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We polled the city’s top beer minds, dug deep into the research (tough job, yeah yeah) and, drumroll... our list of the top breweries in Metro Vancouver features only one from Vancouver proper.
There are surely a number of factors for that—space, affordability and municipalities eager to attract younger residents chief among them. And there are, of course, dozens of reputable breweries from the city and elsewhere that just missed the cut. But it’s all gravy-infused goodness for Metro Vancouverites as one of the country’s finest craft beer industries continues to develop a competitive landscape that also manages to be friendly and supportive. That’s worth raising a glass to. And so are our Breweries of the Year.
350 Esplanade E, North Vancouver
The biggest line (and it wasn’t close) at last June’s Craft Beer Festival at the PNE belonged to a brewery that had opened less than a month prior.
“That was awesome,” recalls House of Funk co-founder Darren Hollett with a chuckle. “We brought a smoothie machine—that might have had something to do with it.”
Using their popular Funk Juice (a fruited sour beer) to create a smoothie sour certainly didn’t hurt. Regulars have also been crowding the brewery’s North Van tasting room, which looks out over the Burrard Inlet.
Though the watering hole has had a few difficulties with bylaws, it was given permission to sell full pours (instead of only flights) in November. That means patrons can finally enjoy pints with, as Hollett describes them, “a lot of funk.”
“I’ve been a big fan of wild beers and sours and barrel-aged beers for quite some time,” he says. “I thought there was a spot in the market in B.C… I knew we had to come out swinging with a quality product and a bit of a loudness.”
That noise isn’t just the funk music rotating in the brewery; House of Funk picked up two BC Beer Awards in October and plans to have cans and bottles in liquor stores by the time you’re reading this.
“They’re putting out some beers that are divisive—some of their fruited stuff is very heavily fruited, and some people are saying it’s not beer,” says Ryan Voigt, R&D director at Twin Sails Brewing and co-founder of beer nerd-favourite Coalesce Brewing. “The concept turns some people off, but in my mind, they’re doing some really good beers. They do a wood-fermented Pilsner that is excellent; their [bourbon-barrel-aged] imperial stout won silver at the BC Beer Awards. It’s a really good thing for the North Shore to have—they’re definitely pushing the boundaries of style.”
What else would one expect from a brewery that named one of its more popular concoctions (a delicious sour IPA) after funk legend Chaka Khan?
114–3191 Thunderbird Cres., Burnaby
Beautiful design and thoughtful, creative takes on traditional Belgian beers are the hallmarks of this Burnaby stalwart that generated praise from nearly everyone we talked to.
“They’ve popularized really traditional old-world styles and made them cool again,” says Granville Island Brewing brand manager Marissa Mills.
That’s reflected in everything from the flagship Blonde ale, a 7.5-percent alcohol mixture that has become the defining B.C. blonde beer, to the Rosetta, a golden ale brewed with pink peppercorns and rose petals.
4–7355 72nd St., Delta
One of the older brewers on the list, Four Winds is still going strong.
“It’s always solid,” says Slow Hand Beer Company co-founder Kurtis Sheldan about the Delta-based brewery, launched in 2013. “The beer is always reflective of what it should be.”
Indeed, the bold branding and impeccable beers make Four Winds one of the more admirable outfits in the province. The brewery’s Zephyrus series, named after the Greek god of the west wind, produced two of the more successful brews in B.C. history: Juxtapose, a wild IPA, and Nectarous, the brewery’s renowned sour.
2281 W Railway St., Abbotsford
Since opening in 2016, Field House has merged a simple, elegant and colourful label (not surprisingly, founder Josh Vanderheide is a former ad exec) with forward-thinking beers. The latter have been especially evident in terms of the Abbotsford brewery’s recent experiments with wine, like its Pinot Gris Sour Saison and an Imperial Gewürztraminer Gose.
2148 Main St.
Like Four Winds, Brassneck opened in 2013 and… hasn’t changed all that much. That’s a good thing. The beer is still top-notch and inventive, as evidenced by old favourites like the Passive Aggressive, a big dry-hopped pale ale, and their newbie rotating changelings (raspberry was a favourite). And getting a table at the Main Street haunt is still incredibly difficult and immensely rewarding.