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Brewery & The Beast 2024

2023 was my very first Brewery & The Beast. It was a hot and sunny day in late July and I wrote the article to feature my learned tips and best practices as a first timer. It focused on how to maximize the experience, whilst beating the heat.

However, this year we had a whole new set of obstacles to work around. Event organizers decided to move up the date of this outdoor barbecue extravaganza. They scheduled it for the beginning of June, hoping for more temperate weather, but getting a torrential downpour instead. So this is my survival guide and tips for Brewery and The Beast 2024, the waterlogged edition.

The show goes on and tickets are non-refundable, and non-cheap. So naturally, myself, and everyone else bundled up and prepared to face the elements. We were determined to get our money’s worth of all the barbecued meats and cooled beverages our tickets included.

Right off the bat, it goes without saying, dress appropriately for the weather. There is very little shelter and the food booths are spaced far apart. It requires a lot of walking across the uncovered areas, meaning you cannot avoid getting wet.

Umbrellas are not recommended for safety reasons. I almost got clipped in the eye by a few. Ponchos work best for all around water protection.

Here, I learned the important difference between water resistant and waterproof. You definitely need the latter. The former keeps you dry on a surface level, but the fabric will eventually absorb all the fluid seeping outside, in. Think waterproof jacket and pants like you’d wear snowboarding or hiking. The emphasis here is on the pants. Many of us think a jacket is enough to keep warm and dry, myself included. Similarly wet socks and cold feet are a mood killer. Cast aside trying to look good in pouring rain; trust me, your time will be cut short as a result. Instead, dress in layers and keep warm and dry.

On the same note, travel hands free. A fanny pack, small side bags, and pockets in coats are ideal. You need both of your hands. One to hold up your travelling table board/eating apparatus, and the other to grab more food and more drink to load on to it.

Travel in pairs and/or attend with a friend. Honestly, this event is more fun with company. And there is so much food that you can’t begin to try to eat one of everything yourself. It is better share all bites and have more variety in the long run.

All the food and drinks are included with your ticket. And not just beer like the event name suggests, but Craft Beer, Cocktails, Cider, Seltzers, Hard Teas, Wine and plenty of non-alcoholic options are included as well. Pour sizes vary between type of spirits/alcohol. Beer, Seltzer and Hard Tea’s = 12oz; Cider = 10oz; Wine = 3oz; Spirits = 0.5oz. With no restrictions on going back for more.

There were over 55 Vancouver restaurants and chefs participating in the rain. In good conditions it is hard to get to them all, so in this pelting weather we had to keep our choices concise. Sadly, I didn’t even make a dent in all that was available. Therefore, this is a short list of a few of the memorable bites I enjoyed, and the booths I visited.

Admittedly, I even skipped the longest line belonging to Elisa Steak and Luigi & Sons butchery, which speaks volumes to their products. Instead, I headed right to the front to see what they offered and then decided if I wanted to spend 10 minutes in the downpour. I missed out here, but did taste from other restaurants that are Michelin rated and recommended.

Each vendor was tasked with cooking their chosen dishes over live fire, using locally raised proteins. Most of it sourced from Two Rivers Meat, as a huge event sponsor with stations in VIP, as well as their own booth and grill running in the main event area.

As we did last year, we came in earlier as a VIP. VIPs get their own covered lounge with cushioned and upholstered seating. They have access to their own private bar that served cocktails, beer, and wine throughout the day. And enjoyed premium air-conditioned washroom facilities with minimum waits and the ability to avoid drench porto-potties. VIP ticket holders can come and go from this space as they wish.

This also includes access to 6 food vendors only available in this lounge. Together, a well curated collection of food and drinks only available for VIPs. The latter includes fuller red and white wine pours from Black Stallion of the Napa Valley. A Chardonnay for the seafood options and the bold Cabernet Sauvignon for all the red meat.

Having just celebrated Ardbeg Day, the Saturday before. The Ardbeg Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky team were here now with a smokey cocktail that shimmered with edible glitter. “Glitter in my Grillz” with Ardbeg Wee Beastie, Super Lemon, Mango Syrup, Chia Tea, Angostura Bitters, and Glitter.

Tito’s Vodka had a “Beet The Heat” cocktail with Tito’s Vodka, Super Lime, Grenadine Syrup, Maple Water, Ginger Ale, and Habenero. The spicy heat here was a welcomed warmer.

For VIP eats Holts Café had a delicious Grilled Adobo Glazed Octopus with Calamansi Aioli, Fried Garlic, and Pickled Kohlrabi.

