Mount Pleasant Is Pleasant - Bike and Beer Vancouver
Mount Pleasant is pleasant. And I’m not just saying that because I had a beer at each of the 6 breweries in the Vancouver neighborhood and I am starting to feel it. Indeed, I was recently in Vancouver and this time (unlike both the previous times I have gone) I was able to go to more than just Granville Island Brewery. Turns out, in case you didn’t know, that Vancouver has a downright insane craft beer scene with an incredibly diverse cast of breweries: young to old, small to large, smelly to brunchy, and I didn’t even get to visit half of them. Let’s talk about it.
Vancouver seems to have 2 major craft beer neighborhoods. One of them to the east of downtown near the Strathcona neighborhood has about a dozen breweries which I barely had the chance to put a dent in. The smaller beer district, south of downtown, is on Mount Pleasant and I had the pleasure to thoroughly explore it. Imagine an area much like Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood: open, industrial, a bit out of town, and (magically) a half dozen breweries all within walking distance. They are even arranged in a neat little circle to eliminate backtracking and course plotting, a task that admittedly was only annoying before Google Maps. What a time to be alive! The route is basically hill-less, takes only 10 minutes of riding, and is a totally walkable 2.4 kilometers (thanks for converting that automatically, Google, but what’s that in ‘Merican?... OK, it’s 1.5 miles). If you finish here, it’s just another mile and a half north to the other brewery district. I started at 33 Acres since it opened bright and early at 10:30 in the morning and went clockwise around the circle.
Highlights: Modern, Instagram-able Brunch, Coffee, Open Early
Cornhole 0/2 - like most of the breweries on this list, there are no games or anything to play
Beers: Eccentric, Varied
This brewery has taken the hipster coffee house and brunch path. Sleek and modern, their menu is painted up on the wall and their bar is dominated by a huge espresso machine. At first glance I was doubtful that such a place served beer much less brewed their own. Incredulously, I asked one of the baristas if they brew their beer in-house. Kindly, she showed to the back where hidden behind an employees only door is a mammoth brewery! After sitting there for a bit longer sipping on their slightly smoky schwarzbier and watching a few more people come in exclusively for growler fills, I realized that this place represented a solid overlap between the brunch hipsters and the beer hipsters. Perhaps an untapped niche, because even at 10:30 AM this place was full.
Quick aside, 33 Acres was the first place I noticed the dedicated growler fill station. They had each beer served both at the main bar and again over at another tap wall with specialized taps for filling growlers. A neat observation turned into a bizarre trend as I noticed it again and again at each of the 6 breweries I visited. Sometimes it was an extra long bar with two sets of taps, and sometimes it was an entirely separate room dedicated to growler fills and beers to go. A specialized tap would make for a cleaner pour, reduce beer waste, and improve the longevity of the growler, but it must be expensive since I have never seen such a thing here in The States. That would be explained by some BC law that requires it, which is supported by the fact that much like the USA, each province of Canada gets to set their own liquor and beer laws, so depending on where you are they can be sensible or absurd. A casual search didn’t yield any super recent info, but it does look like the craft beer movement is shaking up alcohol laws all across the Great White North. If you know anything about this, please comment and fill me in!
Highlights: Brewpub, Chain, Beermosas
Cheers-ness 1/2 - the big bar salvages this, but otherwise brewpubs score 0
Beers: Standard Array
This was the largest by far of all the breweries I visited. It’s a full-blown brewpub with servers and menus. The food may be the main attraction here, but back by the bar, you can see into the immaculate and enormous brewery. The friendly and talkative bartender (oh, Canada, you are so nice) served up samples and knew all about the brewery. She revealed that this brewpub is one of three locations in Canada. Usually, this is a thing that worries me. Don’t get huge and become a BJs. Stay small, Big Rock. It was here that I met fellow beer blogger Vanessa, aka TheCraftBeerSavant. Hi Vanessa! Aside from killer poutine, this place had a fairly small beer menu with a handful of simple, well-made beers.
