Tiering the Breweries of Vancouver and Sea to Sky

I am going to get shit on for this…

But that’s OK, I write to start conversations and lists and rankings start conversations. So here we go.

A little about the rankings… This is about QUALITY of beer… nothing more nothing less. A bad beer diminishes overall quality in my eyes. That said this is my Monolithic view of the quality of beer coming from a brewery… no math.

Breweries within tiers are equal in my eyes.

Not all Breweries are listed, but rest assured I would never say no to a brewery that is listed, as for the others…

These are my personal opinions, they won’t match yours, feel free to be angry anyways

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Tier 4 (Solid Lagers & Ales)

Doan’s Craft Brewing

The Beer Farmers

Strathcona Brewing

Coast Mountain Brewing

Howe Sound Brewing

Trading Post Brewing

Central City Brewing

Ravens Brewing

Storm Brewing

R and B Brewing

Hearthstone Brewing

Coal Harbour Brewing


Main Street Brewing

33 Acres Brewing

Britannia Brewing

Bomber Brewing

Bridge Brewing

Callister Brewing

Tier 3 (Breweries who I can count on to crush it often)

Parallel 49

The Parkside Brewing

Steamworks Brewing

Taylight Brewing

Northpaw Brewing

Field house Brewing

Silver Valley Brewing

Demi-God Tier (breweries I’ll always make a point of visiting)


Beere Brewing

Strange Fellows

Steel and Oak

Brassneck Brewing

Yellow Dog Brewing

Luppolo Brewing

God Tier (Breweries I get stoked to go to)

Twin Sails Brewing

Boombox Brewing


Backcountry Brewing

Temporal Brewing

Four Winds




More News on the Third PoCo Brewery

I’m going to let the Tri-City news take this one away, the article does a great job of breaking down the whole business plan. Their Plan has some really cool parts and some I’m concerned about and will break down at a later date… Until then the Tri-City News Presents:


The PoMo Brew Scene Grows Again

Hot off the heels of the 5th Brewers Row Brewery (Moody Ales side Project Bakery Brewing) and former Callister Brew Team Light Heart Brewing setting up shop in Moody Ales we have another Brick and Mortar starting up.

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Fraser Mills Fermentation, the brain child of many of the group behind the successful Tri-Cities Cask Festival has selected a spot on St. John street in Port Moody.


The Location is just two doors down from the current Beyond the Grape Location in the former Yamaha Marine building.

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If you aren’t from Port Moody that is a 15 minute walk from the Twin Sails/Yellow Dog hub and 3 minute walk from the skytrain station.

The Brewery will be as eclectic as any brewery in the city, housing not only a 10 hl brewhouse with eleven 10 hl fermentors, 5 brites (where the beer is carbed) and Thirteen 5 hl serving tanks, but a home brew business too. You willbe able to have a beer and then buy the supplies to try and replicate it at home.


Did I mention that beer isn’t the only thing on the menu? Cider, mead and wine may also be produced on site.

Although exciting, this brewery isn’t quite a sure thing, Michael Druce, current Beyond the Grape and Fraser Mills owner pointed out:

“…we will be going before the Port Moody council sometime in March for approval of a temporary use permit to allow us to do liquor manufacturing in a commercial zoning.”

“…we will need public support for a Temporary Use Permit for the location…”

Public support may come in the form of letters to Port Moody Council or Vocal support at a public hearing. If you would like to show Port Moody Public Council your support for another business in Port Moody please send an e-mail to council@portmoody.ca


2018 Breward Inlet Awards

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A crack team of influencers got together to give you the goods on the Tri-city beer scene… heres how things shook out!

Beer of the Year – Tri-Cities (PoCo, Port Moody, Coquitlam)

This category had a great Variety of responses but usually lead back to one brewery – Twin Sails.
Heavy Weight Champ is the Champ here!

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Best Tasting Room

The Parkside repeats as the best place to craft beer and chill..

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Best Branding

Another repeat but can you argue with this branding Kaleidoscope?

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Coolest Personality in brewing (Brewer, Blogger, Beer-tender, instagrammer… etc)

Man, Myth and Legend Sea to Sky Beer Guy isn’t even of this region… But he sure has made an impact on it!

