The Beers of TBEX: Locally Brewed British Columbia Beers

From June 9 – 13, Erin and I attended the Travel Bloggers Exchange Conference in Vancouver, BC.  The conference sessions themselves tool place on June 11 and 12, but there were networking events and parties starting the evening of June 9.  Some of these were hits, a couple were more of a miss, but one thing they almost all had in common was an interesting selection of locally-brewed beers.

British Columbia is a hotbed of craft beer production.  According to the British Columbia Beer Guide, there are 32 active breweries and 21 active brewpubs in British Columbia making over 225 different craft beers. These beers represent the gamut of beer styles, everything from fruit-beers, to lager and stout.  Some of these are fairly well known, such as the Granville Island Brewing Company, while others have very low productions.

Over the course of the four days in Vancouver, my count is that I tried 16 different beers (13 local from BC).  As my beer palate leans towards darker, stronger ales, stouts and bitters vs. lighter lagers and pilsners, I wanted to try as many different examples of these as I could.  Perhaps I would have tried more, but I squandered some good beer opportunities on wine, sake and margaritas over the weekend as well.

Dockside Brewing Company at Granville Island Hotel

Dockside Brewing Company Cartwright Pale Ale

Thursday night we attended the pre-conference tweet-up at the Dockside Brewing Company on Granville Island.  In order to kick off the weekend right, I began by ordering their sampler of six different beers.  These included:

  • Marina Light Lager – Golden color with balanced sweet malt flavor and dry finish
  • Johnston Pilsner – Hoppy and full flavored with a deep golden color made with Czech Saaz hops.
  • Railspur IPA (followed up with a full pint later on) – A classic English IPA with deep copper color and generous amounts of Falconer’s Flight hops resulting in a floral finish.
  • Cartwright Pale Ale (Erin ordered a pint of this) – A deeply colored ale with balanced malt flavors and fresh Centennial hops.
  • Old Bridge Dark Lager – A classic German “schwarzbier” with a rich black color and hints of chocolate and coffee.
  • Pelican Bay Brown – deep brown North English style nut ale with chocolate malt for a smooth finish

    Beer Sampler from Dockside Brewing Company

These were all from the tap, and were too cold to enjoy at first, with most tasting very flat and bland.  Once they started to reach a proper temperature, the flavors started to come through.

The Keg

The Keg Steakhouse on Granville Island

Erin and I met with Christina (@middleseatview) on Friday morning for the Granville Island Food Tour by Edible BC.  After our tour of the Public Market, we paid a visit to the Artisinal Sake Brewer and then we needed to eat some lunch.  This caused us to skip the Granville Island Brewery Taproom, but I still managed to try one of their beers with my meal.

Granville Island English Bay Pale Ale

  • Granville Island English Bay Pale Ale – Caramel malt flavour and light hop bitterness, balanced with a dry roasted finish.

Hub Restaurant and Lounge Yaletown

Friday night was the official kick-off of the conference with a meet-and-greet at the Vancouver Art Gallery.  Here they were serving Kronenberg 1664, so I opted for wine instead.  Following this party, many of us tried to get into a nightclub where we were given special VIP passes, and then into the bar at the hostel where many of the group were staying.  But due to the large, jubilant crowds following the Game 5 victory of the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals, we had significant trouble finding somewhere we could get in!  After what seemed like an eternity, we came across The Hub in Yaletown which was able to accommodate what remained of our group.

  • Okanagan Spring Pale Ale – Clear and copper colored, it is fruity on the palate and hearty in hops with a nice, round finish.
  • Sleeman Honey Brown Lager – Technically from Ontario, not BC, this lager boasts a rich copper color with a creamy, off-white foam and full body.  A touch of natural honey and a slightly sweet finish accenting the aromas of toasted grain and caramel.

Cascades Lounge at Pan Pacific Hotel

For our lunch on Saturday, we tried first to visit the Eat! Vancouver expo occurring also at the convention center, but after entering and glancing around (and seeing that you needed to purchase taste tickets once in the expo) we turned around and decided to grab a bite from the lounge at our hotel next door.  We had ordered room service off the menu the previous evening, and decided to try something more substantial off the menu.

Keith's India Pae Ale from Cascades Lounge at Pan Pacific Vancouver

  • Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale – Another non-local beer, this one coming all the way from Nova Scotia!  A smooth, golden ale with a distinct taste of subtle licorice tones, a slight sweetness and a bitter finish.

