Ranking every brewery in Southwest British Columbia: Part 4

The Good Tier

“a bunch of one legged, drunk toddlers.”

– Reddit

The brewery industry in B.C. is so big and has been established for enough years that one friend group’s update of a completionist ranking gathers much more attention than it did four years ago.

It speaks to people’s passions (because The Internet), and also that there are so many outstanding breweries, which attract people for all sorts of different reasons.

That’s a good thing! And this is a good tier, filled with breweries that we’ve all enjoyed at one point or another quite a bit — some on their way up, some perhaps that aren’t as prestigious as they once were, but all worth a visit.

#50: The Beer Farmers (32.5 Points)

Location: Pemberton

Good for: A spectacular setting for a mid-day beer

Quality: B-

Diversity/Innovation: C-

Experience: A+

Getting to the Beer Farmers is a trek.

If you live in the Lower Mainland, you’ll have to drive past Squamish, past Whistler, a good two hours past the Lions Gate Bridge to Pemberton, and even then you’ll have to drive another 10 to 15 minutes past that city, down a two-lane road that appears to be heading nowhere in particular.

The trek is worth it.

It is, fully and completely, a brewery on a farm that’s existed for four generations, the tasting room inside an old barn, the farm in a valley surrounded by mountains with little sign of anything else around.

The authenticity and the amazing views and the farm animals put you in a great view before having a pint, but if you do have a pint, you’ll find a clean taste from their lagers, pale ales and saisons regularly on tap.

If there’s a quibble, it’s been a lack of ambition in their offerings — by their own admission, they’re “specializing in approachable and balanced beers,” and we found it resulted in beers we’ve had plenty of times, with nothing particularly standing out.

It’s still of good quality! If you were to only score on quality and experience, it would rank 15th overall.

It may not be the type of place that’s churning out new things demanding constant visits. But it’s well worth searching out for a one-time experience, no matter how long the drive.

#49: Strathcona (32.64 Points)

Location: Vancouver

Good for: Bold radlers and IPAs

Quality: B-

Diversity/Innovation: B+

Experience: B-

When we first went to Strathcona’s website to get some background, we were immediately hit by an auto-play of a video of a skateboarder riding around in downtown Vancouver set to jazz music.

It was overwhelming and confusing but definitely memorable and not bad. And really, that experience sums up Strathcona’s tasting room pretty well — a weird mix of things in a slick package with white tile walls, cramped booths, and hanging plants.

Strathcona opened in July 2016, and after going through the inevitable growing pains of a new brewery, has established a good variety of beers on tap and in cans and bottles.

They’ve found a space for their radlers, sours and heavy IPAs. The Brrr! Winter Radler is one of our favourites, with a mix of beer and mandarin and cranberry juice that multiple reviewers enjoyed. Their beers skew towards having a lot of flavour or a lot of alcohol, and while that isn’t going to please everyone, they’re certainly in a groove where they know what they’re doing. And if you enjoy those genres (particularly double or triple IPAs), you won’t be disappointed.

Beyond that, it continues to feel like a place that has lots of money and talent behind it, but throwing it around in weird ways. Case in point: a “blue candy” beer with local snack operators Dank Mart came out earlier this year, which is certainly the only drink in the city that tasted like a blue freezie.

Six years in, Strathcona is still a place with plenty of potential and energy. We just wish we were more excited and clear about what they’re trying to do.

#48: 4 Mile (32.83 Points)

Location: View Royal

Good for: Old fashioned pub vibes with new fashioned beer

Quality: B-

Diversity/Innovation: C+

Experience: B-

As a decades brewpub in a suburb municipality, 4 Mile surprises by its degree of experimentation.

Calling it “Storm Brewing, but if it became 15% more conventional and settled down in an old suburban watering hole,” is an apt description for 4 Mile, and if none of that intrigues you, we understand. If it does, you’ll find much to enjoy: a Rice Pudding Porter, a Cactus Grapefruit IPA, a Candy Bar Porter, and a Sweet Potato Harvest Beer, among many others that are fairly well distributed to liquor stores in Greater Victoria, with some penetration into Metro Vancouver.

Some are one-dimensional but many are quite good and none are terrible. If you don’t like Storm Brewing and aren’t interested in kooky flavour beers you might be disappointed by the conventional offerings (which are fine enough), yet 4 Mile isn’t afraid to challenge themselves to make eccentric ideas work.

