If you haven’t been following along lately, the BC craft beer community has been passionately arguing about the most recent Southwest BC craft beer rankings from resident rank king himself Justin McElroy.
Now while many of Justin’s rankings have had a passionate fanbase argue beyond reasonable measure, like his best small town ranking, or his ranking of best park in Vancouver, there is nothing that gets craft beer drinkers more irritated than seeing their favourite breweries ranked lower than expected.
That being said, Justin was fair with his analysis (for the most part) and managed to tackle 114 different breweries, which is no small feat on its own. But, there were some glaring issues that need to be addressed. Again, as with Justin’s list, this is about personal preference, and so you may or may not agree with how we’re about to correct the record here. We aren’t going to run through the whole list, just those that were definitely outliers.
Before we get to the more specific rank changes, let’s start with how we’d position the overall top ten. In our opinion, the ten best on this list are:
- Strange Fellows
- Four Winds
- Field House
- Yellow Dog
- Twin Sails
- House of Funk
Justin’s list wasn’t all that different, eight of the 10 listed were in the top 10 in some fashion, which makes sense as these are fan favourites across the province. The other thing about the top 10 is the quality is really only separated by a hair’s margin, especially the top five. These could easily move up or down depending on the month and the releases being put out, or your own personal tastes, that’s how good these breweries are.
Now let’s get to the more specific issues with the remainder of the list.
Author’s note: Kudos to Justin and team for the hard work put into this list. It’s easy to critique, but we have to give credit where credit is due.
Breweries ranked too low
#106: Off the Rail Brewing
Early on it was clear that Off the Rail got a much too low rating. Sitting in the bottom ten is not where this brewery ought to be. Simply by measure of the classic pale ale, the crazy train IPA and the beloved Raj Mahal India Ale should have put Off the Rail well above a number of other breweries on this list. At the very least, Off the Rail should be near 33 Acres in terms of quality.
New ranking: #75
#99: Container Brewing
Container brewing has one of the best indoor/outdoor designs in East Van, meaning there is plenty of space for drinkers at all times of day. Add the fact that their beer is very consistent, and their Seawise stout is one of the best available. It clearly shows they’ve been given the shaft in terms of their placement. Once again, they deserve to be much higher, likely somewhere in the 60’s.
New ranking: #68
#62: Hoyne Brewing
Criminally underrated on this list. Hoyne has a fantastic Vienna lager, a solid ESB and the iconic Dark Matter, just to name a few. We’re not going to go any further to justify the change here, because quite frankly, those three alone do enough. Hoyne moves up.
New Ranking: #44
#38: Beere Brewing
We’re nitpicking now, but Beere’s quality is top-notch. While not far off, there’s a few breweries on this list Beere can objectively leapfrog over. They are a consistent go-to on the North Shore and one of the best producers of IPAs in the area.
New Ranking: #30
#21: House of Funk
House of Funk is top ten material. They came out swinging as one of the best new breweries on the North Shore, if not in BC with their creative and inventive beer styles and have continued to iterate and surprise in the years following. The tasting room is excellent, the coffee is great and it’s always a stop whenever we’re on the North Shore.
New Ranking: #9
#14: Studio Brewing
Although fairly new to the scene, Studio brewing is producing some incredibly satisfying beers and have managed to solidify themselves as a brewery worth following. Studio gets some extra credit for hitting a home run so early on, and it will be interesting to see what they do to maintain their early momentum. But at the moment, Studio is arguably one of the best breweries in the province.
New ranking: #10
Breweries ranked too high
#92: Green Leaf Brewing
Sorry Green Leaf but someone had to go first. Look, Green Leaf has a fantastic patio. There’s nothing like grabbing a beer and watching the Lonsdale crowds shuffle past with the sweeping views of Vancouver. We just wish the quality of the beer reflected the views. Green Leaf can be tough to drink, and simply on that fact alone, it falls well behind the fantastic breweries that have cropped up in its neighbourhood over the past few years.
New Ranking: #113
#68: Red Truck
Red Truck has consistency down. You are never concerned about variation or one batch not seeming like a previous batch, much like a macro beer producer. Unfortunately, much like a macro beer producer, the beers aren’t inspiring. That’s not to say they aren’t good, they just don’t feel much like craft anymore. If you need a 12 pack of lagers to bring to the beach, then you’re safe with Red Truck, but it’s often forgotten for anything other than safe beer. It should sit with Whistler Brewing.
New Ranking: #81
#44: Bomber Brewing
Look we like Parklife just as much as anyone else, but the reality is, we’re not drinking it all that much. Nor any other Bomber beer. There are simply better representations of each style of beer they produce, often only a few blocks away. We’re also knocking it down for the fact that it’s no longer “independently owned” and part of the Donnelly Group brand.
New Ranking: #86
#43: Dead Frog Brewing
At best, Dead Frog sits in the adequate tier. Their core offers are standard fair, and their sour series is too extreme. When you put Dead Frog next to a brewery like Beere or Parkside (which Justin has) it becomes immediately obvious which one doesn’t belong. Sorry Dead Frog, but you’re moving down.
New Ranking: #99
#41: Andina Brewing
We really, really want to like Andina. From the bold branding, to the South American representation, there’s a lot of potential with Andina. However, there is something about the beer that has never quite hit for us. The food is absolutely spot on, but when you actively choose to go to another brewery in East Van, or grab a competitors can at the store, then you know there’s an issue.
New Ranking: #83
#26: Coast Mountain
Look we’re sorry, but honestly we completely forgot that Coast Mountain existed. Not that we haven’t tried any of their beers, but honestly of a list of over 100 breweries, there’s no way it compares to anything that should be in the top 30. Arguably the biggest drop we’re recommending on this list.
New Ranking: #98
#24: Old Abbey Ales
Old Abbey isn’t bad beer, it just isn’t great beer. And that’s why it does not justify sitting at number 24 on the list. It’s more comfortable around Mission Springs, so that’s where we’re putting it.
New Ranking: #84
So Fuggles used to be fun. There was a lot of interesting things coming out of Fuggles, and then they just started resting on their laurels a bit. Not a whole lot creatively new from Fuggles, as they continue to rely on the Mango Wit and Plum Sour as their best offerings.
New Ranking: #65
#16: Trading Post
There is nothing wrong with Trading Post. They make good beer, good food and have a number of good locations to enjoy. Notice the ongoing theme though, just “good”. While good is perfectly acceptable, it does not make the great list. Overall this should be close to the mid-field.
New Ranking: #50