After 16 long months since the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, BC has entered Phase 3 of its Restart Plan. For three days in early July, my husband and I experienced a taste of what the future of our post-pandemic world looks like while exploring Vancouver’s North Shore Ale Trail.
What better way to start a trip to Vancouver’s North Shore than a stop at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park? While we are no strangers to this iconic attraction, it has also been a couple of years since we last visited its winter Canyon Lights. Crossing the 140m suspension bridge in broad daylight allows you to fully appreciate the surrounding forest, mountains, and the Capilano River far, far below. Adding to the thrill was the sway of the bridge and distant shrieks from other visitors.
Beyond the suspension bridge, there are a variety of other equally breathtaking parts to check out. Did you know there are no nails or bolts in the Douglas Firs that hold up the viewing platforms of the Treetops Adventure? Those platforms are adjustable and moveable to accommodate the growth of the trees. When you’re done with that, the Cliffwalk offers a U-shaped walkway suspended 300ft above the rushing river and two extended platforms with glass bottoms. There’s really endless beauty in the park, so make sure to spend some time lingering. Take a walk on the many boardwalks throughout and take in the depth of the forest that surrounds you.
While we were at the park, we dropped by one of its restaurants, Cliff House, for lunch. It might seem strange to see southern BBQ served up at a BC park, but give that 20-hour slow-cooked, house-smoked brisket a try, and all your doubts melt away. The fixin’s ain’t bad either and, of course, it helps that they serve up a selection of local craft beer. In our case, a refreshing can of Bourbon Blood Orange Wheat Ale from Bridge Brewing Company worked beautifully with the meal. As a cherry on top, grab a seat by the performance stage beside the restaurant and be serenaded by a young lady with an acoustic guitar.
On our way to our hotel in the Shipyards District, we made a stop at Black Kettle Brewing Company. The patio was buzzing with energy as if the last year and a half never happened. There was a birthday party at one end and the rest of the patio was filled with small groups of people and their furry friends.
Our flight included Blackberry Porter, Session Ale, Cherry Lemonade, and Nitro Oatmeal Stout. Since we’re in the middle of a gorgeous summer, you will notice a pattern of sours, lighter ales, and fruit-forward beers in our flights as we carried on with our trip.
This brewery also serves up handheld bites, such as burgers, tacos, and wings that would go well with their beer. Regrettably, we came to Black Kettle after lunch, so it will have to be next time.
Once we arrived in the Shipyards District, our eyes were drawn to a symbiotic blend of rugged industrial structures with modern-day buildings. New hotels, restaurants, and public spaces have populated the area in the last few years. Outside the beautiful, sparkly Polygon Gallery, children and kids-at-heart dipped their feet in the water feature. Small groups of people dotted the long, wave-like wooden benches. A quick stop at Nemesis Coffee transitioned us from one brew to another. With a Nitro Cold Brew and an Iced Latte in our hands, we set out for a stroll along the waterfront.
Following the signs, we discovered that we were walking along The Spirit Trail, which goes from Deep Cove all the way to Horseshoe Bay. It’s a pedestrian and bike-friendly trail with various access points across the North Shore. As we headed west from Lonsdale Quay Market and through the Waterfront Park, we were treated with a panoramic view of the Vancouver Harbour and Downtown Vancouver. We were then greeted by rows of cute and colourful houseboats docked at the Mosquito Creek Marina, all the while enjoying the cool sea breeze on a warm sunny day.
By this time, we were hungry for more. So we trekked our way back to Lonsdale Quay Market for a snack. The market is home to more than a dozen food outlets so there were plenty to choose from. Craving something sweet, the display case of liege waffles at Craffles shined like a beacon. How does one ever choose just one flavour out of the possible 10? We settled with a trio of waffles and took our snack over to Green Leaf Brewing Co. The sign at their door that says they welcome food from other market vendors makes me really happy. It’s the right attitude in these difficult times!
Sustainability is at the heart of Green Leaf, so they strive to have a minimal environmental impact in the brewing of their beer, kombucha, and ginger ale. I really enjoyed the malty taste in their refreshing Amber Lager, but my favourite was definitely the Lolo Stout. Not only was it delicious on its own with its coffee and chocolate note, but it also paired well with the trio of Peanut Butter, Salted Caramel, and Matcha waffles from Craffles. Stouts tend to be a heavier beer, usually released in the winter, but this was light and airy. I can picture myself sipping it by a campfire on a summer evening.
