Location: East Vancouver
Year Opened: 2012
BC Beer Award Wins: 2017 – German Pale Lager (Craft Lager), Spice/Herb/Vegetable (Alakazam) 2016 – Imperial IPA (187 on a Undercover Hop), Wild Ale (Bodhisattva) 2015 – Light European (Craft Lager), 2014 – Vegetable (Pumpkin Lost Souls), 2013 – American Ale (Gypsy Tears)
Canadian Beer Awards Wins: 2017 – Barley Wine-Style Ale (Thor’s Hammer), 2016 – North American Premium Lager (Craft Lager), 2014 – Brown Ale (Old Boy), Barrel Aged (Russian Imperial Stout), 2013 – Belgian Abbey (Vow of Silence)
Rank in Vancouver: 4th place (out of 25)
Rank in Metro Vancouver: 11th place (out of 48)
Rank in Southwestern B.C.: 15th place (out of 77)
Do you remember when Parallel 49 wasn’t completely omnipresent, when their display signs weren’t outside every liquor store, when Gypsy Tears wasn’t guaranteed to be in every bar, when it didn’t have the type of ubiquity that allows one to buy a Jerkface 9000 in Taiwan or a Salty Scot in Australia?
Amazingly, that was less than five years ago. But ever since they opened in 2012, Parallel 49 has been the Borg of Vancouver craft breweries: taking up more and more display space in more and more liquor stores, as they leap from commercial success to commercial success, while charming the community with ample collaborations and advent calendars. Resistance is futile.
And Parallel 49’s status would guarantee them to be elite, if not for one tiny detail: their beer isn’t great.
Now hold up, angry hordes! Their beer is good. Sometimes very good. For nearly all tastes, there are two or three beers from Parallel 49 almost guaranteed to get into your regular rotation, such is their commitment to make virtually every style in the book.
At the same time, they can do basic well: their basic lager (Craft Lager) is award-winning, and their straight ahead brown ale (Old Boy) and IPA (Filthy Dirty) are nothing to sniff at.
But the downside of constant experimentation is that there’s always a dud or two in the roster (last year’s overflavoured, mediocre Lemon Radler harkened back to their Li’l Red Sour Cherry, likely the only beer ever so undrinkable yet still bottled that it was acknowledged in the name of the follow-up attempt), and we always get the sense they don’t put quite the same amount of perfectionism into the what’s inside the bottle as they do for the labels on them.
And in 2018, there are enough breweries out there doing really interesting stuff that coming out with a B+ Northeast IPA (Trash Panda) six months after everyone else doesn’t really move the deal.
Still, above average beer combined with a huge selection and world-class marketing will get you far, as Parallel 49 has ably demonstrated. Frankly, at this point the only thing really holding them back from utter domination is a couple A+ beers.
But frankly, their new tasting room is symbolic of both their strengths and weaknesses. There’s an airport-style electronic display of 30-plus(!) beers you can get at anyone time, but they’re all in the same colour and indistinguishable.
The scope and accomplishments of Parallel 49 are easy to be impressed by. We just wished we felt the same way about the actual beer.
Quality: 13.7/20 (35th)
Standout: 3.6/5 (27th)
Diversity: 8.6/10 (1st)
Innovation: 4.1 (4th)
Experience: 6.8/10 (45th)
TOTAL: 36.7 (15th)
Categories: Brewery Rankings