Remember the good ol’ days when commuting to Maple Ridge meant a toss-up between getting stuck at an occasionally malfunctioning swing bridge or a potential hour-long wait for a 15-minute ferry ride across the Fraser River? Wait, did I say “the good ol’ days?” Scratch that — those ferry lineups were headache-inducing and that swing bridge was a cause of high blood pressure.
But, for those who knew the hidden gem that is Maple Ridge, it was worth it for a weekend trip to check out Bruce’s Country Market on the other side of the Albion ferry or the Haney Farmer’s Market downtown, to go for a hike in Golden Ears Park or a paddle on Pitt Lake, to grab some cheesecake and a samosa at GM Restaurant, or to watch the mighty Beast Horse Clock rear itself on the strike of the hour.
Thankfully, all these amazing Maple Ridge institutions still exist (sadly the Beast Horse rears no more) and since the construction of the Golden Ears Bridge and Pitt River Bridge in 2009 there’s been a new wave of innovative businesses bringing the culinary scene to a whole other level:
- Humble Roots, tucked away in the farmland of Maple Ridge, designing seasonal menus to optimize harvest times and utilizing ethically sourced, high quality suppliers. Just thinking about the Farmer’s Skillet breakfast has my mouth watering.
- Gratia Bakery bakes delectable desserts and pastries while serving up cups of fresh roasted mornin’ joe. Try the lavender latte. It may surprise even the most incredulous flavoured-coffee skeptics.
- Big Feast, which focuses on a menu consisting of locally grown, organic ingredients and also has a number gluten free-options.
- Kingfishers, situated right on the mighty Fraser River, has arguably one of the best views you’re going to find at a restaurant. You can sit and reminisce about riding the Albion ferry.
- Hopcott Farms, where you can buy local, naturally raised meat and produce, and sit on their patio enjoying a delicious meal from their on-site bistro. A couple slices of their house-made fudge somehow always end up in my shopping basket.
- The Black Sheep Pub, a great spot to catch a game on the tube or sip away some of your joint-and-muscle pain from feeling like a kid again at the Wild Play adventure course just down the street.
- The Reach, with new local owners who have revitalized the menu and atmosphere of this long-time Maple Ridge establishment.
- Lupita Mexican Foods, where you can chow down on authentic Mexican style street tacos and then grab some tortillas and salsa from their grocery offering to bring home.
- Golden Ears Cheescrafters creating farm-made artisan cheese utilizing Jersey cows from the neighbouring family farm. They also have a country kitchen with a charming eating area, cooking classes and, my favourite, their annual beer fest which brings in some of the best in BC craft beer.
Actually, while we’re on the topic of BC craft beer, we mustn’t forget about the burgeoning brewery scene that Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows has to offer. This is especially important to mention considering the big news. What big news you ask? Well, Maple Ridge now has its own official Ale Trail courtesy of the BC Ale Trail.
What is a BC Ale Trail? The Ale Trail puts a focus on the local craft beer scene, but also helps locals and visitors experience some of the best outdoor adventures, culinary treats and urban activities that the city has to offer.
Unofficially, this trail has been going for a few years but now the secret is out. Maple Meadows, Ridge Brewing and Foamers Folly have all been open since 2015 with the newcomer, Silver Valley Brewing, opening its doors in 2017. Each brewery brings its own unique vibe and beer offering to the local craft beer scene.
MAPLE MEADOWS BREWING
Maple Meadows is a tiny 10-person capacity tasting room. It could be considered more of a nano-brewery than a microbrewery. But size doesn’t matter, right? They have 10 taps going at any time and they focus on experimenting with new flavours and styles while still keeping some standard beer on tap at all times. They don’t can or bottle their beer, and finding them on taps outside of their tasting room is rare. That means you need to go straight to the source to indulge in the Maple Meadows experience.
Ridge Brewing, which is just a hop, skip and a stumble from Maple Meadows, has an open-concept tasting room that puts you right in the middle of the brewing action. This family-friendly spot brings in craft beer enthusiasts from the local community and abroad. If you’re there on the first Tuesday of each month you can also watch, or participate in, an Open Mic night. When mixed with delicious craft beer this can be entertaining in a number of different ways, as I’m sure you can imagine.
SILVER VALLEY BREWING
Opened two years ago by avid home brewer Kevin Fulton and his wife Brandi, Silver Valley is producing deliciously well-thought-out beer and also dishing up delectable ‘sammiches’ and shared plates. Even if you’re not a fan of beer they also serve wine, cider, coffee, tea and soda. Something for everyone. Silver Valley Brewing is located on the bustling 224th street in Maple Ridge and surrounded by some great local amenities such as: Memorial Peace Park, Haney Place Mall and the ACT Art’s Centre, to name a few. It’s a great area to cruise, check out local shops and have a pint of ale.
Located in the neighbouring city of Pitt Meadows, Foamers’ Folly is the hot spot smack dab in the middle of town. Only a few short steps from the train tracks, Foamers’ name is a shout-out to the train obsessed history of Pitt Meadows (check out the train museum across the street). With 20 taps behind the bar there’s always something new and exciting to try in their tasting room, but don’t worry, they always keep the classics flowing. They’re a family-friendly spot with a great patio and tasty food options (try the pizza from Artista, trust me). Foamers’ Folly is a must visit if you’re in Pitt Meadows. Just try not to get stuck at the train crossing.
The ferry is now decommissioned and the swing bridge swings no longer but the new bridges have exposed British Columbia’s sixth oldest community to the rest of the Lower Mainland. Now everybody has painless passage to the community-centric businesses, farming and culinary history, and craft beer boom that is Maple Ridge.
See y’all at the official Launch of the Maple Ridge Ale Trail on Sept 21st at the Haney Farmers’ Market. I’ll be sippin’ on the special collaborative Alouette Berry Saison brewed by all four breweries to commemorate the occasion. Hopefully you will be too. Cheers!