Green Beer: Canada’s First Sustainable Brewery Comes to Vancouver

Vancouver was a little late to arrive on the microbrew scene, with the city’s first craft beer maker – Granville Island Brewing – opening its doors in 1984.  Since then, however, the microbrew phenomenon has clearly taken off, and now dozens of different hand-crafted, small-batch beers are made in and around the city.  One of the newest contenders on the scene brings with it a high profile name and some impressive eco-credentials.

Stanley Park Brewery, which is actually based in Delta, has opened what may be Canada’s first sustainable brewery.  A 110-foot- tall  wind turbine provides the energy for the state-of-the-art complex, which uses less water and energy than a conventional brewery.  The brewery’s somewhat confusing name refers to the original Stanley Park Brewery, which was established way back in 1897 on the shore’s of the park’s Lost Lagoon by Belgian pioneer and brewmaster Frank Foulbert.

An original Stanley Park Brewery bottle from the early 1900s.

So much for the history lesson, now on to the important stuff: How does the beer taste?  So far, Stanley Park Brewing – which seems to have opened about a year ago – only makes one beer, its distinctive 1897 Amber.  According to the brewery, this Belgian-style amber is among the most complex beers to make and required extensive consultation with brewmasters in Belgium to get just the right kind of yeast and hops required.  The 1897 Amber is available in more than 160 restaurants around Vancouver and also in stores, according to the brewery’s website.

Seduced by the label and the Stanley Park tie-in, I tried the beer downtown at O’Douls recently.  I’m not a beer connoisseur, but the 1897 Amber was refreshingly clean and light, with a mild bitterness and no aftertaste.  And I’m not alone in giving the brew a thumbs up.  Erik Wolfe and Chris Richardson, the guys behind the local blog LoveGoodBeer.com, also gave it their stamp of approval.  It’s a very drinkable, tasty summer beer.

But – in spite of its green credentials and superb ale – Stanley Park Brewery is not without a bit of controversy.  The brewery is actually owned by the Mark Anthony Group, the leading distributor of wine and beer in Canada.  This has led some beer enthusiasts to cry foul, pointing out that Stanley Park Brewery is not a craft brewery at all, but a division of the same Canadian beverage giant that makes Mike’s Hard Lemonade and dozens of other products.  Whatever the case may be, the 1897 Amber beer seems to speak for itself, offering  a welcomed addition to the local beer-scape.

Any other fans of Stanley Park Brewery’s 1897 Amber out there?  What do you think of the brewery’s commitment to sustainability?  Do you like the idea of using the city’s most beloved landmark – Stanley Park – on a beer label?  If you’d like to comment – or if you happen to have more info on Stanley Park Brewing and its product line – please weigh in below.

Remy Scalza

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17 Responses to Green Beer: Canada’s First Sustainable Brewery Comes to Vancouver

  1. Vancouver’s first craft brewery was Horseshoe Bay Brewing which opened in 1982. They were hoping to be a brewpub, but the law of the day prohibited such a setup. It wasn’t changed until two years later when Spinnakers was able to open in Victoria. Grant’s Brewery Pub, the first in the U.S., opened in 1982. So I don’t think Vancouver was late to the craft beer scene. It just hasn’t grown as quickly as down south.

    As for Stanley Park, well, it’s not a brewery. The brewery is Turning Point, which also brews the Hell’s Gate brand. That in itself should raise a warning flag, i.e. marketing is what drives the brewing, not the other way around. That shouldn’t be a surprise because Mark Anthony does the same with wine.

    Ownership, however, is only part of it. If you consider Turning Point’s brewing capacity, it isn’t intended to be small, independent, and traditional, i.e. a craft brewery. It is geared for large-scale production. The brewing philosophy that drives that type of business is to make a beer that offends the least number of people. Little surprise, then, that the beer styles chosen to start off with are those favoured by industrial brewers — lager, pale ale, amber. In that respect, this addition to the local “beer-scape” is underwhelming in comparison to what Driftwood Brewery has contributed.

    Can we expect a dark beer any time soon? How about seasonal beers? These are pretty standard for a microbrewery. If they were serious about being a craft brewery, surely a company with the resources of Mark Anthony would be able to take us beyond the 1980s, which is I think the problem. Entrepreneurial homebrewers were the vanguard of the craft beer movement in the U.S. It hasn’t been so much the case here where there is a more conservative ownership that tries to follow the market instead of leading it.

    Finally, I would be wary of the green claims of this company. I’ve heard that the wind turbine is, functionally, a showpiece that contributes little in the way of power.

    • William Paull

      So, Stanley Park Brewery is nowhere near Stanley Park? What a joke. At least it’s not made in China like everything else!

  2. Rick – Thanks for taking the time to shed some light on Stanley Park Brewery. The Turning Point Brewery/Stanley Park Brewery labeling is quite confusing. It would be great if a representative from the company could comment and clarify.

