2020 Best Brewery Design: Electric Bicycle Brewing

The Alice-in-Wonderland aesthetic perfectly matches their focus on "crazier" beers.

There are a few different reactions you might have walking into the sensory overload that is Electric Bicycle Brewing’s Mount Pleasant tasting room. But for anyone who has tried their beer, the appropriate one is: “Ah, that makes sense.”

After all, it takes a certain kind of atmosphere to set up offerings like a ramen noodle-infused altbier and a Double-Stuffed Oreo stout. That place is, apparently, a nostalgia-packed operation brimming with bright pink and turquoise. It’s a whirling assault to all the senses, from the impressive and loud paint job that adorns the exterior to the funhouse mirrors near the bathroom.

And it took just under two and a half years to create.

Co-founders Elliot McKerr and Matt Ryan had been looking at opening a brewery in the neighbourhood for a while. In 2015, on Christmas Day, they happened to be scrolling through real estate listings and saw that a space once occupied by an electric bicycle factory (hence the name) had become available.

But it wasn’t until May 2018 that Electric Bicycle officially opened, mostly because of permitting challenges with the City of Vancouver. So, McKerr and Ryan had some time to create their new addition to Vancouver’s brewery scene. 

“With so much selection in the neighbourhood, we wanted to have something different,” notes McKerr, a former marketing rep in the beverage industry, as he sits in his tasting room sipping a blonde ale the brewery has dubbed OK Boomer. “R&B [Brewing Co.] has a comfortable, at-home, grungier aesthetic, which we really liked. But being right next door, we didn’t want to be like that. And 33 [Acres Brewing Company] and Faculty [Brewing Co.] have really clean looks, while Brassneck [Brewery] does the reclaimed wood thing. So we started to think about what works for who we are.”

They ended up matching the aesthetic with their desire to “focus on crazier beers,” according to McKerr. The duo—who got a lot of help from friends and family, including McKerr’s father-in-law, who spent six months doing all the carpentry work—decided to go with something a bit more out there.

“We wanted to go crazy Alice in Wonderland, or psychedelic fountain shop, and make that fit with the beers we wanted to put out, and also the type of place we wanted to hang out in.” McKerr recalls.

After the painting was complete, the individual pieces started coming in. There’s a massive pink pipe that runs throughout the space; a huge flower mural sits right in the middle; an old hockey arena sign they picked up from a vintage store was reworked to be the menu; and the pièce de résistance, a payment screen modelled after the old Donkey Kong arcade games, but with the gorilla throwing beer kegs at Mario.

“We get a lot of people coming in here and saying, ‘I can’t believe you have this. I had this exact same game when I was a kid,’” says McKerr with a chuckle about the one-of-a-kind model. “And it’s like, ‘Yeah, of course you did.’”

Overall, McKerr and company created a place that is loud in every sense of the word—psych rock blasts over the speakers—and packed to the brim almost every night despite the competition in the neighbourhood. Most of all, it’s true to those who built it and inhabit it.

“There have been some amazing breweries that worked with some amazing design firms,” he says. “With the constraints we had, a lot of the capital we would have used for out-of-house design just evaporated.

“It’s not as polished as a lot of the other breweries in town, but it has this nice, authentic feel and I think people get that when they come in the door. And that translates into the beers as well.”