Beer on the beach

White Rock Beach Beer opened in 2014. Noëlle Phillips photo

White Rock’s craft beer scene is expanding with the opening of a third local brewery.

White Rock is known for its historic pier, lively waterfront, and quaint uptown charm. People make day trips here to enjoy fish and chips and stunning views, but seeking out local craft beer isn’t usually on their minds. This is changing, however, because White Rock’s beer scene has been steadily growing in recent years.

According to Mayor Darryl Walker, “the culture around craft brewing aligns well with the direction of our economy, including the relaxed beachfront vibe.” He includes craft breweries among the small businesses that “bring energy, vibrancy, and uniqueness” to White Rock. And since a third brewery opened near Marine Drive in July, it’s time to check out the beer scene in this rapidly growing seaside city.

It was in the Sandpiper, a classic White Rock pub that is now closed, that Bill Haddow and Peter Adams sipped mediocre beer and brainstormed the idea of starting the city’s first craft brewery. High school teachers by profession, Haddow and Adams wanted to get a head start on their retirement options, so in 2014 White Rock Beach Beer Company (WRBB) was born with the help of brewer Michael Stewart who puts their recipes into action. Although WRBB is a small brewery with a limited range of beers (“We don’t go out of our way to make anything too weird,” says Adams), it has become an integral part of the community. The friendly, welcoming experience you’ll get in the Russell Avenue tasting room combined with the high-quality beers—like Pier IPA (6% ABV, 80 IBU)—makes WRBB a must-see if you’re in uptown White Rock.

Pam Glazier and Scott Keddy (and furry friend) at 3 Dogs Brewing. Noëlle Phillips photo

White Rock Beach Beer’s success showed that the city was ready for more beer, and 3 Dogs Brewing responded to this sharpening appetite when it opened in 2017. Owners Pam Glazier and Scott Keddy first got into brewing when Keddy realized he could concoct a much better beer than the awful U-brew he tried with his grandson. Keddy put his engineering mind to work, purchased some professional-grade brewing equipment, and began experimenting at home. Glazier was eventually converted by a Double IPA that Keddy brought up from the basement for her to taste. That beer—Double Dog Dare (8.7% ABV, 85 IBU)-—is now a best-seller in the brewery.

When 3 Dogs was “renovicted” in 2018 the public showed its support by flocking to the  new location. On most days, the Johnston Road tasting room is filled with couples, families, groups of friends, and (of course) dogs. However, 3 Dogs’ final home will be across the street, near WRBB. Glazier and Keddy are planning to transform their current location into Taps on Johnston, a cozy, low-key taproom boasting 30 craft beer taps and serving whiskey.

Dawson (not pictured), Hailey, Doug and Lisa Card have made their brewery a family business. Noëlle Phillips photo

White Rock’s newest brewery, Galaxie Craft Brewhouse, opened mid-July in the old BC Tel building just off the seaside strip near the corner of Vidal and Marine. Owners Doug and Lisa Card, along with their adult children Hailey and Dawson, have put their heart, soul, and finances into Galaxie—decorating, painting, constructing, and of course brewing. “It’s been an absolute rollercoaster,” according to Lisa, but the family enjoys working together and is excited to have found a home for their brewery in their own hometown.

Doug was a successful homebrewer for years before deciding that he wanted more than his career at BC Hydro. “Life’s too short,” he thought at the time. “Starting a brewery is what I want to do.” His family describes him as patient, a perfectionist, yet also personable and creative, always introducing new ingredients or tweaking his homemade recipes. Many of these are now available in the tasting room, including Hailey’s Comet White IPA (5.5% ABV) and Zero Gravity Lime Radler (5% ABV). In addition to beer, customers can also purchase wine, cider, or a flight of organic craft sodas. Snacks from local vendors such as Hillcrest Bakery are available, along with paninis, pizza, and charcuterie boards.

In 2019, Matt Glazier of 3 Dogs worked with the City and Alex Nixon, Executive Director of the White Rock BIA, to launch the first annual White Rock Craft Beer Festival in the oceanfront Memorial Park. Breweries, along with customers, flocked to participate, revealing how much of a beer community White Rock was becoming. Hopes are high for the event to return when pandemic restrictions are lifted.

While the City provided the Memorial Park space free of charge for the festival and revised some of its zoning bylaws to be more brewery-friendly, not everyone in the community and City Hall fully embraces the industry. In 2020, council voted down a proposal to allow the consumption of alcohol at picnic tables in Memorial Park. There are residents who fear breweries may cause late-night carousing and trouble, and politicians who must respond to those concerns. However, White Rock’s brewery owners are working hard to show that a tasting room isn’t a nightclub, and most craft beer consumers aren’t partiers out to disrupt the neighbourhood. Beer fits here.

Echoing those owners, Nixon emphasized that White Rock is “not just a tourist town and it’s not just for retirees. Everyone loves beer—older and younger. It’s something that can bring people together.” And beer has indeed brought people together in this seaside town—the sense of community, camaraderie, and support in White Rock’s craft beer scene is strong. So come out for a day to enjoy the beach, the beauty, and the breweries!

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