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Best New Brewery

There were a few new kids on the block (and more to come), but PoCo Brewers North Paw take the “W” here.


Brewery of the Year

There can be only one…


Thanks to these fine people:

BRB Brewing- The Rise of Craft beer in Vancouver

Be right back, no actually this is writing so it doesn’t matter.

Recently i was invited to the relaunch of the Brewery formerly known as Big River Brewing now known as Be Right Back Brewing or BRB brewing. It was a really nice event where i was treated to some very nice beers and some delicious food. What was more interesting to this blogger however was what the change represented as a whole. If you are a beer snob, geek, Brewery Creek devotee or Yeast Van lifer its totally possible you’d never heard of Big River Brewing (or BRB). Thats because this brewpub is located in Richmond. Not city centre Richmond either, Poorly planned suburban entertainment district Richmond (Vancouver City planners would walk the area bawling about place v. space and pseudo-space). BRB shares a building with a bowling alley and a Old Spaghetti Factory (despite an oddly specific name its not actually a factory), behind a massive megaplex theatre across the way from a pool called water-mania and a trampoline park. This isn’t Gastown this is sort of like a failed hyper-capitalist 6th rate Diznee Land where every area of the park requires another entry pass and although its divey its not divey enough to be ironic. So why the heck was this place of failed suburban-capitalist-city-planning home to one of the early micro-breweries in Metro-Vancouver (back then we called it the GVRD)? My guess? Cost benefit and limited schtick.

Who feels old?

Does this make sense yet? Probably not. Lets go back to 1997 then. The internet is a thing but still pretty lame and the Canucks are mired in a period mediocrity (wait isn’t that now?).


Richmond is chilling relaxing maxing all cool (Fresh Prince reference) but is concerned that no one is there to see it.

They decide find the most extreme teenagers with attitude and ask them to brainstorm, no wait extreme brainstorm, the coolest tourist attracting area no where near major or future transit hubs… because hydrogen cars, we’ll all drive those. They sat in a mall boardroom drinking mountain dew chucking out ideas:

“Giant Movie theatre!” “YEA!”

“Great downtown Vancouver restaurant?” “Yea spaghetti factory?” “Totally rad dude!”

“Ice Rink?” “YUP!”

“Definitely Bowling Alley!”

“Casual Dining?” “SUBWAY!”

“Swimming pool…” “WITH WATER SLIDES!”

*Then an adult walks in and says “What about beers?” and the teenagers say “oh yea a bar too, but how do we make it more extreme? what if they made the beer there? Meh i dunno lets come up with something later.”

But they never did, making beer in site was the best gimmick they could come up with and when they realized they could likely increase profits by making their own beer investors swooned.

By the way i’d just like to point out that what i have just explained is absolutely historically accurate and in no way a chance for me to make fun of the 90’s and Richmond.

Fast forward to like 1999 and the people going to Big River Brewing are exhausted soccer mums and dads having recently dropped off their kids at birthday parties at one or more spots around the parking lot. in a state of pre-collapse they, with the only other parent whose face they don’t hate for no reason at all spill into Big River Brewing. Of course they want alcohol but they don’t want IPA they want beer comparable to their Canadian-weiser. That was Big River Brewing’s market.

So in what took just less than 600 words have explained why beer geeks may have never heard of Big River Brewing. Because they made beer to appeal to adjunct-lovers. With the craft beer revolution (aptly-named by Joe Weibe) shit changed for Big River. People darted coming in likely more than just Kokanee and expecting flavourful beers which Big River was low on. For Big River to survive in a time where the suburbs had some of the best breweries in Vancouver like: Yellow Dog, 4 Winds, and Central City, they had to change. Thus we see the evolution of Big River into BRB brewing.

So how’s the beer?

Stout- Brewed to style and something i quite enjoy- 3.5/5

Pale Ale- West coast style and sessionable- 3.5/5

Mild- Not as good as Vancouver best mild (Real Cask)- But a good example of style 3/5

These beers are worth getting a growler of and despite being located in a suburban hell hole BRB is definitely the crown jewel of the area.

