By the time we finally sat down at the bar in Craft Beer Market I thought I’d died and gone to beer heaven.
Before us hung over 140 taps of local and imported beers below rows of interesting-looking bottles of liquor under a giant TV screen displaying the Canucks beating the Blackhawks. What more could hubby and me ask for? That, and great looking food being served around us, an historic, warmly-lit wood structure above us, and a racous crowd that is excited about the game is everything one could want on a cold and snowy Friday before Christmas. And here we were – finally.
It’s been a long time coming for Craft and us. We’ve been watching the 1930s-era Salt Building since the Olympics ended, waiting and hoping for a really great establishment to move in and allow us to walk into this old warehouse anytime we pleased. Ever since we moved to the neighborhood in 2007, I’ve rollerbladed past the structure and watched with facination as it was raised, renovated and repainted in old-time school house red.
Then I waited in dismay as the Salt Building sat empty, like a forgotten Christmas present, in what became a post-Olympics ghost town. When a “Restaurant coming soon” sign went up in the window, I yelped with joy, only to be left blading desolutely past the same sign as months became years. When would a business move in?
All that is history now. Craft Beer Market is fully ensconced at the Salt and has been wildly embraced by the community. So much that it took us a month to get a seat. Here are some of the things that make the place special.
Craft Beer Works
Craft features a whopping 140 beers on tap – the largest amount in Canada – elegantly delivered to the oval bar via 16 chrome temperature-controlled pipes containing 10 lines of beer each. Like magic neumatic tubes of brew.
The beer list is very international but always includes around 50 brews from British Columbia. While most of the list is static, there will always be 12 rotating taps.
Craft’s top relationships are with Red Truck, Central City, Driftwood and they have collaborated with Granville Island Brewery in the creation of a red ale brew called Big Red, currently on tap.
The top selling brews so far are Driftwood Fat Tug IPA, Green Flash West Coast IPA, and Phillips Blue Buck. No surprises there.
Craft Beer Market has a tight relationship with Austria’s Stiegl Radler who make a low alcohol pilsner and soda blend – Citron and Grapefruit- flavors – that my tour guide Alina said make excellent pairings with eggs benedict. Beer with breakfast. I like it.
The six-pack sampler array changes weekly and you have two choices: international or local. Sampler menu is based on taste, NOT price.
Two of the owners are beer judge certified and all of the staff are trained in beer.
To work at Craft Beer Market, staff are required to study Beer 101 online and watch the Beer Wars film, before taking Craft’s in-house training. As a result, these kids will talk your ear off about beer.
The building is 13,000 square feet and has seating for a whopping 400 patrons with a private room and two mezzanines for group events.
The menu, termed “New North American Classic Cuisine utilizes locally-source ingredients and comes with gluten-free, nut-free and vegetarian dishes.The restaurant is the largest LEAF certified place in Canada, meaning they they keep their energy, waste, water and chemical use to a minimum.
Once a month, Craft Beer Market has a Brewmasters Dinner in partnership with their breweries to present 5 beers with 4 course dinner pairing.
Craft is a two-year old company, launched by PJ L’Heureux and partners Rob Swiderski and John Liwag, that opened the first location in Calgary in June of 2011, and Edmonton opened in December. Those locations have only 110 beers on tap so Vancouver Craft, which opened in November and is owned and operated by Scott Frank, reigns supreme, like a beer drinkers Disneyland.
Meanwhile, back at the Bar
After watching the game in the foyer, we are seated at the bar and the Canucks score in the second period. The cheers went up and echoed through the building’s rafters and it was all we could do to concentrate on the beer by ordering the local six-pack selection.
The local list included: Bridge Pale Ale, Howe Sound Honey Pale Ale, Howe Sound Red Ale Nut Brown, Parallel 48 Old Boy Brown, Tree Thirsty Beaver Amber Ale and the Tree Hop Head India Pale Ale. All of them were delicious, with our favourites being the Howe Honey, the Tree Amber as well as the Tree Hop Head – an old favourite.
As we sipped, the Canucks scored again to tie the game at 2-2. Overtime resolved nothing and we were headed into a shootout.
In our attempt to focus on food, we asked Frederico about specials and he informed us that there are no features on Friday, but he has his favorite dishes: The braised brisket is braised 10 hours in stout, he says, and literally peels off the bone. And the bacon blue cheese burger has cheese infused patty so its juicy and messy, but awesome.
Mulling our food options, we sat through an epic shootout between the Canucks and the Blackhawks which lasted 9 rounds until being clinched by the mighty Ryan Kesler. And Craft exploded! Cheers and yelling and hugging and kissing all around, it was as if all these beer drinkers had been on the ice with our guys and helped them win.
Such a glorious hockey moment made for a hearty appetite, so we finally ordered.
There was Butternut Squash Ravioli tossed in a Piri Piri emusion and topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and squash chips for me. With that, I ordered the super hoppy Gigantic IPA (85 IBU) from Portland.
Btw, IBU stands for International Bitterness Units, a designation I’ve never seen on a menu.
Bill got the Phillips Beer Can Chicken made with Rossdown Farms chicken rubbed with Cajun spices and slow roasted on a can of Phillips Blue Buck Pale Ale. He paired that with the tangy Brooklyn EIPA (47 IBU) from New York.
And it all tasted awesome together! The ravioli was soft and creamy as a head of Guinness, and the chicken was juicy and flavorful, enhanced by its half can of jus. As we ate, the action at the taps and the look-alike bartenders kept us fully entertained.
Craft Beer Market calls itself “food-primary,” and “a restaurant first and foremost,” but to me it’s beer-primarily, a beer lovers Playland where you can get some good food.
Craft Beer Market is located at 85 West 1st Ave, Olympic Village, Vancouver, BC.
Have you been to Craft? What did you think, what did you drink?
If you liked this story please share it and subscribe. I plan to write more posts about beer in spirits in 2014. Happy New Year!