And it’s a delightful locale to visit: a comfy space with private TVs that allow you to enjoy whatever oddball program you want to pair with your oddball beer, with food is a step above the standard pub fare that likely graced the 150-year-old Tudor building for much of its existence. And in addition to some of the oddball things on tap, there’s also standard pilsners and lagers and pale ales, providing 12-16 beers at any time.

4 Mile went through a rough patch recently for reasons out of their control: a fire in late 2019 closed them for several months, only for the pandemic to arrive a few weeks after re-opening.

Their distribution and buzz have suffered as a result, but 4 Mile is a place that does something offbeat, and does it well.

#47: Salt Spring Brewing Co. (32.88 Points)

Location: Salt Spring Island

Good for: A very Salt Spring experience with a well-known list of standards

Quality: B-

Diversity/Innovation: C+

Experience: B

Salt Spring Island Brewing is one of the few breweries that would feel out of place most anywhere else.

The rugged, isolated treehouse-like location evokes a hiked-in picnic that doesn’t square with an urban setting. There are few breweries where someone could show up barefoot and ask whether they can reuse a 1L bottle as a growler (yes) and no one bats an eye.

It feels very authentic, in that the beers they’ve long made are neither trying to go with nor break against trends, just tasty and interesting. The distinctive Crème Brule Vanilla Stout balances the namesake sweetness better than expected, the unique Heather Ale is exceptionally delicate for its style, and the floral notes of the Earl Grey IPA makes the hoppiness very palatable (without coming off as stale, malty tea like many beers that try something similar).

It’s a brewery that’s now 25 years old, and with that comes a certain comfortableness — while they’re still putting out new rotationals like a milkshake IPA or raspberry mango sour, it’s still those four or five longtime standards that define the brewery.

Which, if you like them, is a good thing: a lowkey space with lowkey beers that could hardly be more Gulf Islands. Which, like the Gulf Islands, may not jibe with you, but they’ll keep doing their thing, and be an enjoyable sidequest on any Salt Spring vacation.

#46: Ridge (32.9 Points)

Location: Maple Ridge

Good for: An old-fashioned craft beer space

Quality: B-

Diversity/Innovation: C+

Experience: B-

While Port Moody feels like a satellite of the brewery core in Vancouver, Maple Ridge is still a mix of places that haven’t gained a huge regional following. But Ridge isn’t dissimilar to good breweries in less competitive towns, flourishing on a recipe of successful experimentation and laid-back ambiance.

They’ve found winners in their summery beers: the Berliner Weisse Pride Beer and grapefruit IPA drove us to raid their stock. They’re not immune from duds, but they can be forgiven when it results from ambitious innovation, and they served enough on tap that was good during our research for us to be confident in their methods.

If you can get out to them (you’ll have to intend to — it’s not convenient unless you have a car in the Valley or live in Maple Ridge), the aggressively nondescript exterior opens to a roomy brewery that’s hospitable if relatively barren.

That being said, it’s easy to feel welcome when the owner turns up the electric keyboard for customers to play, or another band is playing in front of the brewing vats. And for better or worse, its tasting room feels most integrated into the production facility than any other brewery: only a minor curb delineates the two portions (an errant hose, for example, would readily soak patrons).

It’s all on display at the unpretentious Ridge, which lends to the character: an earnestness that’s reflected in the beer.

#45: Whistle Buoy (32.92 Points)

Location: Victoria

Good for: Drinking in one of B.C’s most unique courtyards

Quality: C+

Diversity/Innovation: C-

Experience: A-

Victoria has several breweries, many of them brew some fantastic brews, but until Whistle Buoy they did not have a patio-centric place catering to a younger crowd interested as much in a good time as a good beer.

Luckily, Whistle Buoy provides both. Located right in the plaza of the venerable Market Square (an area underutilized for years, because Victoria), Whistle Buoy has a massive patio that exudes fun times, pounding beats and a mix of beers, cocktails, oysters and other snacks.

It’s more than just a good space, with extra touches that create a fun environment. Their flight paddle has spots for 4 beers and a “secret space” for a cheeky fifth beer, while their range is a mix of both standard ales and lagers with more off the wall things like a Swedish Gulagubben Golden Ale or a Bull Kelp infused gose.

It’s 2022, and you could certainly argue that they’re merely checking off the boxes of the Accessible Fun Brewery playbook at this point, and certainly the beer is no better or worse than what you could find at plenty of other places.

