As an advocate of trying new things and a lover of sampling, there was no doubt I would have to make a trip down to “Craft Beer Market” for their 6 glass beer flights. Like me, my guest today, also enjoys unique brews and isn’t appose to having a pint or two at 11:00am in the morning. Having heard good things, and seeing all the pictures I was excited to go.
I do not visit the Olympic Village often, as I find parking there frustrating. With patience you can probably find a free spot in one of the many corners, around one of the many blocks. Though out of sheer connivence we parked at the pay for parking under the “Urban Fare”, and had a quick stroll across the way.
I have never seen the “Craft Beer Market” since it opened and its hoarding came down, so was in awe of the sheer size of the place. With only the word “craft” posted on its awning, you may not immediately conclude its existence as a restaurant. It looked like a large cabin with its dark red panels and its metal steps leading up to the door. You don’t enter through the main entrance, but use the secondary set of doors to the left.
The space opens up with vaulted ceilings and spacious seating. Their lead in is a collection of metal beer barrels, stacked three columns high and many rows deep, each labelled. They were a mix of fan favourites like “Sapporo” and “Heineken”; and local beers from breweries like “Russell” and “Granville Island”. Backing the hostess podium is a windowed look at the journey of your beer; from barrel to pipe to tap.
The dining area is roomy with ample seats between booths, high top tables and stools surrounding their 360 degree bar. Several flat screens were mounted, every seat allowed a view of the game. My guest pointed out the waste he saw in the empty walls. Empty walls that could have been better utilized with a drop down projection screen. A great way to entice extra bottoms in seats for major sporting events. Though it should be noted that they classify themselves as a restaurant first and foremost, and a bar by nature. Looking around everything was done big. Take your standard sized dining room, your standard kitchen space, your standard bar length, and your standard staff roster; and quadruple the size of each. They were well equipped to host large gatherings, and every guest coming their way with or without a reservations.
The washrooms were a trek down a spiralling staircase and past a windows that gave you look at the restaurant’s foundation. An lot, empty, outside a few beer barrels gathered in several groupings. I was surprised to discover that the restaurant stood on wooden stumps grounded into cement.
As lunch became happy hour the sounds of the mellow music overhead was layered with more laugher and louder mummers of conversation. The staff were a friendly bunch. With ample able hands all guest got the attention they wanted and each server was able to drop by for multiple check ins. Everyone on shift was happy and seemed keen on being here. All the servers and bartenders were dress coded in collared short sleeved button ups with aprons around their waists. The management stood out in more colourful and formal attire.
We both ordered beer flights, choosing the features off the menu insert. One, as a taste around the world and the other, a more local assortment. I was thrilled to have my flight presented on wooden a paddle shaped like a bootle. With room for 6 glasses as apposed to your usual 4. They were even arranged according to their listing on the menu.
I had the “6 pack around the world sampler”, which is only available from January 6th to the 12th. I was sold when our server claimed that this collection was full of fruity flavours. Though with the six I didn’t really travel too far around the world, with three stops at Belgium and two in Canada. I would have also liked to see a more precise and even pouring, with the careful avoidance of foam on top.
“Mill Street lemon tea beer” from Toronto. A refreshing beer infused with a blend of orange pekoe and earl grey teas and real lemon juice. At 4.9% it tasted like ginger ale with its flavour and fizziness. Naturally this was the easiest to drink and my favourite.
“Stiegal Goldbrau” from Austria. Brewed with 100% barley malt, whole flower hops and pure spring water from the Alps. As it’s description promised you could really make our its full natural lager taste. One of the heavier beers claiming to be fruity.
“Fruli” from Belgium. A lightly hopped Belgian white beer with pure strawberries. It was very refreshing with the taste of strawberry clearly coming through. This has always been one of my favourite beers.
“Liefmans Fruitesse” from Belgium. A beer blend maturing for 18 months on fresh cherries, before it’s blended with the natural juices of strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, and juniper berry. This resembled punch with its reddish purple colour and the ice cubes floating on top; and it definitely tasted like it.
“Mort Subite Lambic” from Belgium. Brewed according to the centuries old recipe of spontaneously fermenting lambic yeast, malt, wheat, and hops. It is ripened in oak barrels.
“Cannery Blackberry Porter” from Penticton BC. Rich in malted barleys, hops, and all natural pure blackberries. Dark and thick this was the heaviest of the six.
My guest choose the “6 pack what the locals drink sampler”. Also presented on paddles for a limited time.
“Main Street Pilsner” from Vancouver BC. Made from Noble hops.
