Get to Know Vancouver’s Vibrant Craft Beer Scene

Photo: Main Street Brewing Company

While Vancouver’s craft brewery scene increased dramatically over the last decade, the city has a long history with brewing beer.

Vancouver’s first brewery, Lucky Lager, was launched in 1858 by William Steinberger. By the 1880s, the newly incorporated city contained several thriving breweries such as Columbia Brewery, Stanley Park Brewery, and Cedar Cottage Brewery. Mount Pleasant, which is currently known for its many breweries, received its first one in 1888 when a German-born businessman set up Vancouver Brewery along the primary creek in the area (where Main Street is now). Numerous other breweries set up shop there, leading to the creek unofficially being known as Brewery Creek.

While more breweries continued to appear up until the early 20th century, the industry narrowed to just a few major players after WWI and Prohibition. It wasn’t until 1982 that the region’s and the nation’s first modern microbrewery was launched. Frank Appleton and John Mitchell operated Horseshoe Bay Brewery, which produced a beer named Bay Ale.

From there, Vancouver’s beer scene gradually expanded, including with the opening of the first licensed microbrewery in Canada, Granville Island Brewing, in 1984. The selling of beer on Sundays was also novel for the city. In the 1990s, more key breweries emerged, such as Steamworks, R&B Brewing Co., and Yaletown Brewing Company.

And finally, in the 2000s, the term craft beer really came into usage, with taphouses appearing on the scene and tasting rooms, bringing whole new imbibing experiences to Vancouver beer enthusiasts. While veteran local beer-makers such as Philips Brewing and Red Truck Beer Company started in the early 2000s, many of the breweries that exist today came into being over the last decade, when craft brewing really took off in the city.

At present, Vancouver enjoys a thriving craft beer scene, with a diverse range of 70+ breweries, each of them with their own unique personalities, specialties, and innovation. Craft beer festivals happen throughout the year as well as awards recognizing achievements within the industry.

Some Breweries to Check Out


In Vancouver, there are numerous districts to visit with high concentrations of craft breweries. The first is Mount Pleasant, which contains some of the city’s most popular breweries, including Main Street Brewing Company and the Mount Pleasant location of Steamworks Brewing Company. The neighbourhood, which is very walkable, makes for an ideal location for a self-guided brewery crawl. Other stops to visit include 33 Acres Brewing Company, Brassneck Brewery, R&B, Electric Bicycle, Red Truck Beer Company, and Faculty Brewing. Nearby Olympic Village also contains brewpubs such as BREWHALL, CRAFT Beer Market, and Tap & Barrel, which offer tasty bites as well as extensive beers on tap.

Downtown Vancouver has the long-running Yaletown Brewing Co., the flagship location of Steamworks Brewing Company in Gastown, and Van Urban Beer Co., just east of Gastown. Meanwhile, East Vancouver (or “Yeast Van” as it’s affectionately known) has a good share of excellent breweries, including Strange Fellows Brewing, known for their commitment to tradition as well as quirky innovation, as well as other places like Bomber Brewing and East Van Brewing Company.

North Vancouver has also emerged to be a destination for breweries, with many of them concentrated around Esplanade East and 1st St. East, including Streetcar Brewing, Beere Brewing Company, and North Point Brewing. Take the SeaBus across the Burrard Inlet from downtown Vancouver and explore North Vancouver’s brewery offerings.

Craft Beer Tours

Photo: Vancouver Brewery Tours

If you’d rather someone take you on a guided tour of Vancouver’s craft breweries, there are quite a few companies in the city that specialize in such experiences.

Vancouver Brewery Tours offers a variety of beer-related tours, including a Vancouver Brewery Tour, a Beer and Food Brewery Tour, and a North Vancouver Beer Bike Tour. The first one takes you to three breweries for tastings and behind-the-scenes access. You’ll get a sense of the city’s brewery neighbourhoods and meet people equally excited about beer.

Canadian Craft Tours offers a similar selection of tours, focusing on areas around the Lower Mainland, such as North Vancouver and East Vancouver. A sample public Vancouver Brewery Tour will encompass three breweries with information and tasting flights at each.

Finally, Vine and Hops Wine and Craft Beer Tours also features a Vancouver Brewery Tour in partnership with Canadian Craft Tours.

Craft Beer Festivals

Photo: VCBW

If you’re looking to socialize with other craft beer fans, Vancouver has numerous fun and lively festivals for sampling and mingling. The biggest one is Vancouver Craft Beer Week (VCBW), which has grown to become a celebration of not only beer, but also art, music, and talented people. Last year, it was a one-day summer festival featuring over 150 craft beers and ciders to try, live art, chef pop-ups, food trucks, and performances by various artists.

Vancouver’s North Shore Craft Beer Week takes place November 2-14, 2023, with events happening at breweries across the region, such as Wildeye Brewing (November 12) and La Cerveceria Astilleros (November 6). November 2 is their big launch event at the Historic Shipyards. A general admission ticket will get guests two drink tokens and a tasting mug. Ten North Shore breweries, as well as a distillery and cidery will be in attendance, as well as food trucks and live entertainers. Expect prizes and games too.

Farmhouse Fest at UBC Farm takes place in late summer (around August) and focuses on craft saisons, sours, lambics, and wild ales—and ciders. It’s all about interesting funky, sour, and fruity flavours in a beautiful natural setting. Food vendors are there to pair with your beer. Meanwhile, various satellite events at breweries, bars, and restaurants around the city take place.

The BC Beer Awards and Festival is set for October 21, 2023, at the Croatian Cultural Centre. The Awards feature dozens of categories (e.g., North American Pale Ale, Saison), including the Judges’ Choice Awards. The event will serve tall cans for tastings, with tickets including a commemorative tasting glass. There will also be food trucks, music, and games/activities.

In addition to these events, there are numerous other ones that occur throughout the year. They all showcase local craft beer and have convivial crowds. Individual breweries also often host dinners, tastings, and collaborations.

Historical information sourced from “For the Love of Beer: Vancouver’s Brewing History” and Joe Wiebe’s “The History of BC Craft Beer.”

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