Barley Mowat 

The Year That Was

with 6 comments

So 2011 is wrapping up, and I suspect we’ll soon see a bevy of beer blog entries containing lists of “top ten best beers of the year” and what-not. That’s not really my style, so I’ll leave that to other people. Better people. People who can count to ten. And people who can talk about breweries not named Driftwood.

Instead I’m going to get all nostalgia-y. Not only is 2011 ending, but it’s also just over a year since I started this blog in the first place. My very first post is from September 2010, and boy have things changed locally since then. My goal here was twofold. First to reduce the amount of inbox clutter I was causing my pals with weekly (or more frequent) updates on local casks, what beers I’d bought, or just naval gazing about the latest celebrity breakup. Second was to rant about how much YVR beer culture sucks, and how much better PDX is.

Portland is still the bomb as far as the beer-obsessed lifestyle goes, but while their awesomeness has been pretty much stagnant at “perfect” for the past 12 months, Vancouver has moved significantly up the beer list to “you know, not bad” from “alright, if it takes off its glasses and undoes the pony tail.”

Think about it. A year (or so) ago, you had to be an insider to know where to find good beer. Sure, The Alibi was in Lonely Planet, but beyond that were did you get good beer? You had to ask a local, and then you’d find out about St Augustines. Or one of the lesser beer bars downtown. But after that you were kinda screwed.

Today, the procedure is much easier: walk into a bar and ask for their best local brew. Increasingly, pretty much every licensed establishment has caved a little and carries at least one good beer. And they sell quite well, if I’m being told the truth. Also, several new places have opened with an eye to being honest to goodness tap houses. Smiley’s and Malone’s lead the charge here.

Sure, I’ve already called down kudos on the Donnelly Group before, but what about Earls now serving Howe Sound beers? Remember when you had to go to the Rail to get a HS brew? Freaking Cactus Club (and yes, I must always say that name with an F-word in front of it) now has Elysian on tap. Elysian. At Fucking Cactus Club. The world has ended. Sure, the wait staff have no idea what it is, and seem confused when your beer order continues past “a glass of,” but it’s there and you can have it.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that the battle for good beer accessibility has passed the turning point. We’re not done, but the hard part is over. From here on in it’s just mopping up isolated cells of resistance. It’s pretty much time to declare victory and have a party.

Honestly, I stopped watching the news after this. There wasn’t a point what with the war being over.

And with that note, I’m officially retiring my page about where to find good beer in Vancouver. It’s out of date, anyways. Instead, I am introducing a much, much, much more Barley Mowat styled list. I’m borrowing a page from Mr Stephen Colbert, and creating an On Notice List. This list is for restaurants, bars, and companies in BC that can–and should–do better. Yes, the war for good beer in BC has officially reached the point where it’s easier to point out the other side than to cheerlead our own.

Now, this isn’t just a list of places that have shit beer on tap. It’s a list of places that I would like to go to, but don’t because of their pro shit-beer-on-tap policy. I’m not trying to shut down every shithole in town and thereby deny meathead rednecks places to go to, drop jagger bombs, get fucked up and hit on scantily clad 75% fake giggly she-douchebags. These places need to exist precisely because they keep those same meatheads and douchettes out of the quality locales. This is why you will not see the Shark Club on this list. It’s like a roach motel, only with more neon and silicone. And it lets them check out.

So, here goes. Places that can, and should do better for beer. This list is not exclusive. Let me know if there’s anywhere else that I should be looking to add here. To everyone on this list, a few pointers:

1. Granville Island is owned by, and brewed by, Molson. It is not good beer.
2. Whistler is even worse.
3. Farking Cactus Club has better beer than you. Think about that for a second.

  • Mill Marine Bistro You’re advertising beer by price on the main page of your website, beside a picture of a waitress holding a jug of lager making a duck face. I rest my case. However, you also have one of the best patios in town. In fact, this applies for all the Daniel Group pubs. Game up, guys.
  • Relish Gastro Pub The central location and great outdoor space is balanced with 9 taps of pure, unadulterated shit beer.
  • The Galley @ Jericho Sailing Club Patio. Nuff said.
  • Wicklow Pub You know what’s 1/2 way around the seawall from my house, has decent food and a good view? The Wicklow. You know where I will never go into because of their beer list?
  • Charles Bar Okay, there are great pubs a block away, but every time I walk by I just want to sit on that patio. It’s gorgeous.

I was also considering adding the BC LDB to this list just because of their “Beer is a bulk commodity consumed by morons without the wherewithal to drink wine” approach to retail, but I think I’ll save them for something… special. Stay tuned.

Written by chuck

December 28th, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Beer and You

6 Responses to 'The Year That Was'

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  1. in Cactus Club/Earls’ defense, their wait staff (actually, they’re all female, so waitresses) also get confused when one’s wine order continues past “a glass of”


    28 Dec 11 at 16:48

  2. Great post. Yes, the scene has come a long way. It would also be nice if more restaurants etc realized that there’s way better choices than GIB and Whistler.

    Anyways, congratulations on blogging for a year! I enjoy reading it. Cheers!


    30 Dec 11 at 15:45

  3. I have to disagree with your statement about Whistler brewing. Have you tried any of their specialty beers? Their Grapefruit Ale, Chestnut Ale, and Winter Dunkel are all amazing beers. Perhaps you’re judging solely on the canned beers?


    3 Jan 12 at 09:47

  4. Great article. Thank you for calling out the pubs that have not seemed to have figured it out yet. Charles Bar has however changed its ways in the last few months. They have been serving a Howe Sound seasonal since the summer. You will find the Father John’s Winter Ale on tap down there right now. 😉
    I think as places like earls and the “Farking Cactus Club” continue to explore the craft beer world that these other places with have no other choice but to follow suit.

    Thanks for all of the support.



    3 Jan 12 at 10:21

  5. @James — I have, and while I acknowledge those limited releases are an attempt at Good Beer, I’m still not a huge fan. However, I’m not talking about the ltd releases here; I am talking about their mainstream beers, which are what you find in the cited places. Otherwise, my first statement about Granville Island would be even more wrong, as the GI Ltd Series is quite good.

    Still, an attempt to at least try does get them some points. The trick is that they’re starting off in an awfully big hole. They have bad beer AND misleading marketing (despite appearances, all but a token amount of their beer is brewed in Kamloops).

    @Nate — Thanks, I was unaware of that! Charles certainly hasn’t done much to advertise this fact (menu not updated, nothing on the chalkboard, etc). I’ll have to check out their patio next summer with some King Heffy. Good work this year at Howe Sound, btw. What used to be a hard to find brewery is now basically everywhere.


    3 Jan 12 at 11:26

  6. Good call on the Mill Marine Bistro. I want to sit on that patio virtually every time I walk by, but I’ve learned my lesson. The last time I went I ordered lunch and drank water with it. WATER! I wanted a beer, but they didn’t have any.

    It seems to me they used to be better. I have a hazy memory of having a Unibroue beer on draft there about 5 years ago, but my memory of five years ago is unreliable.

    Ben Coli

    5 Jan 12 at 18:21

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