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Craft Beer Revolution: Rise of the Taproom

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Craft beer aficionados rejoice.

Pubs, restaurants and nightclubs are now setting numerous craft beers on tap - the latest taprooms are about to open including Craft Beer Market, a 350-seat, 140-tap monster planned for the Salt Building at the Olympic Village.

It’s a place where everybody knows your name. And more importantly, where the beer is very, very good.

Pubs, restaurants and even nightclubs are opening, converting and retooling as serious taprooms — watering holes that boast dozens of craft beers on tap.

New beer-centric boites are almost too numerous to track. Portside Pub opened in January with 24 taps, literal spitting distance from The Alibi Room, Chill Winston and the Blarney Stone. Tap & Barrel will open a second location in the new Vancouver Convention Centre West. Rogue Wetbar has expanded to Kitsilano.

“It’s just exploding right now,” said Paddy Treavor, past president of Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Vancouver and writer of the VanEast Beer Blog.

Craft beer drinkers, especially members of Campaign for Real Ale, are fanatically devoted to the taprooms that get it right, said Treavor. It’s like having an unpaid marketing machine, 24/7.

“They will tweet, Facebook, text and network in any way they can to make sure they get to a cask night and to make sure their friends are there too,” Treavor said.

Gastown’s Alibi Room is held in high regard for depth of commitment to craft beer, especially after co-owner Nigel Springthorpe withdrew all non-craft beers from his roster of 50 taps. The Alibi won gold for Best Local Beer Establishment in the 2013 CAMRA Vancouver Awards, presented a few weeks ago. Springthorpe, himself, also won gold in the category of Best Local Beer Server.

“I thought if we are going to do this, we are going in with both feet, and to be honest those mega-brews are a fading memory,” said Springthorpe. “I’m very careful to curate our list so there are options for someone who isn’t looking for a big hop bomb. There’s always going to be something craft brewed, but accessible.”

As a result, Springthorpe has cultivated a clientele that is very engaged with quality, and Alibi has become a cornerstone of the emerging Gastown craft beer scene.

“Craft beer is like the thread that runs through the whole area in bars, pubs and restaurants,” said Springthorpe.

Even after the 360-seat Portside Pub opened just down the block, Springthorpe remains confident the market can absorb the additional capacity.

It’s character that counts, he said.

Sean Heather — owner of 10 local pubs and restaurants — agrees.

Bitter Tasting Room and Irish Heather host only a handful of taps, but put a lot of effort into maintaining a unique destination-style list in small rooms with consistent clientele.

“Bitter is a tap room, but without that many taps,” said owner Heather. “We are focused on bottles, and keep a curated selection of about 68 that are really special.”

Many of the eight taps at Bitter are specially made or small-batch beers that are impossible to find anywhere else in Gastown.

Each of Heather’s businesses is focused on a different target market to avoid cannibalizing his own customer base and to carve out an identity distinct from other nearby establishments.

“One is a tapas bar, one is a wine bar, one is a whiskey bar, one is a beer tasting room, one is a pub,” said Heather.

The result is a strollable neighbourhood populated with good character food and drink options.

“Gastown has reached a kind of critical mass whereby people can come down and wander around on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday and know they are going to get in somewhere, if not Chill Winston or The Alibi, then the Heather or the Blarney Stone,” said Heather. “And it’s all within a block.”

This year’s new openings may yet test the size of the craft beer market.

Several very large taprooms will be opening, including Craft Beer Market, a 350-seat, 140-tap monster planned for the Salt Building at the Olympic Village. Plus, Tap & Barrel owner Daniel Frankel is in the process of cloning his glossy 14,000-square-foot shrine to B.C. beer and wine at the Vancouver Convention Centre West, a stone’s throw from another large pub in Mahony & Sons.

“We will have even more B.C. taps at the new location — 32 beers and 28 wines,” said Frankel. “People have really embraced our all-local philosophy.”

http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Revolution+Rise+taproom/8038221/story.html#sthash.UZc225pr.dpuf

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Seasonal craft beer releases for Spring

Central City Imperial IPA 9%

Dry hopped with Yakima whole leaf hops. Every bottle and keg supports autism research, and it tastes amazing.

Available March 5 on tap and in 650ml bottles

Phillips Black Jackal Imperial Coffee Stout

Pours a deep-black earth colour with a slight brown sugar-coloured cream and a big espresso aroma. Full roasted coffee flavours with hints dark chocolate through the body.

Available now in 650 ml bottles

Russell Truth Serum Wheat Wine Ale

Canadian wheat and a blend of Pilsner and Munich malts are topped with a floral hop, carries a fruity finish that works well at 10 per cent.

