Mork and Mindy are behind the times. They might not know that growler laws have changed in BC, allowing a flourishing of small-production breweries that enhance the world of beer in Canada’s sexiest city. Nano- nanobreweries might not have existed on Orc, but they now do in Vancouver, where three of them are just taprooms located in tiny warehouses. Because the atmosphere in a warehouse taproom is exactly what it sounds like, Robin Williams’s theatrics are the only thing that might make a visit sound otherworldly. We’ll stick to the facts.
Black Kettle Brewing Company (North Vancouver)
Black Kettle had two beers on rotation when we were there, a pale, and an IPA. Both were uneventful but clean, and a red ale was planned to go on next. They can pour you a sample, a glass, or fill a growler. Black Kettle Brewing Company is about a 30 minute walk from the SeaBus terminal in Lonsdale. About 20 minutes of that is on the sidewalk of a main road. When the city of North Vancouver soon finishes the last leg of their extensive cycling/walking trail, getting to Black Kettle from Lonsdale will be fully along the sea.
Bridge Brewing (North Vancouver)
Bridge Brewing claims to be the “first” of Vancouver’s nanobreweries. They brew two beers, one of which is a decent IPA. Sporadically Bridge Brewing releases bottles of small-batch seasonals, which may be found at some local liquor stores. The taproom is located on the Dollarton Highway, and can be reached by car or by bus from Lonsdale.
Four Winds (Delta)
This is the largest of the three warehouse nanobreweries and the one with the most potential. You don’t have to take our word for it. Four Winds just won a Silver Medal at the World Beer Cup for their Juxtapose Brett IPA. Congratulations Four Winds! As an aside, Josh Oakes of Drink Vicariously was judging at the World Beer Cup this year, but he was not judging this category (American-style Brett Beer). A full list of World Beer Cup winners can be found here.
Four Winds is a winner because their beers reveal effort and creativity without sacrificing basic elements of good brewing. For example, Four Winds impressed me most with a brilliant hoppy pilsner–something that most North American breweries cannot do. Four Winds has several beers on what they call their “Unlimited” list such as the pils, saison, IPA, and pale ale. These four beers should be available at all times. They also have several “Limited” edition rotating seasonals like the award-winning Juxtapose, wildflower saison, oat porter, and others. The fact that they bottle their beer makes them seem less like a nanobrewery and more like a proper microbrewery, and it would be unsurprising if Four Winds were to expand production. You will need a car to get to Four Winds.
Four Winds has a decent size taproom with actual seats, and there was a convivial atmosphere when we visited. Several people were having pints as well as buying to go, making it a different kind of experience than visiting the other warehouse breweries. Given its out of the way location, the number of people inside the taproom on a random weekday reveals how far Vancouver has come in terms of craft beer becoming entrenched in the culture.
Future installments of the “Vancouver’s New Micro, Nano, and Pico Breweries” series will include two more new nanobreweries Parallel 49 and Powell Street Brewing; as well as Deep Cove Brewers and Distillers.