By TIM PAWSEY
Where to wet your whistle in Vancouver—and beyond
Welcome to Vancouver, a gently boozy burg where you can swirl, sip or quaff your way around town to your heart’s content. But it wasn’t always that way. Almost a century ago, rum-running and speakeasies were big business, as the city endured its own prolonged spell of prohibition. And many suggest the fallout lasted until just recently.
Those seeking impeccably poured Guinness (and cut-above pub bites) head to Gastown’s The Irish Heather, or to close-by Bitter Tasting Room for more esoteric brews. Biercraft Tap and Tapas sports the best Belgian line-up, while Railtown’s Alibi Room champions craft brews, local and imported, with some 47 rotating taps and sustainably sourced fare to match. Arrive early at The Whip Restaurant Gallery for Cask Sundays and standing-room-only cask tappings. For good sampler flights, head to expansive St. Augustine’s Pub or to Granville Island Brewing’s always bustling taproom. Discover more pubby surroundings and smartly picked BC pours at The New Oxford Public House.
Growl About Town
Local is the name and growlers (refillable bottles) are the game at these diminutive but wildly popular nano-breweries:
• Brassneck (opening soon)
• Powell Street Craft Brewery (Canadian Brewing Awards winner)
Long Table Distillery opened earlier this year to rave reviews—the first still to set up downtown in several decades. Drop by the spotless tasting room for small-batch London Dry Gin and Texada “Stoned” Vodka. And don’t miss their ephemeral Apothecary series—which might be anything from a whisky-style to a Limoncello. Also worth tracking down: Pemberton Distillery Organic Potato Vodka; Island Spirits Distillery Phrog Gin, from Hornby Island; and Victoria Gin, from Victoria Spirits, who also make Twisted & Bitter orange bitters. Craft bitters are likewise the sweet success story of Vancouver’s Bittered Sling Extracts, which are considered de rigueur by local bartenders. Find them at Legacy Liquor Store, host to the city’s busiest line-up of cocktail events.
Brews with a View
Grab a seat and a pint at any of these vista-kissed waterside purveyors.
• Mahony & Sons: This Irish-inclined after-work haunt delivers delectable bites and popular beers.
• Cactus Club Cafe: Gaze at English Bay or Coal Harbour through amber glasses.
• Dockside Restaurant: Brewmaster meets chef at Granville Island’s smart brewpub-cum-dining lounge on Granville Island.
• Steamworks Brewing Company: This pubbish and panelled haunt with harbour glimpses brews on the premises with the same steam source that chimes Gastown’s famous clock.
Much more than just shaken and stirred, the city’s cocktail scene is a vortex of creativity, driven by a cadre of adventurous spirits who are continually winning awards both at home and abroad. Under the tutelage of Jay Jones, president of the Canadian Professional Bartenders Association, Gastown cocktail haunt Clough Club boasts a lively but seasoned clientele who come for the house-made barrel-aged recipes and dark-spirits line-up. It’s worth seeking out The Diamond, a hard-to-find upstairs lounge in a classic heritage building just off Gastown’s Maple Tree Square. Ace mixer Dani Tatarin runs The Keefer Bar, a narrow, warm and always hopping Chinatown haunt, where regulars pack in for the likes of the Buffalo Soldier and Main Street Lemonade. Shawn Layton concocts classics, often with a contemporary twist, at L’Abattoir, a destination Gastown restaurant in a late-19th-century setting.
These days there’s no shortage of BC “draught” wine on tap, well worth sipping. Sporting a huge selection is Tap & Barrel, although most restaurants now offer at least a couple of taps. TWB – The Wine Bar offers 50 wines by the glass, both local pours on tap and imports from their state-of-the-art Vinotemp system. Fuelling the “FreshTAP” revolution is Vancouver Urban Winery, which kegs wine from some 30 Okanagan and other wineries at their eastside location, which boasts a smartly appointed tasting bar.
BC’s celebrated Okanagan Valley is a half-day’s drive away, but a handful of wineries flourish in rural Langley, an hour from downtown by car. Vista D’oro is known for port-style D’oro walnut wine, as well as heritage fruit preserves and vinifera wines. Backyard Vineyards spins a folksy yarn into crisp sparkling brut, while Township 7 boasts a sibling on the Naramata Bench. Visit for estate white blend and rosé—and stomp a few grapes (if you sign up for their event on Oct. 27). Nearby Domaine de Chaberton yields cool-climate local and Okanagan drops, as well as delicious French cuisine in cozy Bacchus Bistro. Closer to home, Artisan SakeMaker brews premium sake (including a sparkling), all offered at their Granville Island winery.