“Mt. Begbie Cream Ale” from Revelstoke BC. With a subtle honey flavour that finishes with a crisp hop edge.
“Vancouver Island Herman’s Dark” from Victoria BC. Apparently this one is consistently recognized as one of the world’s best dark lagers, with its malt body.
“Whistler Black Tusk” from Whistler BC. A smokey flavour balanced with nutty chocolate and just a hint of fruit.
“Four Winds Pale Ale” from Delta BC. Comes with an aroma of citrus, fruit, pine, and floral hops.
“Coal Harbour Powell IPA” from Vancouver BC. Big hops and big malt combined with an aroma of ruby red grapefruit and pine.
My next glass was a toss up. I inquired about the most original and unique beer they had, and our server sought out the advise of her bartenders. I was presented with two tasters and was given the option to try others if I didn’t quite find what I liked. Her no pressure reassurance allowed me to find a glass I enjoyed. I appreciate their variety of glassware; to be able to present your choice beer with its own branded glass. Sitting in front of the bar allowed me to admire the taller glasses for lighter drinks, rounded ones for cocktails, and wider and heftier ones for portions larger than a pint.
My guest was debating between the fish tacos or having a burger. I reassured his latter choice as you don’t have beer with seafood. Though today all Oceanwise menu items were $2 off. He ended up having the “Inferno burger”. It came with an 8oz burger party, a jalapeño and poblano pepper purée, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and a chipotle aioli. The layering of spicy elements, meant this was for those who liked a kick in their food. On top of this my guest requested some hot sauce with his side of fries. Hot sauce that was house made and came at an extra cost. In comparison to mine burger below, his didn’t look like much.
There was so much I wanted try and so much more that sounded delicious, but I was sold on a name like the “20 napkin burger”. And got excited reading there would be a mini burger atop of a larger burger just for garnish! This pile was two 8oz burger patties, 4oz of pulled pork, crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato, raw red onion, pickles, a mustard sauce, and a beer infused cheese. I had my choice of sides from soups, salads and fries; to sweet potato fries, poutine, and Mac and cheese at an extra cost. I chose their “Craft House Soup”, made with jalapeño, cheddar, and their village house ale; this over their root vegetable soup special. Only to finish drinking after two sips. I found the heavy and zesty nature of the soup clashed with the beers. Just looking at the burger I knew there would be no way I could hold it together, even with two hands. Half it’s ingredients were already falling out from between the buns, and it’s sauces were ever dripping. This would be one glorious and delicious mess, one I had every intention of finishing; but fell short as the beer emptied from my glasses. I ended up packing up more than half to go, which served as my dinner hours later. Though now I proceeded with caution, a fork and butter knife in each hand. After much sawing, our server offered me the use of a steak knife. With it I was able to make my way through half this beast of a burger. It was hearty, meaty, and oh so satisfying; with the presence of crispy thick cut bacon and tender stands of pulled pork. Though I found the two beef patties were well over cooked and hard to bite into and chew down on. Though the generous helping of sauce did help to soften the meat.
I was most impressed when one of the mangers approached our table to start a conversation. She wanted to check in on our experience and thank us for choosing them for lunch. She spoke proudly of her position and the restaurant she worked in. She went into detail on the expanding area and their unique concept and growing brand. I was able to give her a highlight of the same enjoyable experience I just wrote about above. It is refreshing to hear when leadership understands it is about the people, and care about what their customers want. With all the choices out there it doesn’t hurt to show appreciation for patronage.
Would I come back? – Yes. As I mentioned earlier there was so much more to the menu that I wanted to try. Not to mention all the beer, over 100 on tap. I was drawn in with all the items that were cooked in and infused with boozy elements. Dark beer braised beef, braised for 10 hours. Slow roasted chicken with “Phillips Blue Buck” beer from BC. And I especially want to come back for their “Fastfood sushi”, cheese burger and fries wrapped in bacon and presented sushi style. How fun.
Also worth noting, once a month they host a Brewmaster dinners. This is when they partner up with local breweries for dinner and beer pairings. A carefully crafted four course meal that compliments beer and food for $60. The goal, to compare and contrast beer while maintaining a balance of flavours between it and food.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. If you can get past the inconvenient parking and out of the way location, the restaurant will have you coming back for more. Ample room to take on large parties. And ample seating to allow those dining to enjoy their time at their own pace. The food was hearty and highly satisfying pub classics, done with curious twists. It was brought to you by a most dedicated and jovial team. My favourite cuisine is pub fare, so to date this is now my favourite bar.
Don’t deny your cravings.