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As a Canadian living abroad, when most people ask me about Canadian beer, the same joke usually follows: “Molson, eh?” 

Molson, one of the world’s largest beer producers, spent the greater part of a decade marketing its signature lager, Canadian, with an ad campaign aimed at stamping out stereotypes about Canada and firing up the home team with some light nationalism. Initially released in the mid 1990s, “I Am Canadian” was probably one of the first adverts to go viral online, and was so successful it was mimicked and parodied around the world. Throw in the conglomerate’s sponsorship of nearly every professional sports league in North America since forever, and thus, beer in Canada has long been associated with Molson Canadian beer. 

This is a near-criminal misconception, however, especially in British Columbia, home of Canada’s microbrewing revolution and where the past decade has seen about 250 craft breweries open. East Vancouver, in particular, boasts so many artisanal hophouses that it has been nicknamed “Yeast Van”, while locals speak passionately about craft beer the same way that the French and Italians do about wine. Craft beer is now so ingrained in the local culture that British Columbia’s government declared the month of October to be BC Craft Beer Month, and over the year it’s nearly impossible to find a week without a beer-related event on the calendar. 

“I’ve been saying the same thing for years now, but this mantra remains true,” writes Joe Wiebe, author of Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider’s Guide to BC Breweries. “There has never been a better time to drink beer in British Columbia.” 

While what’s regularly referred to as the “beer renaissance” is more recent history, Vancouver, out in Canada’s wild west, has always had an independent streak, so it’s no surprise that the dawn of craft brewing in the country happened here — the handiwork of an entrepreneurial Brit.

In the years following the first world war and repeal of prohibition, the majority of Canada’s breweries were consolidated under three major producers, Molson, Labatt and Carling O’Keefe, whose beers were largely the same in style: mass-produced lager lacking in flavour. Consumers weren’t especially well served, and in the late 1970s a series of long labour strikes among brewery workers meant that they regularly weren’t served at all.

But leave it to a Briton to solve a booze problem. John Mitchell, a British expat and publican in West Vancouver, frustrated with the shortages, contacted a writer called Frank Appleton, who had penned a revelatory article about home-brewing. With the blessing of local authorities, who had also become exasperated by Big Beer, the pair opened Canada’s first microbrewery in 1982.

Brewer Ben Owens in a boiler suit and long red rubber gloves standing between two steel vats at Superflux brewery
Brewer Ben Owens of Superflux, one of the 100+ craft breweries in Vancouver © Jennilee Marigomen
Shelves of white, black, blue, yellow and red cans of beer at 33 Acres Brewing Company
Just some of the beers made by Vancouver’s 33 Acres Brewing Company © Jennilee Marigomen

In the decades that followed, microbrewing grew in popularity across the province, particularly in Vancouver, coinciding with a boom in tap houses and private beer-and-wine stores that sought beer from independent producers who championed quality ingredients, craftsmanship and nuanced flavour profiles. (The majority of alcohol in British Columbia is still sold at government-run liquor stores.) “The arrival of American craft beer from places like Seattle, Portland and California, as well as unique beers from Belgium and Germany, also inspired BC brewers to up their game,” writes Wiebe.

But it was not until 2013 that the provincial government announced a change in licensing laws that would allow craft breweries to operate their own tasting rooms. “For a brewery to sustain itself just on wholesale and packaging, you need to be massive,” says Mauricio Lozano, co-founder of Faculty Brewing, which opened in 2016. “But a small brewery that can have a bar attached to it is a viable business.” 

Since then, craft brewing has exploded around British Columbia, a province that yields a bounty of produce that can be used for beer, from hops and honey to seasonal berries and stone fruit. Vancouver itself is now home to more than 100 craft breweries, the majority of which are clustered in the city’s east. While it could take a lifetime to try them all, the following are good places to start. 

33 Acres Brewing Company

15 West eighth Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1M8
  • Good for: The best of both worlds, offering classic styles and progressive takes in two distinct but harmonious operations

  • Not so good for: Anything too wild

  • FYI: Go on Thursdays, when the place fills up with revellers for a menu of tacos, nachos and ceviches, accompanied by a father-and-son mariachi band (who have been playing at 33 Acre’s taco night since it started 10 years ago)

  • Opening times: Monday–Friday, 4pm–11pm; Saturday, 2pm–11pm; Sunday, noon–9pm

  • Website; Directions

The bar room at 33 Acres Brewing Company – all white walls and polished concrete flooring
The bar room at 33 Acres Brewing Company

You might think you’ve arrived at a wellness retreat when opening the doors to 33 Acres — clean and modern with white walls, polished concrete and monochrome branding — if it weren’t for all the alcohol. Its founders, Josh and Kleah Michnik, come from creative backgrounds (Josh in graphic design and photography, and Kleah in fashion — she runs the popular Vancouver womenswear boutique Charlie & Lee) and at 33 Acres, they sought to combine their professional experience and love of craft beer into a new project that they opened in 2013. The result is a neighbourhood space that offers everything from artisanal coffee to tacos and ceviches, great beer and a vibrant weekend brunch — and in the heart of Mount Pleasant, an area that in the past decade has become a hub for tech and film companies and other young professionals, they have a very receptive audience indeed.