Faculty Brewing Co.
Highlights: Small, Smelly
Beers: Short, Standard Array
This is probably the smallest brewery on the route. All of the beers have a university course inspired number to go along with them that indicates how easy it is to drink that beer. Entry level courses, the 10Xs, go to easy drinking pilsners and lagers. Your grad-level classes in the 700 range go to Trippels and stuff. Not to be a show-off, I had the Cold Brew ESB which was a modest 400 level and also a vital pick me up midway through a morning of drinking. Faculty’s mission, as inspired by one of their ex-professor founders, is to educate the masses about beer, so they publish all their recipes online for everyone to see! This brewery is nice and “Smelly” with the brewery itself being separated by only a low half wall. No bar seating makes this a lonely place to drink alone however, so I didn’t get to spend as much time here as I otherwise would have.
R&B Ale and Pizza House
Highlights: Brewpub, Old, Award Winning
Beers: Long, Standard Array
This one is a trick to find. It doesn't pop up on a casual search of breweries and in general, I tend to shy away from any place whose name suggests their beer must share the spotlight with food (my stance on brewpubs is known to be less than favorable) and in fact, I almost walked right by it without a notice. Thankfully for me, it lies right on the path between Faculty and Brassneck and I stumbled into by accident, and boy, am I glad I did. This place features a nice long bar with plenty of bartenders. Music is a big part of their vibe here, with a big speaker wall blasting at all times. Their beer menu was impressive and had won several awards including “Best IPA in BC”. I suspected their brewery was back behind the bar so I asked if I could get a peak, expecting a small little homebrew style setup to pump out their beers. I was given the tour and was I surprised! The labyrinthine brewery extended way back into the building past layers and layers of remodeling and expansion. Turns out this is one of Vancouver's oldest breweries at over 20 years old. They have a large horizontal fermenter for their finicky European styles and a dedicated brett tank for making funking beers. At R&B, beer indeed does not play second fiddle to the food. Thanks for the tour, Callum!
Highlights: Rustic, Cozy
Beers: Standard Array
Much younger is the 2013 brewery Brassneck. Like Faculty, they serve only beer and bother not with food other than the obligatory pepperonis that so far basically every place has had in order to satisfy BC beer law. Their little brewery is separated into the growler shop, the long bar and seating area, and if you look hard enough, the brewery, which is normally inaccessible. I asked for the tour and was led by Ian into the cramped quarters in the belly of the brewery. This place has a very well cultivated rustic vibe, very much the opposite of the modern, white, and clean cut 33 Acres around the corner. Here was where I reached the “fraternizing with randoms” stage of a well-paced drinking day and I almost gave up on my quest complete the loop of all 6 breweries in favor of staying in this fantastic place to try more of their eclectic beers. I did, however, forge on.
Main Street Brewery
Highlights: Historic, Spacious
Beers: Small Standard Array
In a beautiful, historic, brick building is Main Street Brewery. Rebuilt in the shell of the old brewery that came before it, Main Street is a mainstay of the Mouth Pleasant neighborhood. This big brewery, probably the second largest behind Big Rock, has a number of well-established beers. I tried getting the tour here as well but this place is big enough to require the good ol’ call ahead to get into. That’s probably for the best since, at brewery number six, the photos would have come out blurry anyway. With its long bar, ample communal seating, and strings of Mumford and Sons lights, it is no mystery why this place had to start turning people away after reaching capacity.
That does it for the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Six amazing breweries that run the gamut of styles and tastes. There is certainly something for every type of beer drinker in Vancouver. Next time I’m back, I’m off to the Strathcona area where another dozen breweries wait for me.
Click here for a glossary of terms that I like to use like “Smell” and “Cornhole.” Thought this was a fun read? Share it with someone who would like the bike and beer life! Use it to convince your friends to road trip to Vancouver with you! Thanks for reading.