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Where Canadian craft beer was born


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Chambar, in downtown Vancouver, combined casual elegance with a passion for beer, mostly of the Belgian variety.

By: Stephen Beaumont


Although Canadian craft brewing was born in Vancouver – the first production brewery was the now-MolsonCoors-owned Granville Island Brewing, while the first brewpub was the now-defunct Horseshoe Bay Brewing – it took some time to truly take hold. Sure, there were start-ups here and there, some more successful and enduring than others, but many of them produced mostly forgetable beers for much of the 1990s. It took the dawn of the new century for beer in Vancouver to get really interesting.


Much of the excitement was generated by brewpubs like the Steamworks Brewing Company. Open since 1995 and located in the heart of the tourism-heavy Gastown district, Steamworks may be honestly described as a Vancouver original. All the beer is brewed on site – with a steam powered kettle, of course – and seasonal selections rotate regularly, complemented by ably-prepared pizzas and pub food. Further afield in the suburb of Surrey, Central City likewise started life as a brewpub , but has since turned into a production brewery with a successful pub attached – and a slew of awards for their impressive line of ales. 


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Past winner of the Canadian Brewing Awards Brewery of the Year honours (2010), Central City resides in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey, but is worth the trip.

Home to what is likely the best selection of draught beer in the greater Vancouver region, possibly all of British Columbia, is the Alibi Room. Described by its owners as a “modern tavern,” the Alibi emphasizes its independence by featuring “guest beers” from across B.C. and around the world on its 50 draught taps, although local breweries do seem to get the most exposure. A locally-sourced menu of creative cuisine and a capable selection of wines and cocktails complete the picture. When upscale Vancouverites think of dining with beer, however, Chambar is the name most likely to come to mind. Belgian-themed and eco-friendly, the downtown east dining room complements dishes like Moules Frites and Fish Cassoulet with generous selection of Belgian ales. 


Located not in Vancouver proper, but rather half-way to Whistler, the Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company should be a mandatory stop for any beer aficionado touring the Lower Mainland region. To go along with the house-brewed beers, many of which are “imperial,” or notably strong interpretations of existing styles, the pub and restaurant both feature creative cuisine, and the inn provides rooms for those who might find it too hard to leave. 


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