33 Acres Brewing Company president Kyle Munroe: a man in jeans, sweatshirt and baseball cap sitting on a wooden bench in the bar
33 Acres Brewing Company president Kyle Munroe: ‘A lot of [breweries] were going a bit crazy and progressive on their styles, and we decided to be quite modest’
A man pouring a draught beer in 33 Acres
As well as brewing classic styles, 33 Acres has a lab that creates a small number of more experimental beers

“At the beginning [of the craft-beer renaissance], everyone was trying to find their place,” says Kyle Munroe, company president. “And a lot of [breweries] were going a bit crazy and progressive on their styles, and we decided to be quite modest”, instead opting for more tried-and-tested classic styles, including a California common (33 Acres of Life, a medium- to full-bodied ale with a crisp finish), a Schwarzbier (33 Acres of Darkness, a German-style black lager) and, at 9.2%, a punchy Belgian tripel called 33 Acres of Euphoria that has twice won awards at the World Beer Cup. Its bestselling beer since it opened, however, is 33 Acres of Sunshine, a silky, smooth and sessionable French blanche spiced with orange peel, coriander and aniseed. 

That’s not to say 33 Acres doesn’t try anything new. In 2018, it acquired the space next door, and rather than expand its already popular operation, opened 33 Acres Brewing Experiment, which does exactly what it says on the tin. “Experiment is kind of on the other side where we have a small number of core beers — just two, which are the Fluffy Cloud hazy IPA and our Mezcal Gose,” says Munroe. “But we also have new beers coming out every month that are more on the experimental or progressive side of brewing, and that’s really fun and keeps our creative juices flowing.”

Faculty Brewing Co

1830 Ontario Street, Vancouver, BC V5T 2W6
  • Good for: An education in craft beer, for all taste and experience levels

  • Not so good for: Big groups. The space is rather small

  • FYI: Faculty takes an open source approach to beer and encourages people to try making them at home

  • Opening times: Monday–Thursday, 2pm–11pm; Friday–Saturday, noon–11pm; Sunday, 1pm–8pm

  • Website; Directions

Blond-wood tables and stools inside Faculty Brewing Co, with a woman sitting at a counter at the floor-to-ceiling windows
‘An education in craft beer’: Faculty Brewing Co

It’s one thing to take a scientific approach to one’s craft, it’s another to be an actual scientist — and therein lies the story of Faculty Brewing, a small brewery in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood that was co-founded by Mauricio Lozano, a food-science graduate and an instructor at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. 

In the Noughties, Lozano, as a home-brewer, realised that among his friends and colleagues there was a lack of knowledge around craft beer compared to other artisanal drinks. Taking a cue from his day job as a under- and postgraduate instructor, he sought to create a brand around beer education, one that was approachable for the uninitiated yet didn’t alienate existing hopheads. And so Faculty was born, along with a product line named like university courses, so consumers could figure out which level of study they could slot into, from easy-drinking entry-level beers to big, bold flavours for advanced students.

A flight of four glasses of beer on a blond-wood counter at Faculty
A flight of four of Faculty’s beers . . . 
Four of Faculty’s steel brewery tanks
 . . . which are all brewed on site

Freshers’ beers include 103, the Petite Pilsner, a low-alcohol German-style lager, and Faculty’s most popular brew (and a personal favourite) called the Shower Beer (165), a light, easy-drinking dry-hazy pale ale with a lovely, fruity aroma. “It’s extremely crushable,” Lozano says. (Indeed it is.)

For those in second year, the London Fog ale (250), modelled after the Vancouver-invented hot-tea beverage, is another favourite: smooth and aromatic, with notes of bergamot and vanilla and a satisfying froth. Advanced students will enjoy the turmeric ale (299), a spiced pale ale with notes of coriander and cardamom that was made in collaboration with the excellent Lebanese restaurant Nuba. “It’s not that spicy, but has a lovely heat, and is so refreshing,” Lozano says. “It pairs really well with food.”

