Location: Surrey+Downtown Vancouver brewpub
Year Opened: 2003
Flights of Four: $7
BC Beer Award Wins: 2016 – German Lager (Red Racer), Strong Ale (Thor’s Hammer), 2015 – IPA (Red Racer), 2014 – Wood-Barrelled (Thor’s Hammer)
Canadian Beer Awards Wins: 2015 – Barleywine (Thor’s Hammer), 2013 – North American Amber (Red Racer ESB), Imperial IPA, Wood and Barrel Aged Strong Beer (Bourbon Porter)
Real talk: it’s not 2012 anymore, and there are many places with better beer, move innovative offerings, and more interesting tasting rooms than Central City.
Alright! Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s praise Central City, because it does deserve to be praised. In the decade after it was founded, it grew steadily because the beer was quite good, they had a nice variety and their branding was clever and consistent. Which, if you started becoming an
alcoholic craft beer fan in the last two years, might seem standard, but in the aughts was a revelation.
And that Red Racer IPA! That, friends, was a great IPA then, and is still a very good IPA now, even with 300 variations available to you.
But put away those happy, hazy memories and go their downtown Vancouver location today. Then head out to the cluster of breweries around Main, or Hastings, or take the Evergreen Line to Port Moody’s brewery block. Then compare.
What you’ll find is Central City hasn’t evolved too much past that fabled Red Racer series, and that their selection in general leans too heavily on IPAs and sours. Their food is average to above average, and the space is comfortable but uninteresting (trying as it does to appeal to gameday crowds, group functions, beer drinkers, and people looking for a bite downtown).
Nitpicking? Perhaps, especially because their beer is still very drinkable (our group enjoyed their raspberry offerings this summer, along with the old standby), and they’re still trying new stuff, which is admirable for any place over a decade old.
And yet, we keep coming back to the fact that nothing about Central City is anything more than above average in the market anymore. Which speaks to the tremendous innovation that’s happened in Vancouver more than anything else: there’s no shame in drinking at Central City in 2016, but there’s no hubris in declaring there are 20 better places.
Quality: 13.2/20 (19th)
Standout: 3.8/5 (10th)
Diversity: 6.2/10 (16th)
Innovation: 2.7/5 (23rd)
Experience: 6.3/10 (28th)
TOTAL: 32.21 (21st)