    Regarding the first microbrewery in Vancouver, I think we might have a little controversy on our hands. On its website, GIB says that it was not only the first microbrewery in Vancouver but the first in all of Canada. Is that not accurate?

    Thanks again for taking the time to write. I do enjoy Vancouver’s beers, but I’m certainly not an expert. Thanks for catching my slips.

  3. My pleasure, Remy.

    Good luck in getting someone from Mark Anthony to clarify things for you. I believe they want the general public to think that these are different breweries and not all coming from the same place.

    GIB is engaging in a bit of revisionist history and are probably quite confident that John Mitchell, who started Horseshoe Bay and Spinnakers (with Paul Hadfield), will not sue them. They would be correct, however, if they qualified it by saying they are the oldest Canadian microbrewery still in operation. Horseshoe Bay opened in June of 1982: http://books.google.com/books?id=fCiMz0nGs78C&lpg=PA220&ots=TcvtmcRc6P&dq=brewery%20OR%20brewing%20%22Island%20Pacific%22&pg=PA215#v=onepage&q&f=false. If you read page 216, you’ll notice a handful of other breweries opened in 1983.

    As for local craft beer, if you haven’t visited them already, the two best places for sampling are the Alibi Room (http://alibi.ca/) and St. Augustine’s (http://staugustinesvancouver.com/). We still have a long way to go to have anything close to the craft beer culture of CA, OR, or WA, but we’re getting there.

    • My

      Sorry but there is nothing “micro” about GIB since that are owned by some company from Colorado called Coors. And they don’t brew much on the island other than some small batch seasonal s that don’t get distributed more than a few miles.

  4. Rick – I’ve been to Alibi Room but not St. Augustine’s. I’ll be sure to check it out.

    Thanks for the comments – Always good to know that someone is reading. You might be interested in my post tomorrow (Friday) on the Top 5 locally made microbrews in Vancouver – I enlisted the help of John Lee, author of the book Drinking Vancouver.

    • Mitch Howard

      Hello REmy,

      Thanks for your article on the green “Stanley Park Brewery”, and for clearing up the question regarding the whereabouts of the current and historical breweries.

      One comment, it’s certainly nit picky, but important to writers and readers alike. Plurals do not require an apostrophe. To wit, the original brewery was situated on the shores, not the shore’s, of Stanley Park’s Lost Lagoon.

      Kindest regards

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  6. Pingback: Green Beer: Canada’s First Sustainable Brewery Comes to Vancouver | RemyScalza.com: Independent Journalism

  7. Can’t wait to visit! We will be there in August Building an Earthship…

    Canada Earthship Network: http://earthship.com/canadaseminar

    One Day Earthship Seminar during the upcoming Canada Earthship Workshop at the end of August.

    Where: Lone Butte Community Hall and on-site at the Earthship Project

    When: Saturday August 14th, all day.

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  9. Marc

    I think “Stanley Park Brewery” is just another lie perpetrated by the same people who would see REAL micro-breweries destroyed again. Their beer tastes no different than many other big-corporate beers.

    To pretend to be “established 1897” and pretend to be what they aren’t, that SHOULD be criminal. Unfortunately, Canada doesn’t have real consumer protection laws, so we can’t do anything about their misleading name, advertising, and everything else.

    Yeah, I got fooled once by them. Not again though. Their deceptive marketing has cost them at least one customer. I’ll buy from folks who care about making good beer, not good marketing.

  10. Gigi

    A sustainable brewer, sounds good to me.

    Thought you might appreciate this cool time lapse video about an urban community that turns their junkyard into a sustainable garden in just one day.
    http://www.youtube.com/kiacanada#p/a/u/0/13x4lySlXW4

    Take a look at how Kia is driving change.

    Enjoy!
    Gigi

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  12. dg

    good beer, maybe call it Fraser Ale. That water is closer to your plant.
    DG

  13. Pat

    This was one of the articles I came across while trying to discover what Canada’s brewers were doing to increase the sustainability of this industry. The comments and discussions have been very interesting, and, in particular, I wanted to thank Rick for the informative comments.

    I briefly went to the Stanley Park Brewery website to further investigate their sustainability claims and all I can say is that I’m skeptical. Nowhere do they quantify what their reductions or efficiencies are… If something “reduces energy,” it doesn’t automatically make it sustainable, and making a claim to be “Canada’s First Sustainable Brewery” is quite a huge claim with no evidence to back it up.

    If people are interested in breweries that are trying to be more sustainable, I would direct them to take a look at what Sierra Nevada (US), New Belgium (US), or Steam Whistle (CAN) have been doing. Unfortunately, I haven’t found as many examples in Canada yet, but we can keep hoping…

  14. Rick

    I tried your sampler box and really enjoy the Windstorm limited release. Can I find that anywhere in RedDeer Ab.