Ever since a Vogue article singled out Vancouver as North America’s craft beer destination this past March it’s been hard not to be overly aware of the trendiness of my usual pints. Usually, I’m a confident, seasoned beer-drinker, but I can’t help that my personality also inclines me to flee hype rather than flock towards it. So Conde Naste’s revelation motivated me to expand my radius beyond my usual Mount Pleasant and East Van haunts. Fortunately, the Evergreen Line provides transit directly to a strip of four relatively new breweries in Port Moody, and they’re all within convenient ‘hopping’ distance from one another. It takes less than 30 minutes to travel from VCC Clark Station to Moody’s sleepy, scenic waterfront.
If you weren’t already aware of Brewers Row, now that the 8th annual Vancouver Craft Beer Week is in full-swing it should be front of mind. The formerly obscure strip of rural BC breweries collaborated on this year’s official VCBW brew, Hazy Pale with Passionfruit & Guava. But more on that later…
Although the Canada Line extension was up-and-running last summer, it wasn’t until recently that I had some extra time on my hands to ride the express train to Brewers Row. So far, I have visited twice to familiarize myself with the area and put in some practice before summer hits.
And trust me, practice is key: both times I was unable make it through more than three out of the four breweries before having to admit defeat and stumble over the short bridge back to Moody station. I know which of the four I would skip over if forced to choose…but I’d prefer to keep trying to conquer the task.
The easiest route to take starts at Twin Sails (2821 Murray St, Port Moody), which is also the most humble and nostalgic of the four breweries. Without the garage-style patio door open, though, it’s also the steamiest. (It was cool and rainy on both my visits, so weather-permitting this won’t be an issue anymore!) Beer-wise, you can’t make a wrong decision here – from the first sip, I was ready to make Port Moody my second home. In the past their offerings ranged from the especially quaffable Lush Crush Pale Ale (3.8%) to the destructive Str8 Flexin Stout (11%), and the middle-of-the-road (in ABV, not flavour) Dat Juice (5%). Although none of these are currently on tap, Dat Juice is still available in cans and you’d be wise to stock up. Personally, I can’t get enough of this juicy, unfiltered style, especially while lounging in a sunny park setting. I also recommend the Day Blink, which is similar but slightly bitter, due to the hops. When planning your visit remember that Twin Sails is a small space that fills up quickly — luckily, if there’s no space you don’t have to venture far to find more beer!
Yellow Dog Brewing (2817 Murray St #1, Port Moody) is located literally steps away in the adjacent lot. Atmosphere-wise, it’s my least favourite, as the feel borders that of a sports bar, which has never been my thing. If you can ignore (or enjoy) that vibe, it has the largest tap list of the bunch, so go wild! I recommend ordering anything sour since it’s a style not common on the strip, and definitely don’t miss the “Chew Toy Coconut Porter” if it’s available, even if only to experience for yourself the epiphany of how it gained its name.
The most recent addition to the Murray street waterfront strip is Parkside Brewing (2731 Murray St, Port Moody). The spacious, high-ceilinged industrial building has a generous outdoors area devoted to picnic tables – ideal for summer. Unfortunately, the weather conditions were not too favourable for outdoor sitting on either of my visits. If you wind up in my scenario, though, the floor-to-ceiling wall of windows hardly makes sitting anywhere else feel like a compromise. There’s also shuffleboard and an Off Road arcade game, making Parkside by far the most family-friendly out of the four breweries. In order to get the full Parkside experience, you have to order a “Park Bench Flight”. The taster glass receptacle is a kitschy spectacle because it is exactly as advertised: a miniature park bench with space for four 4oz glasses. Furthermore, the glasses are shaped like beer cans, sans the top. It’s easy to fill up your park bench since there are only nine taps to choose from of which only six were in commission during my most recent visit – including one guest tap and another cask. I recommend sticking with their own solid offerings, like the Dawn Pilsner and Dusk Pale Ale.
Depending on your plan of attack, Moody Ales (2601 Murray St, Port Moody) falls at the end or beginning of your trip. Since I didn’t make it on my first attempt, the second time around it was my first stop. With 12 taps in total, decision-making isn’t easy. The standard, recognizable brews dominate the upper portion of the list; the more adventurous and seasonal round out the rest. My flight included a “Special Bitter” cask, a collaboration with Big Ridge Collar called “Toll Bridge Vanilla Porter” on nitro, the bartenders’s recommendation of Moody mainstay Hardy Brown Ale, and the Brewers Row Collaboration. The latter is a limited edition Belgian pale ale brewed with peaches. Even though Belgian beers aren’t my usual proclivity, the stonefruit addition provided a tartness that made me think it would be a good summer beer. Even though it didn’t stay on tap long enough to see the onset of warm weather, it definitely set the precedent for future collaborations.
Which brings me back to the VCBW collaboration beer – I recently had the honour of knocking back a few Hazy Pales prior to its release. This unfiltered brew has the opacity and colour of grapefruit juice, which is appropriate since it makes an awesome, thirst-quenching (and more alcoholic) exotic alternative to your typical radler. Fortunately, Twin Sails, Moody Ales and Yellow Dog have all confirmed that they’ll be pouring the collaboration brew during VCBW. It won’t be available for growler fills but it does come in tall cans, aka the perfect conduit for park beers. Since it’s still only the early days of summer, it’s recommended that you stock up!
Twin Sails | 2821 Murray St, Port Moody | www.twinsailsbrewing.com
Yellow Dog | 2817 Murray St #1, Port Moody | www.yellowdogbrew.com
Parkside | 2731 Murray St, Port Moody | www.theparksidebrewery.com
Moody Ales | 2601 Murray St, Port Moody | www.moodyales.com
Photo credits: VCBW Hazy Pale; Yellow Dog Brewery; Parkside Brewery; Twin Sails Brewery; Moody Ales.