A mere two decades after it was first proposed, the (very) long-awaited Evergreen Line SkyTrain extension opened earlier this month, connecting the far-flung outposts of Coquitlam and Port Moody to the Metro Vancouver rapid transit grid.
What does this have to do with beer? Well, now it’s easier than ever to visit some of BC’s most impressive breweries. And since driving is a really terrible way to go brewery-hopping, there’s no better excuse to load up your Compass card and venture into the vast unknown that is suburban Vancouver.
For those diehard downtown-dwelling Vancouverites who might be unaware, the suburbs are that desolate region that exists beyond Boundary Road. Some of your closest friends and family may have made the trek there – likely not long after having children – never to be seen again.
So what life exists in this seeming black hole? Is this hinterland a hellish hellscape where the living envy the dead? It’s hard to say, but the beer is fantastic!
Seriously though, do yourself a favour, hop a train and get out of the downtown bubble.
The next station is… Moody Centre
I mean, it’s just all too perfect. The second stop on the new Evergreen Line drops you right off in the middle of the most densely populated brewing district in the province. With Twin Sails, Yellow Dog, Parkside, and Moody Ales all within a block and a half of each other on Murray Street, the area known as Brewers Row is a destination in it’s own right.
The four breweries couldn’t be more different, and whether you’re partial to the funky farmhouse ales at Yellow Dog, or Twin Sail’s Con Leche Horchata Milk Stout (7.5% ABV, 18 IBU), there’s something on this block to pique the interest of even the most jaded craft beer snob.
Also, when the sun is out, the adjacent Rocky Point Park is seriously beautiful. Walk off those pints with a jaunt around the waterfront trail.
The next station is… Production Way-University
(You’re totally reading these in the SkyTrain Lady’s voice, aren’t you?)
Around the back of an unassuming industrial park at the bottom of Burnaby Mountain lies one of BC’s most impressive breweries. Despite its humble location, Dageraad has been creating arguably some of the best Belgian-inspired beers this side of the Low Countries. The recently-released Brune (7.5% ABV) is an abbey-style dubbel brewed with mission figs and is worth the trip alone.
Dageraad’s current tasting room is, shall we say, modest. However, the brewery has a new mezzanine tasting lounge in the works that I’ve been assured will be open any month now.
The next station is… Scott Road
Ah yes, scenic Whalley. Easily Metro Vancouver’s most maligned neighbourhood. Until Central City set up shop on Bridgeview Drive, there was really no reason to come here (unless your 1992 Dodge Neon needed a new radiator).
But just a short walk past the junk yards, car lots, and more junk yards, stands Central City’s glorious flagship brewery and distillery, like a shimmering diamond in the rough. The facility is so impressive, it’s even helping to spark a bit of a renaissance in the neighbourhood, with new development sprouting for the first time in decades.
Central City is really a must-visit destination for any craft beer fan. The dozens of towering stainless steel tanks give the building a cathedral-like feel, and truly, the 65,000-sq.-ft. building is a monument to the fermentable arts. Central City also offers one of the best brewery tours in town, running Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Be sure to pick up a bottle of the Sour No. 2 Kriek (10.8% ABV, 17 IBU) while you’re there, before they’re all gone. The second in Central City’s Sour Series, this Belgian-style kriek is infused with cherries and aged for two years in oak wine barrels.
The next station is… New Westminster
Since opening in 2014, New Westminster’s Steel & Oak have been producing a consistently impressive roster of European-inspired beers. The small tasting room is tucked in next to an overpass, and is a popular hangout with proud New Westminsterites (New Westminsterians?) who love their local brewery.
One of Steel & Oak’s latest creations, Kaffee (5.1% ABV, 17 IBU), is a blonde ale that tastes almost nothing like it looks. The beer is infused with whole coffee beans, giving it a rich, roasty flavor despite it’s light golden hue.
The walk from the station to brewery can be a bit treacherous if you decide to follow Columbia Street, the main trucking route through town, so take the scenic route instead along New Westminster’s waterfront promenade along the Fraser River. It’s a couple minutes longer but totally worth it.