There’s a certain symmetry to the fact that in 1995, Vancouver’s craft brewing scene took its first infant steps from the wasteland dominated by Molson and Labatt with the openings of Steamworks in Gastown and Storm in East Vancouver: one established a brewpub and restaurant catering to tourists, with a solid roster of well-crafted if mostly unexciting (by today’s standards) beers, while the other set up shop in a warehouse, with an experimental, ramshackle, rebel-spirited, freaks-and-geeks attitude that you either adore or roll your eyes at.
That Storm Brewing is in our top 10 is evidence most of us adore both what they brew and what they represent, though we can fully understand the opposing case.
Founder James Walton is like a grungier version of the zany Doc Brown in his lab, trying strange experiments, often times blowing things up (one of us has regrets of buying a keg of “ginko-biloba brainpower enhancing IPA” a decade ago, and anybody who ever tried their pizza beer remembers how that turned out) but occasionally achieving wild successes.
And what successes! Storm did sours before pretty much anyone, and their Imperial Flanders Red Ale was a revelation when it debuted (though it might need some fine tuning), the Vanilla Whiskey Stout is as flavourful as it is dangerously drinkable at 9%, and their Pineapple Pilsner has eliminated the need for anyone else to make a pineapple-based beer. “Honey mead”? Sure! A 25% aged sour with accompanying hand-blown glass bottles adorned with mammoth ivory pendants? Go nuts!
Their brewery itself is a throwback to the East Vancouver of the 90’s: a grungy industrial space used to brew beer, with retail clearly existing as an afterthought. Things will drip on you depending on where you stand. Generous samples are offered by donation, which is kind of amazing in 2017, and there’s usually a pretty wide variety on offer to try before filling up your growler.
If you read all this and thought “this seems like an incredibly scattershot place with questionable methods that is weird to grab a beer in,” you’d be right! And if you read this and thought “this is a great DIY business where I can get some tasty unique beers and get inspired about craft brewing,” you’d be right too!
But because we generally love Storm, we hope that their four mainstays get a refresh, that they update their Imperial Sour in some new barrels, that their brainstorms taste as good when you get it at a bar as when you get it from their brewery.
Storm is at risk of becoming the Rogue of Vancouver: a venerable pioneer of the scene which is starting to get tired, with flash over quality, but even in 2017 we’d miss the heck out of it if it disappeared — to say nothing of the impact if it never existed at all.
Quality: 14.5/20 (13th)
Standout: 4.3/5 (3rd)
Diversity: 7.7/10 (3rd)
Innovation: 4.3/5 (3rd)
Experience: 5.4/10 (35th)
TOTAL: 36.1 (9th)