But at this point, there are so many places with acceptable brews that one sometimes looks for something more. For people looking for a certain Saturday night out in Victoria, Whistle Buoy delivers.

#44: Bomber (33.44 Points)

Location: Vancouver

Good for: Heading to the park with a parklife

Quality: B

Diversity/Innovation: B-

Experience: B-

Bomber Brewing is an institution in some Vancouver circles. Around for close to a decade now, ask anyone who has ever done an East Van brewery bike crawl and they’ll tell you exactly how necessary it is to stop off at Bomber for a Passionfruit Ale (Park Life) in the peak of summer. Being in the most crowded area for breweries in Vancouver, that’s no mean feat.

Standing alongside the Park Life seasonal, Bomber has a strong core group of beers that are well-established at this point, including an ESB, a Pilsner, and an IPA. Among those, the ESB is the clear standout, and easily one of the best ESBs in the region. Other highlights of their lineup are the seasonal Marzen and Russian Imperial Stout.

You can usually count on Bomber’s beer to measure up; and with 18 options on tap there’s quite a large mix of options. At the same time, outside of the Park Life, none has really gotten a huge foothold in what is now a much more crowded market than when Bomber started. A ownership change to Donnelly Group, to our mouths, did not change the overall trajectory of Bomber, nor its continued easing into the same groove most breweries exhibit after a decade in operation.

And the tasting room is nice for what it is, even if “what it is” means “a near-windowless concrete box”: It has a cozy, community feel and a very well-stocked set of draft and off-sales.

We enjoy Bomber for what it is. Consistent competency may not get you buzz, but it does demand respect.

#43: Dead Frog (33.08 Points)

Location: Langley

Good for: Fruit n’ sours and a lack of pretension

Quality: B-

Diversity/Innovation: B

Experience: C+

Let us contrast that with a brewery that has had many different lives over the years.

Dead Frog has been in the game since 2006 (or 1998, if you want to include their original incarnation as Backwoods Brewing) and after being known for their nut brown ale and not much else, made a conscious effort to up their quality in 2013, coinciding with the region’s brewing scene becoming increasingly competitive.

Out of a industrial park near Aldergrove, they brewed respectable IPAs and lagers along with more novel creations like a Tart Cherry Ale or Peanut Butter Stout (still on tap and still a delight!), but in 2017 we still wrote “Dead Frog don’t do enough interesting things, or make good enough beer, to really stand out.”

Then, a third expansion and pivot happened, this time to sours, and to being what we would probably a “party brewery”, where the vibes and flavours are emphasized to the general public over the crafts and hops.

Head to their current location at Highway 1 and 200th Street, and you’ll find they’ve succeeded: we count a whopping 25 beers on tap at the moment, 10 of which are sours or “creamsicles”, and is (best we can tell) the only brewery in the region to offer a 16-flight paddle to groups feeling ambitious.

It means we’re happy to give them credit for changing with the times once again, even if the beer itself is no more than somewhat above average. But Dead Frog knows what it’s about, and is executing it well, and that is well worth celebrating.

#42: Moody Ales (32.93 Points)

Location: Port Moody

Good for: families and people looking for good beers and quieter Port Moody times

Quality: B

Diversity/Innovation: C+

Experience: B-

That Port Moody’s famed Murray Street has five breweries is impressive, that the “worst” of them is still in the top 37% of breweries in all of Southwest B.C. is ridiculous, and so one should not lament Moody Ales’ fate too much.

To start they have the best patio on Port Moody’s brewery row, with a quiet view of the Inlet and mountains. The inside is pretty fun as well, with one of the few B.C. breweries where your table is in amongst the brew stills. Some of their beers are renowned, like their Russian Imperial Stout, but many are just ‘okay’, especially their one-off beers where it seems like they’re playing it safe and not experimenting too hard.

In the past, we’ve found that sometimes they only had four beers on tap for some reason, and they focus heavily on the ales (surprise!) at the best of times. But since an ownership change in 2021 (to the people behind Academy Brewing), they’ve been pumping out much more product, though we find there’s a weird mix between old standards and new options under the Academy brand.

Still, they don’t turn from any challenge and they impress for it, and in a super competitive area managed to make a name for themselves, even if that name isn’t quite as big as some of the others on the street. 

Half our group gave them an above average score, while the other half considered them solidly in the middle of the pack. So consider this a compromise.

