Dave’s Vancouver Beer Guide 2010

It started innocently enough. “Who owns Okanagan Spring Brewing?” asked my wife one evening last week. “Sleeman, I think.”

But then I wondered… who owned Sleeman? And who owned them? And that led me down a deep and twisty rabbit hole that saw over a week of evenings of research and design. I’ve finally emerged to present you with the first annual Dave’s Vancouver Beer Guide, 2010 Edition.

Go ahead and check it out, then come back here and I’ll tell you about it.

My criteria for the Beer Guide was fairly simple. First, is it a Canadian beer, or at least marketed as one? Second, is it available in Vancouver? If both are true, it goes on the list.

I broke down the guide into three broad categories: National Brands, Independent Microbreweries, and Brew Pubs. There’s a bit of fuzziness with some of these, but generally I think that captures the spectrum.

Where I could, I tracked ownership up the chain to see where the money eventually winds up. This was easier with the national brands since the ownership chain is easily discovered with a quick Wikipedia search, but it might be interesting to dig a little deeper with publicly-traded breweries like Russell and Big Rock.

My “available in Vancouver” requirement leaves out a few BC breweries like Victoria’s Canoe, Smithers’ Plan B, Osoyoos’ Ridge and Pentiction’s Barley Mill, which have yet to make an appearance in the Lower Mainland as far as I’m aware. Other than those however, this guide lists most every operating British Columbia brewery.

Two companies in particular defy easy classification. Due to the international brands represented by the Mark Anthony group, its products appear to belong in the National category, despite being a Vancouver company. And Vancouver-based Northam Brewing now controls multiple brands like Whistler and Bowen Island, and even ships the former internationally, but without a better idea of their production capacity they still have the appearance of a micro brand. Both require more research, and I’d welcome some feedback.

And it should be noted that there’s absolutely no accounting for quality here; I’ve done my best to create a guide free of personal bias, but I don’t mind telling you here that some rather awful beers are on the list, even in the Independent section. (However most are not, thankfully.)

You may discover a few beers in this guide you’ve never heard of before. The next step is finding them. Start with the search tool on the BC Liquor Store site and see if you can walk into your local liquor store and grab one off the shelf. If you’re not having luck there, and the beer comes in a bottle or can, your next step is to hit one of the higher end beer stores in town. Brewery Creek, Firefly or Viti ought to carry them.

Draft-only breweries like Storm and Crannóg can only be found at restaurants and pubs that carry them. (You can find lists of where, just click on the brewery names to take a look.) And unless the pubs listed under Brew Pubs are local, it’s highly likely that the only place you’ll find their products in Vancouver will be at the Alibi Room, but even then, only if Nigel has them on tap that day.

One final note for the brewers out there, especially you smaller ones: it’s really worth investing in a professional photographer to capture some well-lit images of your products. Put them on your web site, let your fans download high-res versions and help you promote your beers, and you might be surprised at the free publicity you’ll get in return. I had a hell of a time tracking down images for some of you, and a side-by-side like this really showcases the difference between professional photos and quick cameraphone shots.

(Special thanks to the lists at BC Beer for helping make my research a lot easier.)


32 Responses to “Dave’s Vancouver Beer Guide 2010”

  1. Posted on January 28th, 2010

    Excellent work, Dave! Looks like I’ve got some exploring to do.

  2. Posted on January 28th, 2010

    excellent! great resource …
    BC independents … looks like some Ontario ones in there … do you mean national independents?

    Plus – Big Rock for example has Alberta Genuine Draft, Bow Valley – and produce Presidents Choice (all discount brands … )

  3. Posted on January 28th, 2010

    You’re right David, silly last-minute mistake to add ‘BC’ to the title. It was my intent to list all national microbreweries available here, not just the BC ones. I’ll try and fix that.

  4. Posted on January 28th, 2010

    Wow, awesome list, Dave. There’s a number of relatively local beers thar I don’t know of. Time to go tasting!

  5. Posted on January 28th, 2010

    D’oh, looks like I missed the Marine Pub in Burnaby.

  6. Posted on January 29th, 2010

    Beautiful work Dave. I hope this is the beginning of opening up this kind of useful info, perhaps an unbiased site or wiki. The October 09 ‘sale’ of GIB to MolsonCoors somehow went under the radar

  7. Posted on January 29th, 2010

    Nice chart. I note that Mission Springs is also a brewpub, but I don’t know if you have some way of accounting for well-distributed brands that also have their own pub.

