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Please! Beverage Co.’s New Tasting Room Opens Doors in Mt Pleasant

Please Beverage Co. Head of Product Development, Stephen Tufts, with Founder and Co-owner, Noel Steen | Photo by Scout Magazine

I love a good cocktail. Watching someone who knows what they’re doing behind the bar plucking and pouring from a variety of bottles, adding mysterious drops, and landing the complex mixture of components into a precisely shaped glass to produce a well-balanced drink with personality and (on a perfect day) story—beauty from chaos gives me a real thrill. Put that cocktail in a bottle or can, and I lose interest.

Automatically, I imagine synthetic flavour profiles combined with too much sugar pumped out of a mechanized tap-and-nozzle situation reliant on profit-maximizing calculations and zero romance. All levers and conveyor belts; no nuance, magic, or fun. In addition to a lack of confidence in Ready-To-Drink (RTD) cocktail ‘products’, I also prefer knowing that the money I’m putting down for my drink is going to real people – not a combination of machines and already rich people getting richer via mass-produced beverages.

So when, last month, I accepted the invitation to look around local bottled cocktail company Please! Beverage Co.‘s now-soon-to-open Mount Pleasant tasting room concept, I did so with a bit of skepticism. Even while walking the length of the empty room’s shell and listening to founder and owner, Noel Steen, engagingly and articulately describe his vision, in the back of my head was a nagging pre-conceived idea/foregone conclusion that, no matter how pretty the room, the end result (i.e. what’s in the glass) would be uninspired. However, my prejudices evaporated the moment I was shown the ‘lab’.

Up a flight of stairs in a space overlooking the tasting room, the ‘lab’ was completely bare aside from one massive work table loaded with an apothecary of bottles and jars in a symphony of colours. Sharpie-marked masking tape labels described the ingredient notes and flavour profiles of the contents of each vessel. With a liquid dropper in hand, Product Development wizard, Stephen Tufts (the mastermind behind much-loved Vancouver-based company, Dickies Ginger) asked if I wanted to taste any of his ‘experiments’.

Tufts has been mixing, extracting and infusing for the better part of the past year, so there was a lot to taste: I sampled roasted pineapple simple syrup, and tinctures and concoctions of exotic flowers, fruits, herbs, pods and seeds. Flavours ranged from bright, sharp and bitter, to smooth, fruity and creamy. Standing in the lab, licking a teardrop-sized amount of liquid from the palm of my hand, which exploded in my mouth with the complex taste profile of Pineapple Upside-Down Cake was a straight-up Willy Wonka-esque moment – and one that made it abundantly clear to me that the drinks at Please! would not be one-dimensional…

The RTD space is already supersaturated. What I experienced here was a little like walking into an overcrowded party made up of bureaucrats and vapid, over-Botoxed selfie-takers to find the singular interesting human being – someone curious, complex, fun, thoughtful, and able to contribute to a conversation. In a word: substance.

As Tufts explains, it wasn’t until Noel first approached him with the Please! concept that he started to look at alcohol as the blank canvas that pulled colour and flavour from ingredients – and that’s when the fun began. To make it even more attractive, there are no rules or gatekeepers in this arena, just an opportunity to ‘play’. Then Tufts started wondering: “What if you took it really seriously was a medium? Beer is serious. Wine is serious. Why do Ready To Drink products largely fall on the two extremes of the spectrum of possibility: bland or offensively saccharine? What if RTD could be elevated to somewhere similar to the space we see craft beer and wine operating in? I mean, what if you took it absurdly seriously?”

So they did. They used whole, natural ingredients to make something cool.

On my most recent visit to the space, it looked ready for inspection. With a little luck, the Please! tasting room will open doors at 222 W 5th Avenue (at Alberta Street) next week. For sure the 67-seat room is stunning, thanks to soaring ceilings, interesting angles and trace details of an old auto body repair shop (including a floor-to-ceiling glass garage door on the north side of the lounge area that will be opened up on warm summer days), plus the addition of a plethora of plants and good looking art. But don’t go for the room. Go for the drinks – they’re good.

Ask questions. Learn about flavour profiles and find out why the team made the combination choices they did. Taste the weirdest-sounding offering on the menu. Have fun. Real humans are behind them – ones who care a lot about what they are doing.

THE DETAILS

TEAM | Noel Steen (Founder), Stephen Tufts (Product Development), Jack Somerville (General Manager)

DRINKS | At opening, Please! will offer pre-batched drinks pouring through eight taps. Cocktails fall into four categories: Smashes (higher alcohol, big texture, big flavour); Fizzes (lower alcohol, more complex, lighter); Classics (think profiles like Margarita, Paloma, Negroni); and ‘Specials’ that follow no hard-and-fast rules but either fit with the season or capitalize on outlier ingredients, for a bit of fun.

The line-up will be anchored by established brand favourites Mango Sticky Rice (mango, pandan, coconut and rice), Rhubarb Fizz (like the British rhubarb and custard candy), Green Tea Fizz (with Osmanthus flowers, lemon, and mint), and Grapefruit Paloma (tequila, grapefruit and lime), as well as new creations such as Garden Social (gin-based hard iced tea), Raspberry Smash (made with vodka); Full Moon Party (their take on an energy drink), and Strawberry Smash (fresh and fruity cocktail with green and black pepper for a little extra kick). All drinks are made using real ingredients and will be served up with soda and ice, on the rocks, or neat.

FOOD | ‘Folk Lebanese’ restaurant, Jamjar, will be supplying a selection of dips, sides and snacks. Details on actual menu items to come.

SPACE | The 6000 square foot Please! space is divided equally between a front of house taproom and a 5-tank (2 x 5000 hl; 1 x 1900 hl; 2 x 300 hl) production facility out back. The taproom offers a 67-seat lounge plus a retail section stocked with the full range of Please! bottled cocktails, chilled and available to grab to-go, as well as a curated selection of crackers and canned preserves, fresh flowers, greeting cards, and full line of merch (think hats, totes and tees).

ARCHITECT |  Table Architecture Collective

CONTRACTOR | Milltown Contracting

PLANTS | Westcoast Jungle

BRANDING | Best Studio

ART | Pablo Zamudio (Vancouver), Egle Zvirblyte (London, England), Mega McGrath (Vancouver muralist creator of Tasting Room’s feature mural), and Roisin O’Donnell aka Steven Fritters


Please! Tasting Room will be open daily from 11am to 11pm. Stay tuned to their Instagram feed here for more news on opening day. For now, check out photos of the space below to get a better idea of what’s in store:

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Please! Beverage Co.
Neighbourhood: Mt. Pleasant
222 W 5th Ave.

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