A woman behind the bar at Faculty. Behind her, on a large wooden board are listed the
The brewery has six to eight ‘core beers’ on tap, as well as experimental and seasonal brews on rotation

The Shower Beer and London Fog are some of the “core beers” at Faculty that visitors can always expect to see on the menu, with six to eight bevvies typically in rotation. There are plenty of experimental and seasonal brews too, such as the sakura (cherry blossom) beer created in the spring. Customers are encouraged to order drinks from the counter rather than have table service, so they can learn more about the offering. With a small, convivial tasting room and a nice sunny terrace, Faculty is a wonderful place to go to school.

Strange Fellows Brewing

1345 Clark DrIVE, Vancouver, BC V5L 3K9
  • Good for: Serious hopheads. The broadest range of beer styles and vintage bottles 

  • Not so good for: Food (there’s not much available, though they are working on expanding their offering). In the meantime, the hungry should head to nearby Luppolo (see below)

  • FYI: The non-alcoholic beer, Nevertheless, is worth a try

  • Opening times: Sunday–Wednesday, noon–9pm; Thursday, noon–10pm;
    Friday–Saturday, noon–11pm

  • Website; Directions

Iain Hill and Aaron Jonckheere of Strange Fellows Brewing standing by casks of beer and stainless-steel machinery
Iain Hill (left) and Aaron Jonckheere opened Strange Fellows Brewing in 2014
Four of Strange Fellows’ beers in glasses: Jongleur wit bier, Blackmail stout, Talisman pale ale and Dynamic Duo cherry lemon sour
Strange Fellows’ beers include (from left) its Jongleur wit bier, Blackmail stout, Talisman pale ale and Dynamic Duo cherry lemon sour

The slick, modern tasting room at Strange Fellows brewery is something of a hub for the city’s craft-beer cognoscenti. Iain Hill, who opened the brewery with business partner Aaron Jonckheere in 2014, brought decades of industry knowledge to the operation — and it shows. Strange Fellows offers some of the most diverse, experimental and reliably good beer in Vancouver, from hop-forward IPAs to traditional Pilsners, stouts and Belgian wits, and seasonal fruit beers and sours.

It’s best known for Talisman, its tropical, hoppy pale ale that visitors can always expect to see on tap. Other core beers include the silky, sessionable stout called Blackmail, which at only 4.5 per cent is modelled after traditional Irish milk stouts, and the aromatic and bright Belgian wit, with notes of coriander and bitter orange peel. What’s exciting Hill most at the moment, however, is Strange Fellows’ new non-alcoholic pale ale, Nevertheless, which is made using conventional brewing methods. (Non-alcoholic beers are typically made by removing the alcohol after the fact, which is an expensive, high-tech endeavour.)

Customers at tables in Strange Fellows’ wood and stainless-steel tasting room
Strange Fellows makes ‘some of the most diverse, experimental and reliably good beer in Vancouver’

Though visitors will be able to sample Strange Fellows’ core offering, the tasting room generally features more experimental brews than what’s readily available at shops, restaurants and bars. “When people come to our tasting room, they want something that’s new, something they haven’t had from us before,” Hill says. “So we might have something that’s only on tap for a few weeks.” Connoisseurs can also order a glass from the vintage-beer list — barrel-aged, bottle-conditioned and served with a Coravin-like system. 

Luppolo Brewing Company

1123 Venables Street, Vancouver, BC V6A 2E3
  • Good for: An Italianate brewery experience, with slow pours, precise lagers and excellent pizza  

  • Not so good for: A quick one. The bar is on the slower side (with good reason), and it would be a shame not to stay for food

  • FYI: Luppolo is along the street from La Casa Gelato, an ltalian ice-cream shop that holds the world record for the most flavours with 238

  • Opening times: Monday, 4pm–10pm; Tuesday–Thursday, noon–10pm; Friday–Saturday, noon–11pm; Sunday, noon–9pm

  • Website; Directions

Anique Ross and Eleanor Stewart of Luppolo Brewing Company standing by a wooden cask in front of a corrugated iron wall
Anique Ross (left) and Eleanor Stewart of Luppolo Brewing Company © Jennilee Marigomen
A woman pouring a beer from one of a series of wooden taps behind the bar at Luppolo Brewing Company
The Italian-style craft brewery favours the slow-pour method, which leaves a decent head at the top of the glass © Jennilee Marigomen

East Vancouver has long been an Italian hub, ever since the aftermath of the second world war, when waves of immigrants arrived in the city, many setting up cafés, delis and restaurants. It wasn’t until 2016, however, that the area’s first Italian-style craft brewery opened its doors. 

