As the BC Government recently amended their liquor laws to allow breweries to have on-site tasting rooms, BC craft beer drinkers are rejoicing. Even though some sticky catch-22 bylaws are making it difficult for Vancouver breweries to open tasting rooms (see here), we have no doubt they’ll figured it out and give the masses what they want.
I just returned from San Diego, which is one of the two hottest craft beer centres on the west coast (the other obviously being Portland). San Diego has roughly 60 breweries in the area, bringing a strong beer scene with breweries producing very distinct and interesting beers. My pilgrimage brought me to many of San Diego’s best tasting rooms where I experienced a very mature craft beer scene. There are a few highlights that Vancouver can learn from San Diego when the many tasting rooms begin to open.
Craft Beer Crawls
Less than an hour after my flight landed, I was standing in the middle of a tasting room filled to capacity with craft beer enthusiasts. What a perfect welcome to the San Diego craft beer community.
The Societe Brewery, like many breweries, is in a warehouse. And the tasting room is open to all of the mashers, boilers, and fermenters that really make up the whole experience of the tasting room.
The place was crowded due to the line-up of party-buses parked outside. As it turns out, San Diego offers “craft-beer crawls” where customers are taken from brewery-to-brewery tasting rooms via party-buses. It’s a great idea, however, some of the breweries near the end of the itinerary have to deal with some difficult patrons.
Food Truck Partnerships
Since many tasting rooms do not serve food, the city’s food trucks have taken it upon themselves to park outside the brewery. If there is one thing the BC Government loves, it’s to make sure drinking establishments offer food. Considering Vancouver’s amazing food truck scene, there shouldn’t be a problem having food trucks partner with breweries as their tasting rooms begin to open.
Most tasting rooms in San Diego offer 4 oz. tasters for only $1.00. That is unheard of in British Columbia, and it will never happen, so best not to dwell on it. When the tasting rooms open up, I feel those 4 oz. tasters will be priced at roughly $3.00 — $2.00 if we’re lucky. But that’s just because liquor will always cost more here. There was something just great about going through a brewery’s entire line of taps and only paying $15, tip included.
Frequently Scheduled Tours
Tasting rooms should also always have brewery tours going every hour on weekends, if possible. This won’t be possible if the brewery is in operation, however. When Vancouver’s scene gets bigger and all breweries have tasting rooms, expect craft beer tourism to follow — this will bring the masses on tasting room crawls, which will warrant more brewery tours. Currently, most people need to phone ahead to have a brewery tour, and there usually needs to be a minimum and maximum number of people.
More Distinct Beers from All Breweries
Once the craft beer scene gets bigger in Vancouver (like it is in San Diego and Portland), expect more unique beers coming from Vancouver’s breweries. Currently only a few are actually pushing the boundaries and creating really unique flavours. Most of the breweries I found in San Diego produced variations that contained flavours I had never tasted before. It made me realize that Vancouver needed more from their breweries. It’s great that Red Truck and Main Street are getting their own breweries, but how about we see them get creative with their beer line. The Pilsner and Pale Ale just simply won’t cut it anymore — especially if that is all they offer in their tasting room.
I have no doubt that when these tasting rooms open (and they will) Vancouver will start to compete on the levels of Portland and San Diego. Once they open, and more awareness is brought to the public about craft beer, we will start to see Vancouver on par with the best craft beer communities. Who knows, maybe we can start a campaign to host The World Cup of Beer? Or maybe we just need to get our tasting rooms first.
Other great breweries I checked out in and around San Diego: