Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Vancouver’s reputation as a craft-beer destination has attracted many thirsty visitors and also pumped out a number of tours catering to those looking for some guidance and education about the city’s brewery scene.
The majority of those tours take place on foot and are mostly focused on the Main Street and Broadway area of East Vancouver, where many breweries are congregated. But Canadian Craft Tours has taken the craft-beer experience on the road.
A (designated) driver well-educated on the beer industry in the west coast shuttles small groups in a comfortable luxury van as participants visit three breweries during a stretch of four hours. The tour costs $75 per person and includes four tastings of four-ounce brews from each brewery visited. The city has 26 craft breweries, at last count, and Canadian Craft Tours rotates its visits to several of them.
On my tour, we hit Gastown’s Postmark Brewing (55 Dunlevy Avenue), a hip spot driven by sharp marketing, social-media strategy and a passion for creating diverse beers. Postmark has about two-dozen brews available, including stouts, pilsners, IPAs, fruit beers and a variety of seasonal choices. Set in a converted factory, the brewery features an attractive restaurant in one of the trendiest districts in the city.
Farther east is Strathcona Beer Co. (895 East Hastings Street), a nine-month-old operation that is not only aiming to serve excellent beer but to also reshape the image of the community in which it is located. The brewery’s branding embraces the name Strathcona, a neighbourhood that for years has been plagued by social problems, including high crime, homelessness and drug abuse. But with entrepreneurs taking advantage of low rents, the area is changing and Strathcona celebrates that evolution with a sleek interior and exceptional beer. Its Belgian Dubbel was the best of the brews I tried on the night.
If Strathcona is about celebrating the small community it calls home, Big Rock Urban Brewery & Eatery (310 West 4th Avenue) tells the story of how far craft beer in Canada has come. Founded in Alberta in 1985, Big Rock is a craft-beer pioneer, and has steadily expanded its operations, including launching its British Columbia brewpub in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. With a larger budget than most craft breweries, Big Rock has a massive brewing facility and plenty of seating, making it ideal for the after-work crowd or weekend party groups.
Wine Kicks Off the 5th Annual Tasting Plates
Food journalist Richard Wolak of VancouverFoodster.com and CKNW Radio is organizing the 5th Anniversary Tasting Plates, scheduled for March 8 from 6-10pm. A roving, self-guided tour of some of Wolak’s favourite eateries and establishments, the My Tasting Plates dining series is an inventive way to enjoy a night out on the town. Attendees for this year’s edition will pick up digital tickets and Tasting Plates Passports at Marquis Wine Cellars (1034 Davie Street). They will then visit participating restaurants, who provide tastes and sips of their food and drink.
Among the restaurants hosting guests are Patron Tacos & Cantina, Meinhardt Fine Foods, Saj & Co., Ten Ten Tapas, and Tartine Bread & Pies. Tickets cost $60 per person. For more information, visit the event page here.
Bodega Garzon Tempts Vancouver
The winemaker of one of the most talked about wineries in the world arrived in Vancouver on February 28 to showcase not only his wines but the country where they’re produced. Alberto Antonini, a highly respected winemaker from Italy’s Tuscany region, has consulted with Bodega Garzon since that Uruguayan winery’s inception in 2008. The winery, which cost $85 million to build, is beginning to export wines to Canada and also attracting a lot of attention to its home in Punta del Este, the exclusive beach destination nicknamed the St. Tropez of South America. Bodega Garzon is about 45 minutes north of Punta del Este and is the only wine operation in the region that runs along the southern Atlantic Ocean, noted for the cooling breezes rising up from Antarctica. Antonini has turned the 220 planted hectares into 1,200 parcels of vineyards, each taking advantage of the micro-climates on the property owned by Argentinian billionaire Alejandro Bulgheroni.
Antonini hosted an evening of wine tasting at Hawksworth, showcasing Bodega Garzon’s variety of grapes. Tannat and Albariño grapes are the foundation of the winery and, not surprisingly, were the best ones on the night.
Wine Club at Bauhaus Delights
Bauhaus owner Uwe Boll has been spotlighting the viticulture stars from around the globe through his Wine Club dinners. The next dinner is scheduled for April 10 and will feature wines from Italy, combined with executive chef Stefan Hartmann’s cuisine. Rather than the Germanic dishes for which the restaurant is recognized, Hartmann prepares plates for diners with flavours from the featured country in the Wine Club. I attended the last dinner that included wines from Spain and was impressed with the options. Instead of a pairing dinner, guests receive a wine list designed specifically for the evening and can choose their own glasses or bottle to go with Hartmann’s cuisine.
The April event at Bauhaus (1 West Cordova Street) will include wines from Boll’s collection of Brunello and Amarone.
Hendricks Lounge Debuts at Westin Grand
The Westin Grand (433 Robson Street) recently completed a sale of its property and a renovation, including the opening of the Hendricks Resto-Lounge, a stylish room overlooking Library Square and Robson Street. Located just three blocks from the city’s largest sports and entertainment facility, BC Place, the Westin Grand has more than 200 rooms. Its lounge will cater to both hotel guests and others in the neighbourhood, one of the most bustling spots in the city.