I’m certainly not the first to mention it, but yes, 2016 has been an absolute abomination of a year for most of the human race. Between Aleppo, Trump, and [insert dead musician/actor/celebrity of your choosing here], 2017 can’t come soon enough. However, as I mentioned last week, 2016 has admittedly been a really good year for beer in B.C.
So there’s that.
Since it’s Official Year-End List Time, here, then, is my list of the Top 10 breweries that opened in the past 12 months, according to me, in no particular order.
Faculty Brewing Co.
1830 Ontario St., Vancouver
One of the many really awesome things about the craft beer industry in B.C. is just how many genuinely lovely people there are making beer. Case in point, Faculty founder Mauricio Lozano. Mauricio is a super positive, energetic dude, and it’s hard not to get swept up in his enthusiasm for beer. I love that he’s staying true to his homebrewing roots and offering up all of his recipes online, so anyone can have a go at replicating his beers at home. Faculty’s open-source approach is a great example of the uniquely cooperative nature of our burgeoning beer scene in B.C. After all, a rising tide floats all boats, right?
Luppolo Brewing Company
1123 Veneables St., Vancouver
At this stage of the game, it’s getting damn hard to stand out in Vancouver as a new brewery. The market is getting crowded, so you better have an angle, something unique to get people’s attention and you better have the beer to back it up. Vancouverites demand great beer. We are absolutely spoiled here. Luppolo Brewing, with its Italian-meets-West Coast style, will undoubtedly catch the attention of many an East Van craft beer drinker. But the quality of their beers will keep them coming back for more (thanks in part to former Four Winds brewer Stefan Thordarson). I’m expecting big things from this little brewery.
Strathcona Beer Company
895 East Hastings St., Vancouver
Strathcona is one slick, sexy brewery, but don’t let the glitz and polish distract you. Behind the gorgeous tasting room and flashy marketing are some very good beers. They even picked up a bronze medal at the 2016 B.C. Beer Awards for their English IPA. Also, the pizza is fantastic.
The Parkside Brewery
2731 Murray St., Port Moody
The long-awaited project of legendary B.C. brewer Vern Lambourne (formerly of Granville Island Brewing), Parkside is the fourth brewery to open up on Port Moody’s Brewers Row. The space is huge and inviting and is yet another reason to hop on the SkyTrain and check out what’s brewing out in the ‘burbs. The patio is bumping in the summer, and it’s dog-friendly, too. Since Parkside has roughly a million taps (give or take), including a proper English cask engine, there’s always something new to be had, and it’s all consistently awesome. Bonus points for the shuffleboard table and Super Off Road, the best racing video game of 1980s.
Trading Post Brewing
#107 – 20120 64th Ave., Langley
Trading Post’s brewery and taproom have quickly become the hippest places to hang out in Langley – not that there’s a lot of competition! (Sigh, here come the angry emails…) The beers are all very food-friendly and won’t overpower what’s on the plate. And if you’ve never been to Fort Langley, go, it’s super adorable.
Field House Brewing Co.
2281 West Railway St., Abbotsford
It’s remarkable how Field House has just gotten everything right: its oh-so-hip branding, the über-cool tasting room, and most of all, the absolutely sublime beers. If you haven’t made the trek out to Abbotsford yet, Field House alone makes the trip worthwhile. Their beers are creative and obscure, yet exceptionally well-balanced and endlessly drinkable. Where else are you going to find Dutch Pale Ale, Salted Black Porter and Sour Wheat Gose all in the same flight? It’s little wonder that they went home with the coveted Rookie of the Year award at the 2016 B.C. Beer Awards. Absolutely well-deserved.
Kettle River Brewing Co.
731 Baillie Ave., Kelowna
The guys at Kettle River don’t have a ton of money behind them, but they do have something many corporate craft breweries don’t: a genuine passion for making fantastic beer. I may be biased because co-owner Chris Dedinsky used to live in my buddy’s basement, but there’s something really inspiring about seeing someone chase a dream and make it happen. Kettle River’s tiny brewing set-up (which is literally small enough to be a pilot system at many of the other breweries on this list) means they have to work damn hard to keep up with demand. But it also means they can get really creative with their beers and experiment with all sorts of wonderful weirdness. There’s a lot of love in Kettle River’s beers, and it shows.
Victoria Caledonian Brewery and Distillery
761 Enterprise Cres., Victoria
Home of Twa Dogs, this Scottish-themed Victoria brewery has some big aspirations. In addition to their line of Robbie Burns-inspired beers, Victoria Caledonian is also working on premium single malt whiskies (but those are still a few years away). Brewmaster Dean McLeod, formerly of Lighthouse Brewing, knows his stuff, and he’s created a great line of Gateway Beers for people who want to dip their toe into craft beer but might not know where to start. The beers are very approachable – nothing too weird, just very well-balanced and well-executed (not to mention highly drinkable). McLeod knows the vast majority of consumers just want to drink a six-pack of good beer, and he delivers.
Riot Brewing Co.
#101A – 3055 Oak St., Chemainus
My prediction is that by 2020, every town in B.C. with a population of more than 3,000 people will have its own brewery. That’s actually not much of a prediction, because, out of the 64 communities in B.C. with more than 3,000 people, only about a dozen are currently brewery-less (thanks Wikipedia!). Chemainus happens to be No. 63 on that list, and thanks to Vancouver beer veterans Ralf Rosenke and Aly Tomlin, it is brewery-less no longer. Riot is the culmination of years of hard work by Rosenke and Tomlin, who are joined by former Central City brewer Fabian Spect. They are putting out some legit brews and they are doing it their way: big and bold and loud. It’s punk rock in a pint!
Beach Fire Brewing
594 11th Ave., Campbell River
Full disclosure, I have not been to Beach Fire Brewing yet, nor have I tried their beer. That being said, everything I hear about this operation has been very positive. Great beers, great food, great vibes. That’s what my spies tell me, anyways, and they are rarely wrong. Definitely on my must-visit list for the New Year. It should be on yours too.
• Check out my column next week for my Top 10 anticipated breweries of 2017!