Granville Island Brewing

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Nesteled under the Granville Bridge on Vancouver's now trendy Granville Island is the newly re-opened Granville Island Brewery. Best visited by bike or on foot, parking space is limited since most of the cobblestoned island is covered with shops and boutiques. Most shops close very early in the evening, as seems common throughout the province. Opened in 1984 as the first Canadian micro, the reputation is for quality brews. Recipes adhere to the German Reinheitsgebot with malts from Prairie and Bairds, regional pellet hops, and local water.

The process begins as the grains travel via auger from the Grist Mill to the stainless steel grist hopper. The shiny stainless steel vessels include a standalone Lauter Tun and separate ale and lager fermenters. The two ale vessels are considered "open" fermenters and use a specific yeast strain while the two unitanks receive inoculations from a lager strain. Both Diatomaceous Earth (DE) and sheet filters see action before the beer heads to the nine conditioning tanks. No pasteurization is employed. Spent grains find their way to a local merchant where they end up in specialty breads.

Reduced in size two and a half years ago, the small system is augmented by a new 70 hl facility in Kelowna where bottling and canning takes place. Adjoining the glass-walled brewhouse is the open two-story tasting room. The medium size light wood bar hosts two four-tap ceramic towers with custom logos. From the high ceiling hang electric fans and lights. Tours are given Monday through Friday at 12, 2 and 4 PM. Weekends offer hourly tours from 12 to 5 PM. A $6 fee gets you samples afterward and a souvenir glass. For visitors under the legal drinking age of 19 the fee is just $1.

The Scotch weighs in at 6.5% and is a dark amber color with rich malty aroma and flavor matched with a nice full body and dry finish. The Gastown Amber Ale, at 5.5%, boasts a creamy head, dark amber color, malty flavor and just a touch of roasted character. The Island Lager, 5%, appears a clear gold color with carbonation in evidence. The crisp hoppy flavor goes well with the medium/full body, creamy mouthfeel, and hoppy aftertaste. The Brockton Black Lager is suprisingly flavorful. At 6.5%, the clean malty beverage goes down all to well. The dark ruby color introduces a medium body, full mouthfeel and malty/chocolatey flavor. For the crossover brew the lineup includes the Kitsilano Light, a clear gold color, the medium body, hoppy flavor and light hoppy finish should offer any newcomer to micros a good introduction. The seasonal is currently the 4.8% Summer Wheat with its very clear gold color and light body.

The last third of the building houses the Gift Shop. Here bottled six-packs are available (deposit required) as well as kegs to go. Standard brews get freshness dating while the limited production labels such as the Wheat and Scotch get the Prototap markings. High-quality shirts, caps and sweaters are featured. Even some wines from the Kelowna operation can be had. Overall, the Granville Island Brewery is the perfect place to retreat from the shopping regimen and enjoy a relaxed look at quality brewing on a small scale, accompanied by samples to prove it.

Adjacent to the Granville Island Brewery is Keg restaurant, where all beers from the brewery can be found on tap. The lounge features lively music, TVs without sound, and a great view of the busy crowds inside and out. The small bar supports three 4-tap ceramic towers pouring pints and "tall" glasses. Burgers and local seafood top the menu and the portions match the great flavors in making Keg worth a visit for food, coffee, wine or beer.


Granville Island Brewing
1441 Cartwright Street
Granville Island
Vancouver, B.C., V6H 3R7 (604)687-BREW

Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - May 1997
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