Big Rock Urban Brewery

The Very Good:

A very nice place both in location and atmosphere. On Alberta and West 4th is where you will find this brew pub, near enough to both the Beereas of Brewery Creek and the Olympic Village cluster of Craft Beer Market and Steal Toad Brew Pub. Inside is even better than the location. Through the front doors you immediately see the growler station and bottle shop and to your right is a restaurant-ish pub. On the near side is the 3 side bar which divides the room, facing the bar is a performance stage. On the far side of the bar is what could be described as a true bar setting where one can view the giant brewing area. The brewery itself brews Special Big Rock beers that to my knowledge are currently only available at the brewery but clearly there is much room for expansion!

The Good:

The Food. I order a Pulled Pork Sandwich which was presented well (honestly I am not a food critique so i will say it tasted “good”). The real star were the fries (I would say chips but my friend Dan would just say “You’re not English!”). These things tasted like mcdonalds fries before they switched to the vegetable oil. No joke, i will go back just for the fries.

The Mediocre

The Beer… in every way imaginable. By my count they had about 9 taps, nothing worth writing home about. 2 were albertan stable stalwarts such as grasshopper (a decent beer but not a destination beer). The house beers were a roggenbier which is made with lots of rye. It was fine, with some decent rye flavours and well balanced if not slightly underpowered,this was the best of the bunch. Next was a mosaic lager that although did a great job of showcasing mosaic hops was not as session able as one would hope for a lager. The red ale was a harsh west coast style red that might do better slightly older. Finally there was an utterly forgettable chocolate malt stout which i can’t remember a damn thing about. Also interesting was there choice to have a invitational tap, not strange in itself but strange they went with P49 old something we have probably all had before.

The Bad

The service. There were all of ten people there but it took the staff longer than i would have liked to check on us and see if we were ready for another round. This is petty as things go and i expect it to improve, but its still not a good first impression.

Also of note, Decent beer prices:

$6 for 500ml
$4 for 12oz
$8 for four, 6 oz tasters (24oz!)

Fat Head Brewery- Portland

It was mostly beer on tap.

Everyone knows the big dogs in Portland: Rogue, Deschutes, Bridgeport, Burnside and a host of others. So when I walked past a brewery I had never heard of before i decided to learn more, and by that i mean drink! Fat Head follow the Brew Pub model more closely in contrast to production brewery, however I am 90% they still brew for outside consumption. The take up a nice spot in the pearl district with high timber ceilings and their decor suggests they take beer seriously but not too seriously.

Like Steel Toad in Vancouver they have a system whereby beer does not come from 50 litre kegs but is piped from fermentors into holding takes of up to 9BBL which i would hazard a guess makes the beer more consistent and makes form greater efficiency.


I only sampled two and only have notes for one but it was a good one!

Fat Head Bean Me Up Coffee Stout, this beer was supremely well executed in my opinion. Starting with a solid roasty stout coffee was added in such a way that all of the great coffee flavour was added without any of the negative acidy flavours sometimes imparted into the beer. This is a breakfast beer if i’ve ever had one.

Fat Head Bean Me Up Coffee Stout- 4/5

Pats Pub and Brewhouse Lager

There are many craft breweries and brew pubs in the city of Vancouver, and they all seem to get their fair share of publicity… except one. Pats Pub and Brewhouse seems to be forgotten amongst the stand outs but it shouldn’t be. Sure its in an unsightly part of town (depending on who you speak to). But i have literally never heard of any of their beers, in a beer loving City like Vancouver this is a travesty. As I know work in the Downtown Eastside, I decided enough was enough and checked the place out.

Le Brasserie de muy posh, count ’em three languages there!

I walked in the side doors and was immediately greeted by an open dark and brick bar. No this was no longer a Hastings dive bar, but it was a weekends renovations away from one. Don’t get me wrong I love a good “dive” but this bar is simply one rung above dive status and that’s fine too.

Not pictured: brick walls adorned with Mickey’s malt liquor neon signs, and old age pensioner feeding quarters into the pull tab machine.

