Howe Sound Brewing

Location: Squamish
Year Opened: 1996
Recent BC Beer Award Wins: 2017 – Strong Beer (Woolly Bugger), 2015 – North American Pale Ale (Sky Pilot Northwest Pale Ale), 2013 – Special Beer (Wee Beastie Oak Aged Scotch Ale)
Recent Canadian Beer Awards Wins: 2016 – English Bitters (Baldwin & Cooper Best Bitter), 2013 – Wheat Beer German Style (King Heffy), Stout (Diamond Head Oatmeal Stout)

Rank in Squamish: 2nd place (out of 3)
Rank in Sea-to-Sky/Sunshine Coast: 5th place (out of 8)
Rank in Southwestern B.C.: 35th place (out of 77)

Ask yourself the question: “If I lived in Squamish would I go to Howe Sound Brewery for some food and
beer?” and the answer is always “with reluctance”.

The Howe Sound brewpub opened in 1996 and looks beautiful from the outside, but once you walk inside, it quickly feels well-lived in, like the local bar at your uncle’s hunting cabin.

The food does nothing to dispel this feeling, with its bland taste accentuating the muskiness of the
experience. This is most disappointing as we know they can make great food, which they do at their off-
shoot Ale & Smokehouse ‘Devil’s Elbow’ in downtown Vancouver, which has amazing BBQ
selections, but there is nothing close to its calibre is offered at the brewery.

Back to the beer: Howe Sound Brewing has been going at it in Squamish for over twenty years, and some of it is quite delightful. Their range of IPAs reflect a solid northwest approach, their stouts and flavour-forward beers (such as the Pumpkineater and Blueberry Hefe) are noteworthy and add some complexity to their roster.

But while there are certainly plenty of accessible options, it is on average, just “meh”. Take, for example, their renowned ‘King Heffy’ which our reviewers rated as “drinkable” and “okay”, with one describing it as a “diabetes pie”.

True, they’ve garnered a cadre of awards, most before B.C.’s craft beer explosion, but with age comes staleness: Howe Sound has done little by way of innovation or enhancements to their older recipes to stand out or, truthfully, to still be thought of as a great brewery.

The opening of the Devil’s Elbow gave us hope that they would be sparked to be creative, invent some new, interesting line of beers, but instead we got the same line of acceptability. So while we recommend trying out some of their more interesting and refined beers, especially their 8% Pumpkineater, remember that there’s dozens of newer breweries in the region that are more worth exploring.

Quality: 12.2/20 (48th)
Standout: 3.0/5 (45th)
Diversity: 8.2/10 (2nd)
Innovation: 2.4/5 (50th)
Experience: 7.0/10 (34th)
TOTAL: 32.8 (35th)

Next in Sunshine Coast/Sea-to-Sky: Gibsons Tapworks
Next in Southwest B.C.: Hoyne

Categories: Brewery RankingsTags: , ,

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