We kept our car at the hotel parking lot and started venturing northbound on a hilly walk. We almost missed the entrance of Streetcar Brewing because it was tucked away next to the storefront for a kitchen and bath store. The narrow entryway that led us down to a dark basement transported us back to the Prohibition era, but it took us to a spacious tasting room and patio decorated with twinkling lights facing Lolo Lane.
Sipping beer on Streetcar’s patio felt a bit surreal. We knew we were surrounded by businesses and residential buildings in a busy area of town, yet the back alley was peaceful and quiet, almost secluded. We hung out on this patio for a while, fighting over the last sips of our favourites from our beer flight: the Tart Passion Fruit Ale and Guava Gose.
Out front, a group of men laughed and chatted with beer in hand, perhaps a bachelor party–something else made possible with the start of Phase 3!
We might’ve been a bit ambitious when we decided to walk 12 blocks uphill for dinner. Working up a “drinkatite” and appetite, we arrived at Lonsdale Bridgedeck, part of Bridge Brewing, and grabbed a seat on their outdoor patio.
I’m usually not a gin person, but the citrus and juniper berry note in the Lemon Gin Saison made it almost cocktail like, and we were definitely in a full-on summer vacation mood after sipping the PrimeTime Tropical.
Beer always goes well with handheld food. At Bridgedeck, their Crunch Wings were true to its name — crunchy, crispy, and coated with just the right amount of seasoning and sauce. They have very interesting flavours, too. We went with Korean Sweet & Spicy and Cumin & Szechuan Pepper. Both had a hint of spice and heat that went down easily with a gulp of beer. And I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I absolutely loved the Veggie Taco in the Taco Trio. The roasted sweet potato and paneer made great taco toppings. Why I haven’t seen that before?!
Walking downhill to our hotel was an easier feat. We even stopped at the Fun Alley for a quick snap, walked right past a 20-people lineup at Earnest Ice Cream, and continued on until we reached the sliding doors of Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier.
We woke up bright and early the next morning and drove to the easternmost part of North Vancouver: Deep Cove. A branch of the Burrard Inlet facing Indian Arm, it is the traditional territory of the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations. Deep Cove is well known and popular for outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking. Staring at the glistening water and rows and rows of kayaks, we joined six other participants on a three-hour Deep Cove Explorer Tour with Deep Cove Kayak.
The rocking motion of the kayak, the swooshing sound of the water, the warmth from the sun…there’s something cathartic and therapeutic about being in a kayak. Over the three hours, we spotted harbour seals, bald eagles, and sea stars. Our friendly guide, Lauren, also provided us with lots of tidbits about the area. It was satisfying to paddle across the inlet to reach as far north as Raccoon Island, then over to the Jug Island Beach (which is in Belcarra!). Did I mention we were rewarded with a fluffy doughnut each from Honey Doughnut during our break at Jug Island Beach? Totally worth the workout! As we returned, I was in awe of the sheer number of kayaks and paddleboards heading back to shore after a morning enjoying the water–like birds flocking back to the coop.
We needed to fuel up after the morning workout and our next destination was perfect for that. Nestled in a nearby business park, Deep Cove Brewers & Distillers has a charming patio space lined with trees, and a tasting room surrounded by wood barrels. The juxtaposition of the elegant entrance and rustic farmhouse furniture makes the space very unique. There was a group of office workers taking a lunch break, a few friends catching up over lunch and beer, and others simply having a relaxing Monday afternoon.
The Passionfruit Orange Guava (aka POG) Sour had the perfect balance of tartness and tropical fruit note. The Nitro Crawl Stout was also delicious. The Cucumber Pilsner was refreshing with a surprisingly prominent cucumber flavour. And let’s not forget their tasty Lobster Roll! The table next to us ordered one for each person. It’s that good!
Next, we went to the original location of Bridge Brewing. By now we have sampled a few of their beers, so we beat the norm and ordered a pint each of Side Cut IPA and Wunderbar Kolsch. Side Cut was the first BC rendition of the popular North East IPA style and it’s worthy of an encore. The hazy beer was creamy, with a strong aroma of grapefruit and tangerine, and the perfect amount of hop flavour.
The rush hour traffic zooming along Main Street combined with a hopping Happy Hour crowd on the patio made for sense of normalcy at Wildeye Brewing. Before this trip, I had saved an Instagram post about Wildeye’s “Rainbow Flight” so I made sure to order that. With the alluring hue of pink, orange, purple, and green, the Rainbow Flight was more than a feast for the eyes. The addition of blue curacao in the cocktail-inspired Blue Margarita from the local Sons of Vancouver not only made the beer green, but it also enhanced the citrus peel note in this kettled gose. I also became a fan of their Limoncello Sour.