  8. Posted on January 29th, 2010

    Yeah, there are a few on the Independent side who are brew pubs that distribute more broadly:

    * Central City
    * Howe Sound
    * Swans Buckerfields
    * Spinnakers
    * Mission Springs
    * Mill St.
    * Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel

    I didn’t see a tidy way of indicating that, but it’s definitely worth noting.

  9. Posted on January 29th, 2010

    awesome list but i don’t care about a catalogue. I just want your top 10 in terms of taste. I don’t have the time to hang out with Nigel :-) Eagerly awaiting the “top 10” followup! Perhaps after the Olympics ?

  10. Posted on January 29th, 2010

    Ummm…is it just me or is the link to the .png broken? I keep getting a 404 error.

  11. Posted on January 29th, 2010

    @ Roland – easier said than done, no two beer geeks will ever agree on a common set of top 10! (though, you’ll never go wrong with Driftwood)

    @ Todd – Due to WordPress quirks, the PNG has been replaced and renamed a few times as I’ve edited, and likely will be a few more in response to feedback. Any direct links to it are likely broken, and thanks to caching the RSS feed will probably be a bit sketchy too… but clicking through the images within this post on the site ought to work.

  12. Posted on January 29th, 2010

    Cut and paste error. The beers listed under Phillips are from LightHouse.

  13. Posted on January 29th, 2010

    Thwarted by the site’s spam filter, Rick Green (President, Campaign for Real Ale Vancouver) had this to say:


    Hi Dave,

    Like the guide!

    Some corrections & comments for you…

    In the Canoe, Plan B, Ridge group, I take it you include Freddy’s ( — just to be complete.

    The Marine Pub in Burnaby is not a true brewpub. They don’t make their own wort; it’s just a fermenting operation. I understand Pat’s Pub (, on the other hand, does have a full all-grain, on premises brewing operation.

    You have Lighthouse Brewing listed as being in Nanaimo. It’s actually in Victoria. Also, Whistler is no longer brewed in Kamloops. Northam opened a new brewery in Function Junction, Whistler, in December.

    Finally, Red Truck (, even though their beer is served in MJG brewpubs and is currently brewed at Taylor’s Crossing, is a separate company from MJG. Their beer is available in establishments other than the brewpubs —

    As for Roland’s remark, I concur with Dave. Everyone has different tastes. There are so many styles, some of which are only appropriate or available at certain times of the year. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a list of the best BC beer and beer-related establishments, you can check out the 2010 CAMRA Vancouver Awards at The 1st annual BC Beer Awards will also be announced this year during Vancouver Craft Beer Week ( on May 14 at Heritage Hall.

  14. Posted on January 29th, 2010

    Hi there Dave – my boyfriend sent this over to me as he thought I would enjoy it due to the fact that I work for Mark Anthony Group. Please let me clarify for you that both the Hell’s Gate brand and the Stanley Park are brewed in BC (in fact the GVRD). We are a Vancouver corporation; however, we also import a number of beers and wines. But rest assured both the brands you listed are born, bred and raised in Vancouver. We are quite proud of our new Turning Point Brewery facility!


  15. Posted on January 29th, 2010

    I thought Turning Point was a massive 100,000 hl brewery that produces more than just beer on site. I don’t understand how discount beers (Hell’s Gate) and premium beers (Stanley Park) are brewed at the same facility. Not sure if i trust that one.
    Kind of like Granville Island now that they are owned by Molson. Although they produced most of thier beers in Kelowna anyway so the move of this production to the Burrard St. Molson plant won’t be a big deal for them….think I’ll stick to the Island’s independent brewers thx!

  16. Posted on January 29th, 2010

    Hi Kendall,

    Thanks for stopping by. As I mentioned in the post above, I had trouble classifying the Mark Anthony Group. While doing my research the Turning Point Brewery web site proved fairly unhelpful –

    I turned to the corporate site, which paints a fairly broad picture about the company and where it operates. Given the international focus — “our company has served the alcohol beverage industry in Canada, and around the world, for over 35 years” — I had to go with a gut feeling and lump those two into the National category. I realize they’re brewed here, but so is Molson Canadian, if you see where I’m coming from.

    Some more detailed publicly-available information about the brewing facility and production capacity would certainly be appreciated.

