It’s becoming pretty cliche when writing about Vancouver: Gastown is now the coolest neighbourhood to grab a drink. And now it is my turn to write about it.
However, I’m not here to tell you about the coolest cocktail bars. I’m gonna keep it simple and tell you the best places to grab some local, craft beer in Gastown. Now, while these establishments are still decent, keep in mind that the ambiance of Gastown ads to the fact this place is the greatest neighbourhood for a drunken night on the town (or a few casual suds).
Gastown is old. The buildings were built from 1886 to around 1900. The cobblestone, Steamclock, and chained railings are not old, however. They were part of the renovation and revitalization of the neighbourhood back in the 1970s. It’s very much a beautiful touch, though. Add in the mini lights up in the trees, and Gastown at night just may also be the most romantic spot in Vancouver. But we’re not here to talk romance, unless it’s the subtle caressing of a pint glass.
The bars I’ve listed may be visited in any order. These also aren’t ranked. These are simply decent spots to grab craft beer in Gastown.
Whoa. Here’s a curve ball to start out with. Black Frog (while still an Edmonton Oilers bar) should still be accepted into the realm of great craft beer bars. Their tap selection provides great diversity, covering Western Canada (including Saskatchewan!). Their bottle selection ranges across Canada and down into the States with gems like the Brooklyn IPA and Lost Coast’s Pranqster. As well as a fantastic beer selection, it’s also probably the most unpretentious bar in Gastown.
With the rebranding of their beer, a new brewmaster in place, and a launch of a few new skews, Steamworks is in the game as one of Vancouver’s premier breweries. Add in the fact their brewpub also serves up delicious food in a massive space, and you have the makings of a killer craft beer house. My advice is to sit in the basement next to the small-batch brewery. Also, order their award winning pilsner — if it is available. It is known to go missing often.
A historic pub (first to be issued a liquor license following prohibition and first to allow women), the Lamplighter boasts a great selection of craft beer. The pub has undergone serious renovations since it first opened as a pub back in the 1920s, but the original ceiling still remains, as does the stained glass.
Located near the corner of Hastings and Carrall, this place may scream pretentious and expensive, but you can’t deny the selection. If you’re not feeling their draft selection, turn the page to the bottle menu and let your eyes melt at the selection. A cool feature at Bitter is instead of ordering pitchers/jugs of beer, you get served a growler of beer. Neat!
While local, craft beer is all the craze, I cannot forget to include this bar, which specializes in obscure import beer. Choose from cool European beers in an even cooler bar. Brick lined walls, rickety tables, and an upstairs that feels like you’re drinking in an attic makes this place the most unique drinking spot in Gastown.
The Portside Pub
This place pumps on the weekend. It gets packed, and oh does it get sweaty. You got to love a club that serves amazing craft beer and almost always has a cask pouring. With communal tables in what feels like the hull of a ship, the lower level is the best place to snuggle up to another group and talk about how delicious your beer tastes. For food, buy food tickets and exchange them for dim sum, pulled pork, hotdogs or popcorn.
The Alibi Room
OK. You knew this was coming. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this is the best bar in the city. This is ground zero for the craft beer revolution in Vancouver. And with so many rotating taps, it can be frustrating for some who watch their favourite beer go bye-bye for a while. But no worries, because another great beer (some of them one-offs and experimental batches) get put in place. The Alibi Room is always packed, no matter what day, and they employ the coolest, most knowledgable bartenders to guide you through the taps. My recommendation is if you can’t sit in the basement, sit at the bar upstairs — oh, and try something new, because guaranteed there will be something you’ve never had.
While there are many great craft beer bars all over Vancouver — including many that are slated to open this summer — Gastown just has that old-town, European vibe that for some reason makes the craft beer taste better. I find that when visitors to Vancouver drink in Gastown, their perception of the city is lifted to a higher class. While the Granville Entertainment District is more trashy (like majority of the beers on tap there) and caters to a wild, younger crowd, Gastown is classier with a vast array of craft beer for the more mature boozer.