Their food menu was also very appealing. Both items we ordered were spot on. The Gyoza were crispy on the outside with juicy fillings, and the ginger soy sauce was tasty and reminded me of teriyaki sauce with a hint of spice. The tacos were fully loaded, with lots of toppings. Once again, I was blown away by the vegan Fungi Taco that was packed with flavours and what seemed like buckets of mushrooms.
You wouldn’t know it’s a Monday evening if you were sitting next to us at Tap and Barrel Shipyards District. The patio was full and the hockey game was playing in the dining room; the cheers were deafening whenever the Canadiens scored or triumphantly blocked a shot. This familiar (yet strange) atmosphere was intoxicating.
Tap and Barrel has an extensive craft beer menu, divided into different styles so there’s something for everyone. With the direct sunset view of the Vancouver Harbour, Mr. and I sipped our 33 Acres Experiment Mezcal Gose and BREWHALL x Phillips Sunset Stranger Sour. We truly had the best seats on the patio!
The Crispy Humboldt Squid, along with fried banana peppers, made excellent beer food. The acidity in everything was appetite-inducing and addictive. We loved how balanced the Hot Honey Calabrese Pizza was (we learned to drizzle honey on our homemade pizza going forward) and the texture of the dough was perfect.
After dinner, we took a short stroll around Shipyards District and stopped at Welcome Parlour for some ice cream. They, too, have a flight option that allows you to sample multiple flavours. The vegan chocolate orange ice cream was surprisingly tasty.
Tomahawk Restaurant has been an institution in the area since the 20s. I remember watching it featured on Triple-D on TV a number of years ago. Between the collection of Indigenous artifacts and the water feature with countless rubber rucks, the interior decor captured my attention.
Our jaws literally dropped when our order of Mixed Grill arrived at our table. We shouldn’t be surprised by the size of it when the menu description started with “nine generous slices of Yukon style bacon,” yet we couldn’t believe how much food there was on the plate. Tomahawk prides itself on its Yukon style bacon and they have every right to. It looks like ham (think Canadian bacon) but still has all the characteristics of sliced bacon. I went on to order myself an Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon with a side of Pancakes. Safe to say, we started our last day in North Vancouver with a bang.
We had three more breweries to visit on this day, and they all have great patios. We love the feel of AstroTurf on our feet at North Point Brewing. We hadn’t had a Hefe for a while so Banana Pancakes was a perfect addition to our flight. A children’s cooking class was being let out next door and, as we people watched, Mr. and I debated which sour was better. Mr. liked the funk in Beaches as Kiwi but I much preferred the combination of peach, pineapple, and mango in Tropic Like It’s Hot.
Over at Beere Brewing, their staff had fun naming their beers. You will find cheeky names like “Flamango” for their mango milkshake IPA, but you will also see random head-scratchers such as “Sitcom Reference.” Here, Mood Ring definitely won our hearts. The hazy double dry-hopped sour was very balanced with layers of flavours. I would’ve liked to try their rice lager, Rice is Nice, but it’s sold out on tap–which gives me one more reason to return to North Vancouver for another brewery hop.
At our final brewery stop, House of Funk Brewing brought me a brew vs. brew dilemma because they also serve up espresso from their own roasted coffee beans. I solved it with the classic Joyce solution of ordering both. Funk Juice is a series of smoothie sours that they produce. The pineapple coconut was absolutely delicious and rightfully named because it was really juicy. Also, kudos to them for collaborating with Pink Boots Society (PBS) to brew Wallonia as a salute to women in the beer industry. A portion of the proceeds from Wallonia goes directly to the PBS Scholarship Fund to support the professional development of women in brewing.
In addition to the 14 spots on the North Shore where we can experience local craft beer, North Vancouver has also designated 7 alcohol allowed zones so you can consume alcohol outdoors from 11 am to dusk. It includes Victoria Park West, Shipbuilders Square, and Cates Deck by Lonsdale Quay Market. Did Mr. and I have a favourite North Shore brewery in mind? Perhaps. Does it matter? Not really, because the best part of this trip is getting on Vancouver’s North Shore Ale Trail, and trying them all!
Joyce Lam has been a food blogger in Vancouver since 2009, writing at VanFoodies.com and sharing her food adventures on social media @vanfoodies. She sets out to discover delightful eats across Greater Vancouver, find joys in hearty home-cooking, and celebrate local food and beverage producers. A marketing consultant by day, and a food blogger by night, Joyce is a petite girl with a big appetite. Her foodie motto is “I’ll try anything once.”