I quickly looked for the available beers, it was quite a good selection of local craft, but wait what about the pub’s own beers? I read the menu sign again and saw it “Pats Pub Lager”. LAGER AW MAN! They make one craft beer and its lager. With sadness in my palate I ordered one. I was happily surprised to learn a real pint was $5.50. As I turned around to find a seat I found the brew house.

the boy who lives under the stairs… and brews.

There tucked between two toilets in what was obviously a former closet was the brew house. It was small but functional and probably did exactly what it was intended to do… create large profit margins on a high selling beer. So was the beer good… YES!

The menu’s put on no airs… FOOD!

The beer is a couple of shades darker than most Lagers which makes sense as it has a heavier malt body than most lagers. The beer really fills your mouth and feels substantial in a good way, in contrast to macro lagers the taste as light as water sometimes. Finally like any good lager, it finished cleanly. This is my new favourite Lager, not that I love lagers, but if I had to drink a Lager this would be the one.

Pats Pub and Brewhouse Lager- 4/5

Elysian Bifrost Winter Ale

So, this past summer i found myself in Seattle to watch the worlds greatest football team! No not the Seahawks, they play throw-ball.

No not the team that try their best to flog this as fashion.

That team would be the MIGHTY SPURS!

The Best Football team to set foot in Seattle

Anyways following the match my girlfriend and I set out to get some craft beer! The easiest destination to find and get to was Pike Street brewing. We walked in and were told by welcoming yet busy server that they were full everywhere but the self service museum area. We walked in and grabbed some seats. The museum area was a real assault on the senses (think Uncle Moe’s Family Feed Bag).

The Grease burnt his head, and the decor burnt my eyes.

furthermore the line to order was ridiculously long, and god dammit there were too many points of interest with no reasonable starting point! Anyways we resolved to find somewhere quieter and more-er pub-er.


We headed north and found Elysian Brewing. We were treated to a solid Northwest style Pub delicious food and delicious beer. So long story, but because of this i have a good impression of Elysian, and have not been disappointed with the dribs and drabs that have flowed up north. This week i caught wind of their winter ale known as Bifrost. So Bifrost! it has a sweet complexed maltiness that flows well into a citrus bitterness that compliments well the aforementioned sweet hops. The sweet malts suggest a higher the average ABV which is 7.6% without actually forcing the alcohol taste on your pallet. This is actually a  winter ale the tastes like ALE. By that i mean it is not filled with non-beer flavours commonly associated with winter. It is not candy cane or gingerbread, white chocolate or cocoa. It is a high alcohol beer with complexed malts balanced well with hops designed for sipping and warming on cold winter nights. Well done Elysian, well done. Elysian Bifrost Winter Ale- 4/5

I thought the bifrost was in Asguard with Thor, No? whatever.

Opsal Steel Sells Beer!

The Opsal Steal Building is a very nicely restored building in the Olympic Village, and the brewery that restored it and takes it place, Steel Toad, similarly has tried to make old new again too. Steel Toad has not one but two hand pulled beer engine English style real ales! As someone who cut his teeth on English ales in England i was beyond stoked to hopefully try a bitter similar to old stand by “Harvey’s Sussex Bitter” and to boot the other is a stout! The bitter pours a funny colour quite paler than the amber I’m used to. In fact i confused it with the saison a few times. Unfortunately, if this was a beer was a book it could have been judged upon its cover. Basically this bitter is very muted, and to use the colloquial of the day a “pretty basic Bit.. beer”. The stout on the other hand tastes true to style. It was nice and roasty however it was served without any head (which often happens in the UK where glasses are filled to the brim) which would have been nice. To Brewery’s credit the carbonation was also on point. The other offerings from Steel Toad included a Farmhouse Saison and a Blonde. The Saison had lots of saison flavours, however they all seem to be competing. I really feel the Saison would benefit from some conditioning. The blonde however was plain boring… i think you’d be better off grabbing a big surf, which is quite good for the style. In the end Steel Toad is a nice building in a nice part of town for an adventure, their beer leaves something to be desired but it is early days yet!

Bitter- 1.5/5

Stout- 3/5

Saison- 2.5/5

Blonde- 2/5