Dec 11, 2011

CAMRA Vancouver/Beerthirst Tour de Richmond

Ever wondered what happens when you take 50 beer nerds, stuff them into a school bus named "Gordon" and ferry them around to six pubs in one afternoon, filling them full of brew & snacks at every stop?

Well, as one of said lucky nerds who got to partake in the tour (and its copious amount of pints), I can't quite tell you exactly what happened (what happens on the bus stays on the bus!) - but I can tell you that it involved many delicious beverages, beer-related chants, near-victory over an obscene food challenge and a much greater understanding of what one locale outside Vancouver proper has to offer in terms of craft beer.

Amanda (CAMRA Vancouver) and our trusty steed "Gordon"
Essentially a pub crawl for beer nerds, the concept behind Camra Vancouver & Beerthirst's Tour de Richmond was to get us out of our usual city haunts, and experience some of what the 'burbs have to offer in terms of crafty goodness. Turns out, in the case of Richmond, the offering is pretty darn good.

(warning: as per usual, my notes get more sporadic and less legible after about pint #4. But I'll do my best to give you an idea of where we visited and why you might want to think about following suit.)

Fogg n Suds
What it's like: upscale olde English pub

Stand-out feature: tie between the heated, enclosed patio & the massive fireplace in the centre of the pub.

tapping the casks on the Fogg n Suds patio
The beer: Fogg n Suds has a decent selection on tap, including Unibroue, Phillips & a nice list of Belgiums. But even luckier for us, they had 2 cask beers specially brewed for the tour ready to be tapped when we arrived. The first was a collaboration brew from VanBrewers' Scott Butchart & Russell Brewing's Anders McKinnon - an oatmeal stout, which I quite enjoyed. Brewed as a session beer, it had a thinner consistency (and lower alcohol content) than most stouts, which made for easy drinking at noon on a Saturday. The second was a brown ale from Jack Bensley of Russell Brewing. I've got a soft spot for malty brown ales, so the Bullshit Brown was right up my alley.

Bonus: Fogg n Suds runs a shuttle from Bridgeport station on the Canada Line. No DD required!

Kingswood Pub
What it's like: neighbourhood watering hole

Stand-out feature: deep-fried pickles & hot nuts machine. 'Nuff said.

Amanda, Becky & Jen all smiles @ Kingswood
The beer: The Kingswood has just taken the plunge into craft beer with several taps hidden amongst the usual macro selection. We were offered North Coast Brewing Acme IPA and Elysian Brewing Men's Room Red in what I could swear were ACTUAL 20 oz pint glasses. Hallelujah, they do exist! I was in a hoppy mood, so I went with the yummy Acme IPA.

Bonus: The Kingswood is a perfect example of why to not judge a book by its cover - although it looks like your typical old watering hole, it also happens to boast the biggest selection of single-malt scotch in Richmond. That, combined their with deep fried pickles & big pints might just qualify them for a second visit.

Wall 'o' booze at Kingswood

Hog Shack
What it's like: bright, airy cookhouse

Stand-out feature: the meat

CAMRA takes over Hog Shack
The beer: Hog Shack is Richmond's first and only BBQ cookhouse. Their meat, say my carnivorous companions, is to die for. Luckily for me, their craft beer list is pretty appealing too (check it here). I decided on a Moylan's Hopsickle Imperial IPA, a big, strong, wonderful hoppy punch in the mouth that at 9.2%, almost borders on tasting like a barley wine. But oh, so good.

Bonus: As we discovered, like many of its American cookhouse cousins, Hog Shack is home to a food challenge. And our tour just happened to be home to a very hungry, half-cut guy looking for a challenge. We all got to bear witness as fellow drinker Jesse attempted to take on this monstrosity in less than 5 minutes:

Brave fellow drinker Jesse actually ate this monstrosity.

Although he didn't quite make it, watching him try was hilarious (and rather impressive). If you're a meat-eater with big stomach (and some liquid courage), you might want to see if you can do one better. 

Blue Canoe
What it's like
: seaside tapas spot

Stand-out feature: amazing view of the docks from the covered patio

view of the Steveston docks from Blue Canoe's patio
The beer: Blue Canoe has more of a restaurant atmosphere than pub, but that doesn't stop them from boasting a great beer list, featuring Victoria's Driftwood Brewing, plus Deschutes, Rogue, Green Flash and others. We all grabbed pints of the North Coast No. 38 Stout and headed to the patio to enjoy the view, warming ourselves with the toasty stout and complimentary blankets. I could definitely see myself coming back here for dinner and a couple of pints, especially in the summer.

Bonus: half a block from Hog Shack makes for a mini Steveston pub crawl.

Team Beerthirst: is the camera blurry or is that my vision?
What it's like: Richmond's taste of Ireland

Stand-out feature: loved the big, high table tops

The beer: With 15 taps, O'Hares Gastropub has the typical macro Irish pub offerings (Guinness, Smithwick's) - but that's not all. They've also got a great selection of microbrews, including North Coast, Rogue, Green Flash and others (check out their full list here). We sipped sleeves of Elysian Men's Room Red, an easy-drinking, nicely-malted amber brew, and enjoyed the complimentary tasting of some of Beerthirst's brands in the adjoining liquor store.

Bonus: liquor store with good craft beer selection right next door.

"beer's pretty sweet."
Pump House
What it's like: cozy, warm, dark. perfect neighbourhood pub.

Stand-out feature: super cozy, great atmosphere.

The beer: Pump House has a well-rounded beer list (even includes a couple of lambics). My notes tell me I drank a Green Flash West Coast IPA... and absolutely nothing else. Apologies, Pump House, but them's the breaks when you're #6 on the tour roster.

Bonus: comfy couches in front of the blazing fireplace were very welcome after a long, tough day of drinking.

And thus concluded my virgin CAMRA bus trip. At this point, it was nearing 8pm and I'd drank near my body weight in beer, so it was a perfect time to bid adieu to Richmond and head back over the bridge to Vancouver (with dignity still mostly intact). Overall, Tour de Richmond was a huge success - big props to CAMRA Vancouver and Beerthirst for putting on such an awesome event. I'd love to see this happen in another of Vancouver's surrounding areas!

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