#41: Andina (33.19 Points)

Location: Vancouver

Good for: A place that commits to a theme well

Quality: B-

Diversity/Innovation: C+

Experience: B

In an area with huge sea of competitors, Andina manages to stand out.

This is mostly partly to their top notch branding. This brewery was opened and is run by two Colombian immigrants who came to Canada and weaved that identity into the brand of the brewery. It served them well, and you can really feel it when you pay them a visit: the outside has a beautiful mural of La Pola, the brewery’s chosen Andina Girl, known as a heroine of Colombian independence from Spain. They also offer an excellent food menu of rotating ceviche, empanadas, plantain nachos, and arepas. The tasting space is very well thought out, spacious, and excellent for groups large and small.

And while the beer started off as nothing to write home about, it has slowly improved over its five years of existence. From a coffee kolsch to a dragonfruit kiwi sour, there’s a solid series of rotating beers that come through. While none of them crack anybody’s personal top 10 — we’ve found them not to be especially complex — there are few duds to be found, even if it’s hard to know on any one day which two or three beers on tap are the best.

All in all, Andina has a brand, a great space for holding events, a recognizable selection of beers, decent distribution and room to continue to surprise. Not bad, all things considered.

#40: Howe Sound (33.42 Points)

Location: Squamish

Good for: All sorts of beers in a splendid setting

Quality: C+

Diversity/Innovation: B-

Experience: B-

Howe Sound: it’s been there forever and it’s…good, actually. 

That’s not to say it’s inspiring or anything: 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. And the food does nothing to dispel this feeling, with its bland taste accentuating the muskiness of the
experience (though we’ll note the food at their off- shoot Ale & Smokehouse ‘Devil’s Elbow’ in downtown Vancouver has amazing BBQ selections). 

It’s not a brand that is a destination anymore, and with so many newer and objectively cooler breweries, Howe Sound can get lost in the shuffle. 

But the beer has been pretty fine for a long time, with some things quite delightful. Their range of IPAs reflect a solid northwest approach, the Rail Ale Nut Brown and Pothole Filler Imperial Stout are beloved for a reason, and in general the roster of heavier beers is quite impressive: there’s usually a barleywine on tap, the 8% Pumpkineater is a seasonal standard, and the variations on their Megadestroyer and Storm Watching stouts are always worth watching. 

Not everything is amazing though and some of the longtime standards can be divisive; their renowned ‘King Heffy’ was rated as “drinkable” and “okay” by our reviewers, with one describing it as a “diabetes pie”.

25 years in, not all your standards will still be hits. What matters is that under the radar, Howe Sound does a lot of things pretty well. 

#39: Parkside (34.06 Points)

Location: Port Moody

Good for: The most party of the Port Moody party vibes

Quality: B-

Diversity/Innovation: C-

Experience: A

When we first considered Parkside in 2016, we said the following: 

“Come in the summer. Come for the picnic lawn, strewn with cheery families and friendly dogs aplenty. Stay for the shuffleboard. Stay for the food-truck tacos. Stay for the video games, stay to watch the antics of a bachelor party wandering through, stay because you can’t think of anywhere else more pleasant to go. On a nice day, you’ll find a surfeit of good reasons to stick around Parkside’s absolutely lovely Port Moody patio. Just don’t expect the beer to be one of them.”

That was then. This is now. And an interesting thing has happened in the last six years: while the experience of going to Parkside has gotten worse, the beer has gotten better.

This of course is a double-edged sword. It used to be that in July, we couldn’t think of another place in Metro Vancouver we’d rather be. But the large artificial grassy area in front of Parkside is gone, so is the shuffleboard table, so is the arcade game, and what you’re left with is a fairly standardized if likely Murray Street brewery. It’s still very nice — a lot of care went into the design of the building and the little benches that contain each flight — but it no longer stands out. 

However, the beer has made a clear leap up. The Dreamboat is now a standard in the city for an east coast IPA, the Humans a standard for a more west coast one, and overall they’ve found a brand in fairly accessible fruit-based beers. They can still be a little one-note and unbalanced from time to time, though it’s rarer to find a dud now.

In short, is Parkside still a level below a few other Murray Street breweries? For sure.

Have the closed the gap such that you can debate where they now stand in the pantheon? Undoubtedly.  