Available now in 650ml bottles

Canoe Bavarian Copper Bock

German Malts and Noble hops define this lager. Above-average alcohol content for the style.

Available March 4 in 650ml bottles

Canoe Let ‘Er Run Espresso Stout

A citrusy, bold American-style stout base is complemented by earthy Tanzanian coffee notes, creating a rich, brooding beer well-suited to blustery winter nights.

Available now in 650ml bottle

Townsite Perfect Storm Oatmeal Stout

Flaked oats, barley and house-roasted chocolate, crystal and CaraAroma malts combine for a rich, dark 5.5-per-cent drinking experience.

Available March 1 in 650ml bottles

Granville Island Irish Red

An under-represented bee in B.C., the Irish Red is a medium-bodied copper with chewy malt and a potent hit of New World hops.

Available now in 650ml bottles

Granville Island Scottish Ale

Dark and malty with big roasty flavours and subtly hopped, this is the seasonal from Granville that I wait for all year.

Available now in 650ml bottles

Yaletown Saison

Dry and lemony with a recognizable Saison character lent by the Belgian yeast.

Available on tap at Yaletown Brewing and The Alibi Room

Yaletown Oud Bruin

After one year of careful aging, brewer Iain Hill unleashes his most legendary brew, sour and complex with a hint of cherry.

Available on tap at Yaletown and The Alibi Room.

http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Revolution+Rise+taproom/8038221/story.html#sthash.UZc225pr.dpuf

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I've been to many monster craft beer bars, because I love craft beer obviously. There are concerns, from a consumer perspective, that without knowing how fresh a keg is, you will be getting a beer that is not as fresh as it could be. Yeah, the only way to do that is to go right to the brewery, and that isn't always possible. So the next best thing is a keg. If that keg sits for a month before getting its tap position, it is already beginning to stale. Especially if it is hop centered, the balance fades and you are left with disappointment.

Nevertheless, I champion this craft beer movement, and urge consumers to ask more questions about the beer they are about to drink.

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Had the GI Irish Red last night, was really quite good. Gotta love a good beer.

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Most regional craft beers aren't that great, but about anything is better than than corporate McBeer.

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If you are looking for good craft beers - I recommend Legacy Liquor Store in the Olympic Village. (which is right across the street from the Salt Building)

I live in the tri-cities area, and generally can only find the same craft beers over and over again, but I made a stop at Legacy after dinner one night, and it was like a kid in a candy store.

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Most regional craft beers aren't that great, but about anything is better than than corporate McBeer.

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I've been to many monster craft beer bars, because I love craft beer obviously. There are concerns, from a consumer perspective, that without knowing how fresh a keg is, you will be getting a beer that is not as fresh as it could be. Yeah, the only way to do that is to go right to the brewery, and that isn't always possible. So the next best thing is a keg. If that keg sits for a month before getting its tap position, it is already beginning to stale. Especially if it is hop centered, the balance fades and you are left with disappointment.

Nevertheless, I champion this craft beer movement, and urge consumers to ask more questions about the beer they are about to drink.

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The craft brew in my garage is tasty :)

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The government should get into the business of reducing the onerous amount of regulations small brewers have to go through (looking at you liquor distribution board forced monopoly) and not only would you have a lot more taprooms you would have a lot more choice with regards to what you could get locally pretty much everywhere.

Ditto wine industry.

Hilariously it's easier to get a good selection of BC beers in Alberta because they don't have to deal with the LDB......

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The government should get into the business of reducing the onerous amount of regulations small brewers have to go through (looking at you liquor distribution board forced monopoly) and not only would you have a lot more taprooms you would have a lot more choice with regards to what you could get locally pretty much everywhere.

Ditto wine industry.

Hilariously it's easier to get a good selection of BC beers in Alberta because they don't have to deal with the LDB......

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Unlikely to change here in BC.

As soon as the government indicated that they were considering privatizing the liquor distribution system the BC public sector unions went to full attack mode and the Liberals backed off.

If the NDP are elected do not look for any changes other than even higher liquor taxes.

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The No. 5 Orange is making changes. In the past there were two things to recommend the club (or so I have heard).

Now they are adding craft beers and a top notch chef in Stu Irving Cobre. Bin 941 and Wild Rice) who has revamped the menu from bland white trash pub food to a new menu of strip-club food described by Irving as “gourmet”, in a “man-centric” way.