Smiley’s Public House

Smiley's Public House

Right after the Saturday conference sessions ended, hosted a happy hour at the conference facility, but alas, there I only drank a glass of wine.  This was followed by the Tripadvisor party at Smiley’s pub in downtown Vancouver.  We each received three drink tickets for this event, and using these turned out to be rather difficult if you tried to order at the bar!  Luckily, we had staked out a table in the back with Aaron (@Adventurousness) and Erick (@adventureinside) and soon found that we had the perfect location for scoping out the passing hors d’oeuvres and ordering out drinks via table service! We started off trying the two special cocktails of the evening, the TBEX-tini and the Mojito.  Then onto the beer (before I had to run off to help Jeremy (@budgettravelsac) get ready for the next event.

  • Driftwood Brewery Fat Tug IPA - A northwest style India Pale Ale that is characterized by an intense hop profile of grapefruit & melon and restrained malt notes.

The Kingston Taphouse & Grille

Kingston Taphouse and Grille

This was the setting for the most fun and outlandish event for the weekend — the Diamond PR Men of TBEX Photo Shoot.  Our friend Jeremy won the title of Mr. January for this upcoming calendar, and he was allowed to bring 10 guests along to the photo shoot.  Erin and I managed to snag two of these invites.  Once things got cooking here, it turned out to be the event to crash, as so many people tried to attend, they were turning people away at the door!  This party was off the hook, though quite a bit too crowded.  We had the outdoor patios in the back, with the upstairs being the bar area, and the lower level being the photo shoot.  There was some yummy food around to nibble on, including pizza, buffalo wings, and dry spare ribs (which were all very tasty!)  Most of this was actually on the lower level, surrounding the photo shoot itself, or upstairs against the farthest back wall…and I heard many of the attendees had no idea there was food there at all!

  • Granville Island Pale Ale (Repeat)
  • Granville Island Honey Lager – Soft malt flavor with hints of honey, balanced with a light hop bitterness.

Rogue Kitchen and Wet Bar

Rogue Kitchen and Wet Bar

Erin and I had lunch here on the second day of the conference with Aaron and Ben (@adventureswben).  We actually passed over the long line at JapaDog for this! 30 different beers available on their menu, including 20 craft beers.  If this wasn’t lunch time with a half day of conference still to come, I’m sure I would have tried a few more of their offerings.

Crannog Gael's Blood Potato Ale

  • Crannog Gael’s Blood Potato Ale – “An immigrant ale uniting the staple food of Ireland with plenty of new world hops.”  This rich Irish Red Ale is made with organic potatoes for an exceptionally smooth, rich body and malt flavor, wish just the right amount of hop finish.  This ale used to be known as “Hell’s Kitchen”.

Railway Club

During our culinary travel breakout session on Sunday, John Lee (@johnleewriter) from Lonely Planet expounded on his love of beer, and invited all of us in the session to join him at the Railway club for beers after the conference.  Since Erin and I weren’t going on the AMResorts harbor cruise and had a few hours to kill before the Mexican dinner, I decided to pop on over and try a few.  Turns out, (seemingly) the entire staff of Lonely Planet was there as well!  Pretty cool!  I didn’t have Erin’s DSLR with me so I apologize for the grainy non-smart phone photos!

Central City Brewing Co. Big Kettle Signature Series E.S.B.

  • Central City Brewing Co. Big Kettle Signature Series E.S.B. – Balanced flavor of sweet toasted malt and medium hops up front, light red and citrus fruits with a bittersweet finish. One of my favorites of the weekend, losing out only to…
  • Crannog Ales Back Hand of God Stout – THE BEER OF THE WEEKEND – This one was personally recommended by John, and turned out to be my favorite sip of the weekend.  Lean in body and powerful in flavor, this stout is easy to drink, rich and inviting.  Very smooth and mildly hopped, distinct flavors of coffee and chocolate.  I wish this was the first one I had tried, and not the last!

    Crannog Ales Back Hand of God Stout

Roxy Burger

Margaritas flowed at the Mexican dinner, and I thought this would be our swan song of the weekend, as we had an early morning drive back to Seattle, but one final stop was in the cards and we walked over to say some final goodbyes at Roxy Burger on Granville Street.  Things had pretty much quieted down by this time, eyelids and feet were competing for floorspace, so we only stayed for a while before we called it a weekend.

  • Sleeman India Pale Ale – Ok, so technically, again, this one is not from British Columbia, coming instead from Ontario, but this was my beer of choice when we stopped by Roxy Burger to meet the last of the stragglers at the end of the festivities on Sunday night.  Amber color with a malty sweetness at the beginning that finishes up with an authentic IPA hoppy bitterness that’s not too overpowering at the end.

So, what did I miss? Are there any local beers that I should’ve tried?  What is your favorite beer from British Columbia? Please share with us!

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