#38: Beere (33.81 Points)

Location: North Vancouver

Good for: Your best IPAs on the North Shore

Quality: B

Diversity/Innovation: C+

Experience: B-

Beere was the first of the explosion of North Van breweries from 2017-2020, and despite a simple name and a simple tasting room, set a high standard that has been tough for most in the region to keep up with. 

It quickly settled into a groove of providing the heavy IPA and interesting sour mix that the craft beer masses were demanding at the time, but it’s managed to pivot somewhat provide more lagers and pilsners in recent times. The Mental Floss double IPA and raspberry lemon sour Pinky Tuscadero became options in a lot of trendy bars in no time flat, and are still excellent exemplars of either form. They’ve also found a good groove with a number of their coffee stouts as well.

By itself, the beer at Beere is top 25 for the region, yet there is that question of the basic tasting room we mentioned: it’s dark and small with 2013 era food options, and while outside patio space helps in the summer, it definitely suffers compared to other North Shore options when it comes to having space for groups, or an energy that will appeal to your less geeky drinkers — especially with a tap list that tends to be smaller and still focusing on bold and hoppy flavours. 

Still, we heartily endorse a beer at Beere. It and House of Funk are clearly the top two options on the North Shore — and being right next to each other, provide a very easy crawl. 

#37: Brewhall (34.0 Points)

Location: Vancouver

Good for: Millennial party times and good collaborations

Quality: B-

Diversity/Innovation: C+

Experience: A

How much you enjoy Brewhall might depend a lot on how much you enjoy an evening of amped up younger Millennials shouting songs from the 2000s without actually dancing. 

If that sort of grey area between a club and a bar is appealing to you (or at least non-disqualifying), then Brewhall will be worth exploring. 

It’s set in the giant old Opsal Steel Building at the edge of Olympic Village, where the first brewery tenants were Steel Toad. Unlike the long departed Former Worst Brewery In Metro Vancouver, Brewhall understood how to use the space and make it stick out from the other two generic mass brewpubs in the area, which is to say they pumped up the volume and TV screens and video games and general sense of having an experience.

At the same time, they didn’t forget the beer: Brewhall does competent almost bootleg versions of the most popular styles today: fruited sours — appropriately called Mighty Morphin Sour Rangers given the demographic — hazy IPAs, crisp lagers, along with plenty of collaborations with other breweries. 

Add it together, and it’s not a groundbreaking place to get beer. But it’s a modern version of Yaletown Brewing; a good time out where you’ll happen to get beer that punches above your expectations.   

#36: Foamers’ Folly (34.25 Points)

Location: Pitt Meadows

Good for: All of the taps and an excuse to take the West Coast Express (if there was weekend service, or return service in the evening, but THAT’S ANOTHER STORY)

Quality: B-

Diversity/Innovation: B-

Experience: B+

“Believe it: the fourth best brewery in all of Metro Vancouver is right next to the West Coast Express stop in Pitt Meadows.”

Our original 2016 review of Foamers’ was our own personal folly.

Maybe it was due to their main brewers quitting shortly after we did our first review. Maybe it was due to our trips coming after we had gone to one or two other breweries, thereby inflating our, um, enthusiasm.

It’s not the amazing, hidden gem we originally thought (hoped?) it would be. However, Foamers’ Folly, out in the eastern reaches of Metro Vancouver, continues to have a combination of range and quality that is worth checking out.

First off, the space is fun. It’s well laid-out, homey without being cramped, and clearly shows that someone has put a good deal of thought into the drinking experience. If you are inclined to sample, the option for flights of six is much appreciated. They have board games, a small selection of food, and a record player. A good time was had by all.

When it comes to the actual brewing of beer, they are no slouch. They brew a hearty array of beers (16 at current count!), and do most of them well. They also are unafraid to experiment – their mainstay HotBox IPA manages to taste like what you might expect something named ‘HotBox IPA’ to taste like, without seeming like a gimmick. They’ve done both a lemongrass kolsch and wheat ale in ways that have been interesting.

These aren’t absolutely amazing — if they were, one of their many, many offerings would have become a standout in the market by now — but they’re interesting and worth checking out.

While it’s annoying that there is no morning train out to Pitt Meadows that could carry you east for a day of drinking and then convey you home counterflow, there are express busses that make the trip on transit less onerous than might be expected.

#35: Camp Beer (34.3 Points)

Location: Langley

Good for: Excellent branding with good beer to boot

Quality: B-

Diversity/Innovation: B-

Experience: A-

We might be annoyed at the carefully crafted brand of Camp Beer if they didn’t pull it off so well.

