Early in on this project, a number of people involved made a vacation to Prince Rupert in northwestern B.C., and spend a night at Wheelhouse Brewing, which has quickly built a following in the city of 10,000 since opening three years ago.
They had a modest selection of good beers, a quirky but warm atmosphere — competency in everything, excellence in none, but the type of place you could keep coming back to. And because they were dedicated but sad folk (editors note: this section was not written by any of them), they decided to rank Wheelhouse, and it came out to 32 points on the score.
In the months following, saying “32 out of 50” became a shorthand for the benchmark of a quality place, and perhaps uncoincidentally, a grand total of 7/42 places ranked ended up with between 32 and 33 points — three of which ended up between 32.2 and 32.214 points, such was the magnetic draw of a solid B grade.
And first (or last, if you will) on that list is Hearthstone, a North Vancouver outlet that only started brewing in 2015, but has made a name for itself thanks to strong distribution and bold combinations.
A hazelnut porter? Graham cracker ale? Chocolate milk stout? Cucumber sour? All strong potential, and an impressive diversity for a young place…but none hit with either an amazing first punch, or with unique secondary notes.
The beer was well-produced, everyone in our group had a different favourite, and they also had a dependable mix of ales and sours. However, ask any of us if our favourite Hearthstone beer would be in our top 20 for Metro Vancouver, and the answer would be negative.
There’s the same “having said that” feel to their new space. It’s a large combination brewpub/tasting area that opened in late 2016, and has a nice rustic feel that will appeal to anyone in the winter coming down from a day in the mountains.
However, there’s work to be done in better integrating (or separating) the two parts of the space, as right now the tasting area feels tacked on to the brewpub.
That’s Hearthstone in virtually all facets: a great base to start from, but one that only mildly impresses when you want it to wow. But time may change that yet.
Quality: 12.3/20 (23rd)
Standout: 2.9/5 (27th)
Diversity: 7.2/10 (7th)
Innovation: 2.8/5 (22nd)
Experience: 7.0/10 (17th)
TOTAL: 32.2 (22nd)