  17. Posted on January 29th, 2010

    Ok so Driftwood are on Dave’s top 10. What are the other 9, Dave? No I don’t expect to agree with Davie’s Top 10 and I am well aware of CAMRA’s awards and other local beer awards but I don’t care about that :-) I care about what Dave thinks. My favourite beers in no order are Pilsner Urquel, Stouts like Guinness, Belgium Kriek, British bitters and any dark wheat beer from southern Germany.

  18. Posted on January 30th, 2010

    Great resource, Dave! You should make a poster. ;)

    K, Roland, what are your favorites from this list?

  19. Posted on January 30th, 2010

    hey guys.

    first couple of paragraphs mention Barley Station Brew Pub from Salmon Arm.

    Don Moore (their brewer) brought me four kegs for the Alibi Room just last week.

    He’s a very competent brewer.

    Bourbon Smoked Porter
    English Mild
    Organic Pilsner
    Pale ale

  20. Posted on January 30th, 2010

    @Degan: I don’t get out much anymore and we rarely drink beer at home so I don’t have much experience with the Vancouver beer scene. Most of my “knowledge” and taste cames frm my 6 years in Europe. Therefore I am looking for Dave’s list because I trust him and I’d like a short list to start my exploration.

    Of the locally available beers I do like Crannog’s stout (served a keg at our wedding in 2001) and Bailout bitter but I haven’t tried many. I’ll try the Driftwood Porter based on Dave’s recommendation but not surprisingly there’s no dark wheat beers available readily in Vancouver (must be a German “thang” :-) !)

    @Degan and @DaveShea – looking forward to your top 10 beer Foodist posts :-) In particular looking for the best lambic and best bitter (I suspect the Bailout bitter is not as good as some of the others)

  21. Posted on February 1st, 2010

    Roland, I would recommend going to the Alibi Room to do a survey to find what you like. There’s a range of different beer styles to choose from. You can mix and match with a four-taster “frat bat.”

    As for the Dunkelweizen, I really enjoy that style also. It is occasionally made by a brewpub here. For example, one from Longwood Brew Pub in Nanaimo was pouring at the Alibi Room two weeks ago. While it currently isn’t available in government liquor stores, you’ll find Ayinger Ur-Weisse and Erdinger in some private stores, like Brewery Creek, Firefly, Viti, etc.

    Best lambic: Storm Brewing’s 12 year old lambic at the Alibi Room; should also try Yaletown Brewing’s Oud Bruin.

    Best bitter: Red Racer ESB; try it at the Alibi Room or Central City Brewing on a Sunday when they have half-price pizza and $1.00 off pints.

  22. Posted on February 1st, 2010

    Rick: thanks!

    I’ll try and find Ayinger Ur-Weisse at Brewery Creek and Firefly and Viti. Erdinger is OK but not as good as the dark stuff I had in Friedrichshafen am Bodensee in Germany

    Storm Brewing’s 12 year old lambic @ alibi and yaletown’s brewing’s Ouid Bruin I’ll definitely be on the lookout!

    And I have heard fab things about Red Racer ESB. It’s on my list. Thanks again

  23. Posted on February 1st, 2010

    Oh and Dave still looking forward to your post Olympic 10 ten list haha! I am not stuck in a pils/stout/bitter/lambic/dunkles rut :-) i.e I am willing to try other stuff!

  24. Posted on February 2nd, 2010

    Thanks for the interesting “who own who” review of beers.
    I thought I’d shed a bit of light on your NorthAm question. The name sprang out of the 2005 purchase of the BC brewing assets previously owned by Alberta’s Big Rock brewery; i.e. Whistler Brewing, Bowen Island Brewing, Bear Brewing, Kamloops Brewing and Joe Stiffs Spike root beer. The business was (and still is) pretty small and it did not seem logical to use just one of these names while we figured out what to do with each. The NorthAm was a name established as a holding place for the group of brands. FWIW NorthAm is 100% BC & Privately owned.

    As Rick Green earlier pointed out, we have 2 breweries now, one in Kamloops and a new one in Whistler at Function Junction. (Please do drop by!)

    And here’s some new news for you.
    Joe Goetz, formerly Brewmaster with Granville Island Brewing for 20 years, started as our new Brewmaster yesterday, February 1st. We are pretty excited with what he brings to our breweries.