Irving says he will have a Primanti Brothers (a Pittsburgh fixture restaurant) style burger (beef patty, “sweet and sour” cole slaw , tomato slices, provolone cheese stuffed with french fries, all nestled together under two big hunks off a loaf ) which is a Pittsburgh classic - had it before and it was great. I rate it 1A with the Philly Cheese Steak in that neck of the woods.

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Until now, guys went to No. 5 Orange for one thing. Actually, make that two things — strippers and beer.

As of March 4, you can add a third enticement. The legendary club will be starting a new food program, run by a high-profile chef in the city — none other than Stu Irving, who ran the Cobre kitchen, serving the best Latin-American food in town. He has also helmed kitchens at Bin 941 and Wild Rice. (Cobre lost its lease to Rodney’s Oyster House, on Powell Street)

Irving isn’t shy about calling his strip-club food “gourmet”, in a “man-centric” way. He sends the menu via email, signing off as “Unfrozen Caveman Chef.”

At No. 5, “gourmet” means hand-crafted, locally made hotdogs (Japadog-style with shredded nori and ponzu mayo; Italian sausage with pickled hot peppers and pickled eggplant; Woodland’s smoked pulled pork with mango chutney and more), locally made buns, a Pimanti Brothers-style burger with home fries stowed away between the buns, poutine with pulled pork or butter chicken, mesquite wings. He will be sourcing meats from Big Lou’s Butcher Shop, Save on Meats, Cioffi’s and Woodland Smokehouse.

Here’s the kicker: Prices will be “cheaper than before,” says Jeremy Rossier, bar manager, who will be putting life into the beer list with craft beers and adding flavoured Grey Goose vodka, adding to his bourbon and scotch list. Tamer appetites can sip 49th Parallel coffee. For lunch, everything on the menu will be $7.05; for dinner, it’s $10.05.

Rossier says the food has pretty much been “white trash food” — from what I hear, that meant bland burgers, french fries from the freezer, stir fries, chicken cordon bleu with canned ham.

“Most people didn’t come for the food,” he says. “Now they have that option. There are so many lunch places around Gastown. We were noticing a decline in food sales. The cook had been here a long time and things were out of date.”

Irving’s primary attention, however, will be half a block away at Cuchillo, on Powell St., where he is opening another Latin American restaurant. It opens mid-April, but he will be overseeing the No. 5 Orange kitchen as well.

You might well wonder how a high-profile chef ended up at a strip club. Well, me too.

When Cobre was a going concern, he took his kitchen crew to No. 5 Orange for beers between lunch and dinner service a couple of times a week. “If there happened to be naked women there, bonus! But really, it was about the food,” he exaggerated.

Meanwhile, the staff at No. 5 used to go for their meals down the street to Deacon’s Corner, which a Cobre owner was once involved in. They liked the food, and one thing led to another.

“Everyone who works here loves food,” says Rossier. “We’ve all said for a while we need a revamp. I’ve definitely pushed for it.”

Owners Tony Ricci and Chuck Choo, who have run the club for 23 years, were finally persuaded. During those years, according to the club’s website, dancers have included Courtney Love, Kimberly Conrad (before she married Hugh Hefner), and Italian MP/porn star Ilona Staller (a.k.a. Ciccolina).

http://www.vancouver...l#ixzz2Mbz1qpRl

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I went by the No 5 a few times more recently, but it's been quite some time since I was in there. Better food and beer might be good enough reason to change that.

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Just like anything else, you get lots of companies in one marketplace, but only so many are good. It's not specific to regional craft beers.

For instance, it was on Saturday night I had the Granville Island Irish Red, but I also picked up a few others to try. I grabbed a 'Fat Guy' oatmeal stout from Mission Springs (great coffee and chocolate flavours in that one, 4.5%), and also a Blackstone porter from Driftwood (6%). I knew I liked a number of the Driftwood beers but was pleasantly surprised by the Mission Springs stout. Three regional beers I hadn't tried before (and not all breweries I'd tried before either) and all were quite good.

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I went by the No 5 a few times more recently, but it's been quite some time since I was in there. Better food and beer might be good enough reason to change that.

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You get those...at the signature liquor store...............how do I say this.........near us?

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I was going to post the same thing. I usually find the brew pubs to be the best source of tap beer because they make it in-store and have only ~8 different beers on at any given time. It keeps the kegs fresh and the lines clean.

My all-time favourite beer is Central City Red Racer IPA. It is excellent in Vancouver, but on the rare occasion I can find it here in Toronto, it is just average.

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All grain, I like hoppy beers--IPA's that kind of thing. I have 2-3 beers on at anytime, right now I have an IPA and a nut brown ale. I need to brew again--hopefully this weekend if it is nice out.

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