus wine, cocktails and full lunch and dinner menus. It’s also quite large, so if you’re not able to get into Steamworks, you can head next door without having to compromise on quality beer.
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