  25. Posted on February 18th, 2010

    Dave, great chart. But as Chester mentioned, the beers listed under Phillips are in fact Lighthouse brews. Phillips brews Blue Buck Ale, Phoenix Gold Lager, Longboat Chocolate Porter, Amnesiac Double IPA and many more

  26. Posted on May 19th, 2010

    You’re my new hero Dave

  27. Posted on May 26th, 2010

    Nice work! A monumental moving target task what with all the acquisitions and divesting that goes on in the industry.
    Here’s another flange to throw in the mix: The ubiquitous and mysterious Albino Rhino from Earls Restaurants, the beer you love to hate, is from Kamloops Brewery I believe.

  28. Posted on June 4th, 2010


    For Immediate Release…

    Contact: Leo Buijs 250-897-1365

    A book on the wonderful world of beers produced in British Columbia was long overdue. Just in time for a thirsty summer season and Father’s Day, ‘Beers of British Columbia’ a complete guide to micro/ macro breweries, brewpubs and their beers in British Columbia came off the press and will be available in bookstores across the province of BC.

    Beers of British Columbia is a compendium that tells how the boom in micro breweries and the subsequent takeoff of brewpubs in BC came about to result in an eclectic selection of nearly 350 different beers now available.
    With more than 30 breweries and 23 brewpubs described in detail, this handy reference is, if not mouth-watering to any beer lover, an eye-opener to anyone with an interest in beer, from the novice to the experienced beer consumer alike.

    The full colour 5.5 x 8 inch soft cover book has 192 pages with a handy layout that covers all micro/ macro breweries and brewpubs in British Columbia from west to east, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, the Greater Vancouver area and the BC interior.
    After an eye-opening introduction about the status of regular and craft beer in BC, it handles a wide range of questions and definitions on beer. With the increasing trend towards beer- pairing, the information provided about ingredients makes one better understand what and how to drink beer other then just to quench the summer’s thirst.

    An in-depth look at British Columbia’s craft brewers that sometimes have made audacious beer creations that make the BC beer scene so unique result in an exciting book. The chapter on beer tasting and another on brewery and brewpub tours to see and taste the craftsmanship are fine additions to a book that covers more then any current beer book available in Canada. A handy index for quick reference or to look up brews by names such as Bohemian Lager, Devil’s Elbow India Pale Ale or Bailout Bitter, make for a fascinating book on beers produced in British Columbia.

    Beers of British Columbia is an unbiased review. The author had the ambitious but dreadful job to taste most of BC beers and can honestly say that he never got any free beer offered. He has paid for all the beer he has tasted out of his own pocket ensuring an objective look at BC’s fine craft brews.

    About the author
    Leo Buijs used to live in Victoria, BC and moved more recently with his wife to the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. He is a member of the Canadian Science Writers Association and Camra (CAMpaign for Real Ale) member of the Vancouver Island chapter.
    His foremost passion is travel and exploring pubs and breweries wherever he can. He also loves to sail and write. This is his fourth book, one that deviates not that far from his earlier guidebooks on dog walks around Victoria and Vancouver Island & the Gulf Islands. Leo is a regular contributor to ‘The Gringo Gazette,’ an English language paper in Baja California and some of his work was published in ‘Pique Magazine.’ While living in Victoria, he was featured in an issue of ‘Boulevard Magazine’ with winning photographs from Africa and South America.

    Beers of British Columbia will be available for $ 19.95 in bookstores all over BC, on the Indigo/Chapters website. For a personalized copy, direct from the author, call 250-897-1365. For a request by e-mail, please send it to [email protected]


  29. Posted on June 13th, 2010

    every city needs a dave to document what’s around and who runs what. A Vancouverite, I now live in Montreal and, apart from being shocked to discover that Unibroue is Japanese owned, am pleased to see the truth of these companies. Ultimately, I will make my own beer or drink at brasseries from now on to enjoy something really home grown (though there will always be a spot in my stomach for some ephimere!)

  30. Posted on August 13th, 2010

    Just came across your chart, Dave — while looking for something else, of course; oh, the joys of Internet research ;o) — and really like what you’ve done. A couple of small corrections, though. Brasserie McAuslan (St. Ambroise) is no longer at all owned by Moosehead, their portion having be bought last year (or earlier, I forget) by Les Brasseurs RJ. And it is MonsonCoors that owns half of MillerCoors (jointly with SABMiller), rather than the other way around. In fact, at present, MillerCoors doesn’t even deserve mention on your chart, since it’s a company based and operating entirely in the States.

  31. Posted on November 15th, 2010

    Dave you should try Granville Island Brewing chocolate stout It was just released and is awesone grab a bottle or two from the brewery

  32. Posted on April 28th, 2011

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