Luppolo (Italian for “hops”) is the realisation of an idea that two couples and longtime friends spent countless evenings, beers in hand, dreaming about bringing to life. Several years prior to opening, Eleanor Stewart and Ryan Parfitt, who is of Italian descent, began experimenting with home-brewing, while Anique Ross and Federico Stucchi, in the latter’s home city of Milan, dived into their local craft-beer scene. When they all reunited on Canada’s west coast in 2013, at the start of BC’s beer revolution, the idea for Luppolo was born. 

“We wanted to create a welcoming community and family-oriented space,” says Ross, inspired by a microbrewery she and Stucchi used to frequent in the Italian business capital. “It was a hole in the wall, so every table would be busy inside, but there would be hundreds of people outdoors . . . it was a very convivial environment, and that’s what we strive to create as well, with what you can do in Vancouver given our stringent liquor laws.” (Drinking alcohol is not permitted in most public places, though these laws have started to relax in recent years.)

Shelves of Luppolo’s beers in colourfully illustrated cans
A selection of Luppolo’s creations
A bearded male bartender wearing a straw hat at Luppolo
The bar typically has 10 to 12 taps on the go – a mix of lagers and contemporary craft styles

The Italian ethos also extends to the product line, particularly Luppolo’s approach to artisanship and quality, as evidenced by its top-selling beer: a pure and precise Italian Pilsner. “It seems like a very simple beer,” Ross says, “but there’s no hiding there. It needs to be a beautiful, crisp product, which takes a lot of craftsmanship.” 

Bar service also harks back to the Bel Paese, where slow pours, a technique that leaves a few fingers of foam at the top and is meant to lock in flavour, are widespread, though more unusual in North America (and the UK). “It took me a while to convince the team that we should [slow pour],” says Stucchi. “Now people have come to expect it from us and really enjoy it.”

A pizza from the brewery’s in-house pizzeria on a table, alongside two different glasses of beer
The brewery also has an in-house pizzeria

Of the 10 to 12 taps typically on offer, expect a mix of lagers and contemporary craft styles, such as the west coast IPA, hazy pale ale and seasonal sours. Of the latter, the tart wild ale with raspberry is a personal favourite: a striking ruby red with pale-pink foam and punchy, fruity flavours. 

Beer aside, be sure to order a pie from in-house pizzeria Mordimi, helmed by pizzaiolo Luca Colasenti, who is dead serious about his dough and has created a unique Romana-Napoletana hybrid that takes five days to make. The resulting pizza is both crispy and chewy — and nothing short of spectacular.


505 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC V5L 3H6
  • Good for: IPA lovers. Superflux offer the broadest range of hop-heavy brews

  • Not so good for: Traditionalists

  • FYI: The stylish space is hip, modern and minimalist

  • Opening times: Sunday–Tuesday, noon–9pm; Wednesday–Thursday, noon–10pm; Friday–Saturday, noon–11pm

  • Website; Directions

Superflux’s minimalist, Scandinavian-style space
Superflux aimed for a space that didn’t replicate the more traditional craft-brewery decor 
Superflux co-founder and president Adam Henderson leaning against a blond-wood planter, in front of tables and steel vats
Co-founder and president Adam Henderson

Superflux will impress before you are even poured a beer. The site itself, which opened in late 2020, is rather striking — light-drenched, minimalist and modern — and looks more like a chic Scandinavian co-working space than a brewery. Its co-founder and president, Adam Henderson, says that they were essentially trying to do something a bit different with the design (and avoid recreating the craft brewery starter-pack meme). “We still have some metal and wood, they’re great design elements,” he admits. “But there was a real look to what most people did.” When I last visited on a weekday afternoon, there were groups of friends hanging out, and others tapping away on laptops — Superflux felt more like a comfortable home away from home where people tend to stay a while. 

Guests sitting at the blond-wood Scandi-style bar in Superflux
Superflux’s bar is ‘more like a chic Scandinavian co-working space’

Its beer will certainly encourage visitors to spend time there too, especially those keen on hoppy IPAs — its speciality, with more than half a dozen on its current roster. “We make the stuff that we want to drink or experiment with,” says Henderson. “We don’t try to do everything.” Its flagship, and a good starting point for newbies, is the easy-drinking Colour & Shape IPA, a hazy brew with tropical and citrus notes that has been a part of its offering since day one. Superflux beers are given “crushability” ratings, and Colour & Shape receives top marks, which sources familiar with the matter (myself) can confirm.