From the adorable and internally consistent stylized labels for each beer to the ski lodge aesthetic in the tasting room, there’s a clear sense of purpose with everything Camp Beer that makes the place feel fun and family friendly, in a way that would make us want to come by and enjoy some smokies and suds more often if we lived in the area.

If that was all Camp Beer had going for it, we would have talked about them at a much earlier juncture, but suffice to say the beer is enjoyable as well: nothing too ambitious — a bumbleberry sour or smoked amber ale is about as crazy as they’ll get — or too strong, but we couldn’t find a dud among our choices.

One could lament the somewhat manufactured charm of Camp Beer, and the fact that it feels like the epitome of a modern good brewery meant for everyone without having any beers that would make our personal top 20 lists.

Or one can be less cynical, enjoy some actual s’mores and baked potatoes with your Hazy IPA, and enjoy Camp Beer on its very solid level.

#34: Powell Street (34.33 Points)

Location: Vancouver

Good for: Being nostalgic for 2015 while still having a good time

Quality: B+

Diversity/Innovation: C-

Experience: B-

There are a number of breweries from the initial wave of new breweries in Metro Vancouver in the early 2010s that are still around, still good, still producing a lot of things…but no longer inspiring a lot of passion.

Powell is probably foremost among them.

It really was nine years ago now when Powell’s ‘Old Jalopy’ Pale Ale won the top prize at the Canadian Brewing Awards within six months of their opening. The quality of their beer managed keep pace with increased local competition since, and while nothing hit quite the buzz as Old Jalopy, there was seemingly a new interesting beer every month or two for years and years.

And the backbone of their core beers is a hoppy twist on a traditional style. The ‘Old Jalopy’, ‘Ode to Citra’, and ‘Dive Bomb’ are all variants on choosing the right kind of hops to give an ale some needed depth. The regular lineup is complimented by seasonals like a Lady Luck Cherry & Vanilla Sour or their Ode To WallFlower Gin Pale Ale, and their more recent Lemonade Stand sour series has been consistent.

If you were to consider breweries on only consistent quality, you couldn’t count to 15 before naming Powell.

But notice the repetitiveness in the list aboveL one needs a certain kind of punchy, hop-friendly, sour-friendly palate to appreciate the beers at Powell. Fortunately for them, it’s a pretty common palate in the Pacific Northwest, yet that there just isn’t enough variety in style to appeal to a broad crowd, and nothing that has come out in recent years that has gotten our tongues wagging.

The tasting room is fine, with the seating, selection of snacks and atmosphere par for the course in East Van, but both the inside and outdoor area are fairly static, and not really the type of place to spend an hour and be slowly persuaded that you secretly loved Powell all along.

We’ll still enjoy an Ode to Citra any day of the week though. Just because the thrill is gone doesn’t mean a good time can’t be had.

#33: Luppolo (34.74 Points)

Location: Vancouver

Good for: Straightforward beers done with flair

Quality: B

Diversity/Innovation: C+

Experience: B

With so many breweries so close to each other in the little East Van square of Clark, Commercial, Venables and Hastings, it is hard to stick out and carve a spot for yourself unless you have a distinct brand and good beer.

Fortunately, Luppolo has both.

While it honours its Italian heritage through good pizza and European styles of beer, it doesn’t lean into any sort of gimmick. What you’ll notice most in the tasting room is a touch of sophistication, from the art, to the triangle-themed walls and taster holders.

The beers are relatively diverse and with eight of them generally on tap, there’s enough for most people to enjoy (though less than many other places these days). A Black Lime Gose and Wild Saison Pear were what they were first known, but they keep the menu going with enough interesting one-offs and experiments (Japanese dark lager, anyone?) that it’s worth checking in every quarter or so. Six years in operation, and there’s still a spark to what it puts out, which is to be commended.

It’s not necessarily a place where anything is excellent. But there’s an above average craft to everything Luppolo does, which is why it’s managed to make a mark for itself in a particularly crowded area of the city.

#32: Gibsons Tapworks (34.75 Points)

Location: Gibsons

Good for: Enjoying a One Sailing Wait while having experiencing a one sailing wait

Quality: B

Diversity/Innovation: C+

Experience: B+

Some breweries take a while to develop beer worth drinking. Gibsons Tapworks was not one of those.

