For a while now I have been pondering checking out one of the tour companies that offer tours to Metro Vancouver’s breweries. Luckily things fell into place on November 14th, 2014 and I was able to finally take a tour with Vancouver Brewery Tours.
The tour picks up the guests at Waterfront Station and they ask you to arrive 15 minutes before the tour begins. When I arrived I got a great surprise as the tour guide was Rachel who used to work at Bridge Brewing Company. It was great catching up with her as it has been quite some time since I have seen her. I was the last of the three guests on this tour to arrive so we headed out right away to the bus and got on the road.
Vancouver Brewery Tours takes its guests on a tour of three different breweries. These breweries usually show the different scale of craft breweries and the different styles and cultures as well. The breweries on the tour will always be in flux so that no tour should be exactly the same.
Our first destination was Main Street Brewing Company just off of Main Street in the Brewery Creek district. Brewery Creek being the original brewing district in BC this is a great place to start any craft beer tour.
Once inside the brewery the 4 of us headed passed the tasting room to get into the brewery proper and start the tour in earnest. On the way through you pass though the growler filling room that also holds all of their merchandise.
One of the coolest pieces of information we were given was that not only was is the building that houses this brewery a historic building that housed a brewery way back but they could also cast a fishing rod out the back doors and catch salmon in the now subterranean Brewery Creek. It is also cool to see all of the casks the brewery has for their in house cask program. Rachel was very thorough in the description of how beer is brewed right down to what tank the brewing starts in (mash tun) right down to the fermentors and bright tanks. Seeing as I know the process fairly well I spent more time poking around and taking photos. Once we had finished the tour of the brewery we headed back to the tasting room to sample a paddle of their beers. We sampled their Pilsner, Sessional IPA, Brown Ale and their new Belgian Bonsai IPA. All are solid beer but my favourite by a landslide was the Belgian Bonsai. Main Street Brewing started out contract brewing at Surrey’s Russell Brewing Company with their Pilsner way before they opened up this brewery.
Once we had finished up at Main Street Brewing we all hopped back into the bus to hit up destination number 2. Our second brewery was Bomber Brewing located on Adanac street close to Commercial Drive. The brewery is located in the second hub of brewing in East Vancouver lovingly nicknamed Yeast Van. Unlike Main Street’s beginnings Bomber Brewing is a true Canadian story. The owners of Bomber Brewing all played on a beer league hockey team of the same name. The brewmaster was home brewing for the team when they came up with the idea to open up the brewery.
We quickly headed into the brewery for our tour. They had just finished a brew and were cleaning out the mashtun. Rachel reinforced the brewing process with the other two guests on the tour. She also pointed out the barrels that are aging beer. Like many beer drinkers they did not realize that some beer is actually better aged especially on oak. She went on to explain what styles of beer are great for aging such as imperial stouts, barleywines and sours. We took a look at the packaging area including their small but efficient canning line.
Once done in the brewery we headed into the tasting room for some samples. The samples included their Blonde Ale, I Braineater Pumpkin Ale, Extra Special Bitter (ESB) and their new collaboration ale with Stone Brewing in California called Blood From A Stone Red Rye IPA. Much like the last brewery one of the beer on this tray was a home run and was by far my favourite. The Blood From A Stone is excellent and I would never turn down a sample or pint of this beer!
Once done at Bomber it was time to leave the city of Vancouver and head over to Burnaby. Burnaby is the home of the new production brewery for Steamworks Brewing Company. This brewery is a great opportunity to show the scale differences in craft beer. Steamworks is one of the largest craft breweries in BC currently.
Heading into the brewery it is instantly obvious that Steamworks is nothing like Bomber Brewing or Main Street Brewing Company. This brewery is bigger than both of those breweries put together! It is massive. Not only is it much lager but hey have a few more toys to play with also. First they have a Hopvac (I think that was the name of it) and this is where they can add large volumes of hops in what they call dry hopping. They also have a centrifuge which is a style of filter for beer that spins the beer at a high speed and retains the flavour where other filter methods can loose flavour. Every part of this brewery is just bigger!
When we had finished in the brewery we headed out to the tasting room to have the last of our samples for the tour. I did not write down the names of the samples at Steamworks but I think they were as follows: Black IPA, Pale Ale, Blitzen and their Pilsner. From memory I think that my favourite was the Black IPA. While enjoying our beer I was able to snap a photo of the two other guests on the tour.
When we were done at the brewery we headed back out to the bus. I had planted my car at Steamworks Brewing as I had to make it to a play fairly quickly after the tour but the bus takes everyone right back to Waterfront Station. You can not ask for a better setup as you are able to take transit to the tour and not worry about how you are going to make it home. While at Main Street Brewing Rachel took a group shot of us which was sent by email to the three of us. Below is this photo.
I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone that is into craft beer or wants to learn about it to check out one of these tours. This tour is good for locals but even better for tourists and out of town guests. So if you have people coming to town and want to show them a good time this would be a great option. Check out their website for prices and possible tour dates.