Roys of tall orange, lime-green and pink-purple cans of Superflux beers
Superflux’s diverse and IPA-focused range of flavour profiles . . .
Three glasses of Superflux beers: the pinkish The Creamery Strawberry, the pale-yellow Colour & Shape IPA and the bronze-hued Happyness IPA
 . . . includes (from left) The Creamery Strawberry (inspired by strawberry cheesecake) and two of its core brews, Colour & Shape IPA and Happyness IPA

Despite largely focusing on IPAs, the range is diverse in ingredients and flavour profiles, from the Montserrat, made with three types of hops to create a complex, gutsy flavour, to the Zesty Lime, a zingy, acidic beverage that’s infused with lime zest. The key to Superflux’s IPA success? “We’re not afraid to use a fuck ton of hops,” says Henderson, “That’s how you make a great, expressive IPA — you want to have a lot of aromatic hop character.”

The not-so-IPA-obsessed are not out of luck at Superflux — and the other beers tend to be even more experimental, such as the Heavy Fruit, modelled after a fruit smoothie, and the Peach Gummy Fountainbier, made with peach purée and concentrate. It does a well-made lager too.

Callister Brewing Co

1338 Franklin Street, Vancouver, BC V5L 1N9
  • Good for: A wide variety of quality small-batch beers 

  • Not so good for: It’s not in the nicest area (though we’re stretching here: many of the city’s breweries aren’t either, including many on this list, because of planning and licensing requirements, and all are still worth a visit)

  • FYI: Callister started out as a brewing co-operative and is where some of the city’s most popular breweries got their start

  • Opening times: Monday–Thursday, 2pm–9pm; Friday, 2pm–10pm; Saturday, 1pm–10pm; Sunday, 1pm–8pm

  • Website; Directions

Callister’s wood and brickwork bar, with red stools and a wooden cask in front of it
Callister started out in 2015 as a brewing co-operative © Jennilee Marigomen

Several local breweries in Vancouver owe their start to Callister Brewing Co, which opened its doors in 2015 as the first co-working, collaborative brewery in Canada. In the years prior, its founders, Chris Lay and Diana McKenzie, a husband-and-wife team, were members of a local home-brewers’ club, and their experience learning from other club members (many who were already brewing professionally) inspired them to open their own operation where multiple brewers could work in the same space and benefit from combined knowledge. 

Their Associate Brewer programme started out with three other brewers that they knew from the home-brewing club, including Adam Henderson and Matt Kohlen from Superflux. Until the programme was shuttered at the end of 2020 due to the pandemic, 10 different breweries initially started at Callister’s small industrial warehouse. “Not all of them made it but some brands did,” says Lay. “Others took their experience and became brewers at other breweries.”

A row of steel vats at Callister’s
Callister is Vancouver’s smallest brewery . . . 
Two pieces of contemporary art featuring the outlines of birds and coloured circles on the wall at Callister’s
 . . . and uses its compact space to promote the work of artists from British Columbia

Today, Callister’s offering is entirely Lay and McKenzie’s, and includes a range of craft sodas too. With a production of about 300 hectolitres per year and a compact space, it is the smallest brewery in Vancouver, which affords Lay and McKenzie more flexibility to try new recipes and rotate through their offering more regularly.

“Our goal is to make sure that there’s always something on the board that somebody will find that they like,” says Lay. “We of course do IPAs, because you can’t not do IPAs . . . and personally, as a fan of German and other Continental styles, we always try to sneak in a few of those.” One of the most popular beers at the moment is a German-style Gose called Cuban Taxi, a wheat beer blended with guava purée — a bit tart and tropical, with the style’s signature salinity, and wonderfully refreshing. Another best-selling brew is the hazy grapefruit IPA, which has a hop-forward flavour that is nicely balanced with slightly fruity notes from the addition of grapefruit peel (and at 6.8% ABV is deceptively strong).

Five cans of different Callister beers, including Cuban Taxi, in a row on a table
One of Callister’s most popular beers at the moment is Cuban Taxi (second from right), a wheat beer blended with guava purée
Callister founders Chris Lay and Diana McKenzie at a table in the brewery
Callister founders Chris Lay and Diana McKenzie

While its collective approach to brewing may be a thing of the past, Callister remains focused on using its space to promote BC artists. It works closely with Goldmoss Satellite, an art gallery based on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast that’s helmed by artists/curators Lee and Bon Roberts, who supply their own art and that of other local artists they work with too. “As soon as the art goes up, all of a sudden it adds personality and warmth and it creates conversation,” says Lay. “We’ve had some pretty amazing shows come through.”

Tell us about your discoveries on Vancouver’s craft-beer scene in the comments below. And follow FT Globetrotter on Instagram at @FTGlobetrotter

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