Here are some of the most outstanding breweries we visited in 2014, while we were based in Vancouver, BC. The list is based on beer quality but also atmosphere and role in the community.
49th State: Denali, Alaska
Fitting well with my theory that cold places brew best, Alaskan beer is generally of high quality. However, one brewery stands head and shoulders above the rest. Located just outside of Denali National Park, the 49th State brewery is only open during the summer. Long closures means lots of lagering time, and that’s why 49th State makes some of the nation’s best German beers, including a superb rauchbier and hefeweizen. They’ve got a diverse portfolio including some Belgian and American styles too, and it seemed that everything they made was spot on. Given the extremely high turnover of beer in the summer, it’s no wonder that everything tasted spotlessly fresh. Plus, you can’t beat the atmosphere in their pub.
Cascade Brewing, Portland, OR
In a town with stiff brewing competition, Cascade’s were among the best in Portland. These beers are so thoroughly mind-blowing, they can unite one with cosmic consciousness. The highlights were the intense array of mature, sophisticated barrel-aged sours.
Crannog Brewing, Sorrento, BC
Crannog has been around a long, long time in craft beer terms. Their organic farm and brewery are off the beaten track, making them difficult for most people to visit, but more than worth it. All the beers burst with flavor; they grow their own hops, their business philosophy is built on authentic sustainability, and the owners are Wiccan.
A newcomer to the BC brewing scene, Persephone has blown our socks off, particularly with their kellerpils (close your eyes and you’re in Franconia), their dark lager, and their double IPA. Their farm and brewery are also a delight to visit on the Sunshine Coast in BC.
Hair of the Dog, Portland, OR
Not much needs to be said. Visiting Hair of the Dog is something of a beer pilgrimage.
Four Winds, Delta, BC
Lots of new breweries have opened in the lower mainland, but only a few are raising the bar. Four Winds is one of them, and their Brett IPA is one of the best beers brewed in BC in recent years.
Pfriem, Hood River, OR
Having had a few scrumptious Pfriem beers on tap in Vancouver, we had high expectations. The brewery did not disappoint; the beers are finely crafted and the food was fabulous too.
Dageraad, Burnaby, BC
Also helping to raise the brewing bar in BC is Dageraad Brewing. Their focus is on Belgian style ales, and is the only local brewery to do so. I like how they make only a few beers, but make them well and without the flaws that so frequently taint American interpretations of Belgian beer. Their graphic design is amazing, too.
Pelican Brewing, coastal Oregon
I’ve heard of Pelican Brewing from Josh Oakes, who said it’s one of the most scenic breweries in the world. He was right–the pub/restaurant is pitched right on the sandy beach. The beer selection is a bit tired, but the Tsunami stout is solid.
Aslan Brewing, Bellingham, WA
Bellingham has a host of new breweries, and while all are good, Aslan stood out for two reasons: a seasonal Berliner weiss that I could drink by the gallon, and an impressive non-alc beer that proves the brewer’s prowess and commitment to quality.
Cheers to a healthy and happy 2015! We’re headed to Mexico straight away so expect lots of posts related to Mexican food, drink, and architecture in the next few weeks.