Granville Island Brewery Review, Canada (Reviewed by Kyle Cameron)


Over the false river from downtown Vancouver, Granville Island brewery is a tasting room come eatery with a store attached to the side of it. It has a cool local market atmosphere and I would recommend anyone staying in Van to go check out Granville Island in general, it really is a cool little place full of markets, little restaurants, liquor store, several shops to wander around and all in a tight little area. All just 5 mins bus from downtown.
Review based on 5 star system 2.5 stars = average/middle of the road, not bad, but not good. Un-eventful. Out to 5 stars which is absolute perfection, in all my years drinking, this meets the top standards. And 1 star, which means I couldn’t even finish it. Absolute rubbish. I will not tend to give out 1 or 5 stars very often.

- Close to Downtown
- Brewery makes some gems
- Tour wasn’t incredible but was cheap
- Granville Island is worth your time
- Burgers are gooooooodd
- Lions Winter Ale is “on point son”
- Brewery gets 3.5 stars overall from me

Granville Island is not actually an island, but a small section of reclaimed land build out of old swamp land just above sea level. It used to be called Industrial Island during the Second World War, and was where a lot of the war factories were based. The brewery is actually built into one of the old warehouses as is most of the buildings in the area. The brewery itself has moved away to meet production requirements and as such, there is only a small little brewery there that creates one-offs and small run seasonal beers. Those beers are sold often only very locally and in the shop itself, and if they gain success, the brewery looks to expand the beer into full production at the other brewery. So some little gems can be found and bought only at the small shop right there. A bit of a treat for us beer folk.

We paid for a tour in the shop on arrival which was scheduled to start at 2pm, the tour was fairly generic, went through a bit of the history, got to look at malts and hops etc, learnt a little bit about basic brewing and went for a walk through the brew house. It would be worth your time if you want to learn how beer is made, but if you’ve already frequented a few forums and brewing websites, chances are he won’t tell you anything new.

After the tour we all got the chance to try 3 beers afterwards in a private little tasting room. The beers were the full scale production versions but the man was reasonably knowledgeable and could handle most of my “What is the percentage of wheat malt to pale malt in the wheat beer?” type questions. The tour ended and we casually finished our beers while chatting which was a nice plus (didn’t have to slam back everything and the guide even topped up our glasses before he left).

So the tour all up took an hour and a half, and we decided to get some food in the tasting room/eatery next door. The restaurant area is set in front of glass walls which wrap around half of the restaurant, behind which is the small brew house. Off to the other side past the bar area is the shop, which stocks all manner of beer and brewery paraphernalia.

We both got the burgers and fries, which were well priced and incredible. I have to recommend the food based on the burger itself, and the other people at the bench we were sitting at seemed to be enjoying their food just as much. I literally heard “I don’t want this burger to end” from a guy two seats over, to give you an idea.

Right, the beers.

What I will say is that Granville Island is a large brewery that serves beer across Canada, and as such, most of their styles are made to suit the 90% of craft beer drinkers, but they are all still much more flavourful across the range than most big NZ craft producers. Very clean and tidy beers, no off flavours or faults and they are not entirely hop based either, unlike most North American breweries, which rely on violent hop flavour to sell their beers, Granville is much more balanced across the range, which is refreshing even though I am a certified “hop head”.

Lions Winter Ale:
ABV: 5.5%, IBU: 22

Pours with moderate carbonation, dark brown colour. A seasonal made only for the winter months, this beer is a must try. Polarising in its style, with many calling the beer “vanilla extract in a can” with both endearing and condescending reviews. I am on the positive polar. While I drink the beer now, I think it reminds me of everything a cold winter should have. Chocolate and vanilla, warming alcohol, cool beer. And while doing all this, is very sessionable due to hopping which cancel out the sweet notes and do not make a perceived presence of their own. Not overpowering in any one flavour, not sweet (in fact it’s eerily dry for the style) and to me remains the standard of winter warmers. Liquid cookie dough and no matter what you think you like, you must try this and make your own mind up.

4.5 stars

Infamous IPA:
ABV: 6%, IBU: 55

Pours like an IPA should, moderate carbonation and a light to amber colour, light lacing down the glass. What I will say is that this beer is very good, citrus and hop driven fruity flavours from all the American hops, a nice nose for sure. It’s easier to drink than most of the more bitter IPA’s and is a much tamer version all in all. The hopping is done to style for sure, but isn’t over done, which can be a hallmark of some breweries in North America for sure. They just keep loading in hops, to the point where all semblance of balance has gone somewhere they can no longer find. I believe there is a place for those beers, and that is double IPA’s. In the case of the humble 5-7.5% IPA, balanced hops should match well with the balanced malt and alcohol. The better the balance while still keeping the hop hunters happy, the better the beer. So I give this beer a good rating based on that.

3.5 stars

Hey Day Hefewiezen:
ABV: 5%, IBU: 15

Cloudier than Wellington on a good day (that means it’s pretty cloudy), this beer exibits one flavour compound aggressively on the nose, and that is banana. A banana bomb here people, but don’t get me wrong, it is a lovely beer. Well balanced, no obvious hop aroma to speak of, and apparently some guy in lederhosen came in one day and said he was german and that he thought it was the best wheat beer he’s tried outside of the land of strudel and bratwurst. I mostly agree with the praise and I thought it was a very nicely made beer and if wheat beers tickle your kettle, then you’ll love it for sure.

4 stars

2015 Barley Wine:
ABV: 11%, IBU: 60

One of the gruntier beers in the line-up. Pours with minimal head (typical for a barley wine) and very light lacing. Supposedly aged in Bourbon casks although the bourbon influence seems tame. Off tan to darker brown colour, very malt driven nose with slight hoppier edge, but no mistake, this beer is all about grains. Punchy flavour with a dash of heat from the alcohol (somewhat expected given the ABV). Caramel and stone fruit with oak influence vanilla characteristics in good supply as well. I do also notice a few fusel alcohol aromas, but this is a young barley wine, a few years and those aromas will dissipate. It had a good balanced weight with the hopping doing well to cancel out the sweet malts. A well-made beer with a good long term option for cellaring.

3 stars

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