Location: New Westminster
Year Opened: 2013
Flights of Four: $6.50
BC Beer Award Wins: 2016 – European Dark Beer (Dark Lager), Specialty Beer (Roggen Weizen), 2015 – Dark Lager
Canadian Beer Awards Wins: NA
There’s a sort of earnest little brother feeling about Steel & Oak’s smallish New West tasting room. Like visiting someone’s student apartment, you’ll have to trek; it’s a moderate walk from the New West Skytrain station. The decor is predictable and stylish (white walls, big windows, bare wood) but lacks the hip chillness found in Vancouver versions. The tables are repurposed barrels and you sit on stools, but this feels like thrift, not pretension. You get the sense that people have been playing the board games they put out. It’s warm, inviting, the type of place you could lazily spend two hours in.
This may be why the room flows over, and regulars line up out the door to buy off-sales, or cram around the tables. It could also be that Steel & Oak excels at producing consistently remarkable beers.
Our reviewers marked it highly for quality, and had nothing but praise for the full lineup. Tasters particularly loved the Red Pilsner and Smoked Hefeweisen, which veers less campfire, more banana brulee.
But then there’s the Windrose Porter, and the Smoked Honey Dopplebock, and on and on: regardless of the beer, it’s good on tap, it’s good in bottles, it’s good in your mouth, period. In our individual rankings, Steel & Oak had the second lowest standard deviation, which speaks to their consistency.
Yet, it doesn’t get the buzz of other breweries for a few reasons. As it is, the brewery may not be worth the trek for many: the out-of-the-way, tiny taproom only seats 20, and their lineup on tap is smaller than the heavyweight breweries ranked above. Their website blames a shortage of offerings on increased demand.
But diverse and innovative beers (preferably both) were part of our ranking system, and Steel & Oak suffered ever so slightly: although they have a good range, technically meeting our need to see for “something for everyone,” nothing truly innovative was on offer.
That said, you should be buying the beers, and plenty of them. Little brother could always use the cash. They’re two years old, and they’re already producing some of our new standbys. You can get them by the bottle most places, and on tap in a number of others. We suspect they’ll be everywhere in a few years.
Quality: 16.3/20 (5th)
Standout: 3.8/5 (11th)
Diversity: 6.1/10 (19th)
Innovation: 3.0/5 (16th)
Experience: 7.6/10 (11th)
TOTAL: 36.9 (6th)