Located right in the middle of Gibson’s quaint commercial area, Tapworks doesn’t hit you over the head with wild flavours or a clear preference in styles they prefer making: you’ve got your IPAs (both northwest and east), ales of the blonde, brown and vienna variety, an oatmeal stout, a saison, and one or two one-offs. To the eye, nothing overly ambitious, yet certainly diverse enough.

Yet on our first visits, there was a maturity of flavour in their beers unique for a place just a year old: the northeast IPA had funk but didn’t overpower the hops, the oatmeal stout was smooth without being too sweet, and virtually all of their offerings were well done and worth having again.

It was a great start for a brewery, and yet a leap to elite status known far and wide didn’t happen. Gibsons Tapworks focused on beer, but in the middle of the town’s commercial area, they also focused on being an anchor in the area. Concerts, trivia and other events fill out most evenings in the week, and the brewery feels connected to the community in a way that’s essential for businesses in mid-sized municipalities. And if none of that matters to you, the views of Howe Sound and the ample board games are nice on a quiet Saturday afternoon.

We don’t directly know if that focus prevented a focus on growth and innovation. But it seems over time Tapworks was happy to be a great community brewery: distribution in the Lower Mainland is minimal, they haven’t expanded a relatively short tap list, and the few new beers they do a year stay mostly in the confines of Gibsons, it appears.

Which is wonderful for the community, and no doubt mission accomplished for the company. We can’t help but feeling a little bit of “What If?” on if they kept pushing forward.

No matter. It’s a very good brewery. If you’re in town, grab their One Sailing Wait IPA and then live that experience. It’s worth the delay.

#31: Locality (34.93 Points)

Location: Langley

Good for: The most unique (and possibly best) brewery setting in the region

Quality: B-

Diversity/Innovation: C+

Experience: A+

Jump on the Locality bandwagon before it becomes too busy to properly enjoy.

Without researching, we’re reasonably confident in saying Locality is the only brewery in Canada located on a combination farm and movie set.

This means several things: first, you can see the hops and the barley at the place you’re drinking in a way that is relatively rare in the province (and non existent in the rest of Metro Vancouver, Barnside excepted). Second, you can wander around a fake mine shaft, old-timey village, and forested area around the MacInnes Farm should the inspiration strike, taking in the sights and sets in a direct way you’ll rarely get anywhere else. Third, you feel completely removed from the hustle of Metro Vancouver, but just a 15 minute drive from Langley City.

Combine all that with a big field and a view of a sunset over a little lake, and it is our clear choice for best experience at any brewery in the region.

Which wouldn’t matter of the beer sucked. But the beer is quite acceptable: all quite clean, a little basic on the overall taste buds, but a fun collection of 12 beers that range from honey lagers and cherry goses to ginger saisons and vanilla porters. The head brewer comes from Steamworks, and the competency and consistency is noted for a place less than a year old.

In other words, a pretty standard fruit + standard combo. That’s a good base to have in year one, and in a setting this fun to be in, all but guarantees a solid trip out.

This is, of course, assuming it’s not packed to the gills, ruining some of the remote ambiance of this place. So visit before the secret is out.

Up next: The Great Tier!

Categories: Brewery RankingsTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


    • Matt

      Victoria breweries are the only Island breweries represented in this (already ambitious!) project. From the description in Part 1: “For the purposes of this project, “Southwest B.C.” is any place west of Hope, south of Lillooet, or east of Sechelt in the Lower Mainland, along with Greater Victoria”.

      Now back to guarding my Longwood BBA Triple Stouts with life and limb…

      • Lee

        The 3 sooke breweries are on there : Sooke Oceanside brewery, bad dog and sooke brewing co aswell as howl from Sidney , but I agree some up island spots I thought should have popped up by now , I thought I saw Duncan’s red arrow but dont see it , whitesails and riot I could see still showing up aswell as Gladstone and Cumberland not to mention all the others we have yet to see up and down island

  1. Just an fyi, you have #32 Gibsons Tapworks located in Pemberton, other than that…fantastic job so far.

  2. Alexander McIntyre

    3 of the breweries on brewer’s row in Port Moody will be in the great tier or higher, that’s awesome. The craft beer scene in Port Moody is the definition of competition done right. The breweries are pushing each other to do be better.

  3. Long Island Paul

    I haven’t seen Trading Post yet. Does that mean they didn’t make the list at all? No way on anyone’s list could they be anything more than average. Their beers are as average as they get in BC and the brewery is meh.