A perfectly prepared, tender tentacle skewer with sinew. Well rotated and grilled on their travel hibachi. They were the firsts to sell out and pack up.

The Two Rivers team were brightening up those waiting in-line with rounds of their beef tallow chocolate chip cookies and beer sausages to snack on. Both separately delicious with sweet and savoury notes, but an unexpected sensation together with meaty salt and sweet dark chocolate chunks.

At the Vianello Hospitality Table they were serving Grilled Academy Farms Water Buffalo Prime Ribeye slices. Served on Bone marrow focaccia toast with smoked water buffalo mozzarella, garlic scape, and a pistachio salsa verde. A full balanced meaty bite that I wanted as a giant flatbread pizza.

And if you ask nicely they will give you one of their many bones to gnaw on.

The team from Wild Blue in Whistler drove down to offer up VIPs Singaporean style black pepper Dungeness crab in shell with garlic, butter, and coriander. I have only heard great things about this restaurant, and I got a glimpse of why today. I have now made a note to visit them the next time I am up in Whistler.

As for their crab sample: I liked the flavours, but found it very challenging to eat in this standing setting. Not to mention how slippery cracking saucy crab in shell is, in the rain.

I liked the diversity of proteins in the VIP section this year, more seafood options and no over lap. At Jinbar they had crispy fried chicken pieces topped with whipped creme fraiche, pickled jalapeno, and a Truffle lumpfish caviar. If was comforting with the familiar nostalgia of fried chicken, yet decadent with the addition of the cream and caviar. I would be happy to order this at their restaurant, which is sadly all the way in Calgary, and too far to travel on a whim.

There were Fanny Bay Oysters shucked raw and also grilled by the Chef’s Table Society of British Columbia. Grilled Oyster with pickled daikon, calamansi aioli and shiso leaf. The tropical flavours and herbs really gave some levity to the richness of the salty and creamy oysters. And having it served warm, preferred, given the chill of the weather.

The Chefs here were also grilling up marinated Lamb Belly with Szechuan, chimichurri, micros, and lemon caviar. Another protein that benefitted from the zesty flavours of herbs for a minty contrast to the gamey meat.

And for dessert the Pie Hole had a collection of their pies made into miniatures as tarts. Available in their decadent Mini Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Pie, the Mini Banana Cream Pie which was my favourite, and their award winning Mini Raspberry Crumble.

When time, VIPs were given a head start into the Main Event. A whole 10 minutes before general admission ticket holders were welcomed in at 2pm.

Once in, I always recommend getting the lay of the land. I suggest making your first stop the restaurants, bars, and cafés that you are most excited about. Do your research to know what you are looking out for. And if there is a line, just head right to the front to see what they have, before you commit the time and your stomach.

This is also a great opportunity to try restaurants that you might not otherwise get a chance to dine in at, or vet the ones that you want to visit one day.

Considering that this is a barbecue and beer festival; I, myself prioritize the meatiest bites from the likes of steakhouses like Atlas Steak & Fish, Elisa Steakhouse, and C-Prime. They all had thick cuts of beef, perfectly grilled as per their reputations.

As I eluded to earlier, if you ask nice, the stations with meat on bone are more than happy to give you one. I was able to snag a tomahawk one from the team at Atlas.

I also like looking out for more unique proteins like octopus, lamb, water buffalo, and the occasional fish. These act as great punctuations to your meal, an easy way to change any flavour or taste. Because sometimes you just need a break from all of that red meat.

Michelin awarded Published on Main had a Smoked and Candied Sablefish topped with Kohlrabi, Turbo Sauce, and a Toasted Yeast Furikake. It was spectacular, an easy to eat mini burrito of sorts. It centred around the well marinated and buttery lush sablefish. Delicious.

Speaking of Michelin restaurants, The Lunch Lady had a Brant Lake Wagyu Bavette with charred scallion & serrano aioli, pickled shallots, and fish sauce caramel. An incredibly tender skewer of meat prepared at the level I expect from this international Asian fusion chain.

Next to Published was the President’s Club at Roger’s Arena. They had a salt cured fish wrap with Whole Grilled Halibut, West Coast Salsa Verde, and Gem Lettuce. Sadly not as exciting as the sablefish before, and you couldn’t help but compare. Although still a lovely and refreshing bite, served on a platter shape like the Canucks logo, circa 1990s. They also had playoff towels for those who asked.

And speaking of towels, event organizers gave out wet towels mid way through. They were a welcomed sight and proved to be better napkins. A lot more effective in the heavy rain than paper ones, so this is another tip. Bring your own cloth napkins and hand towels not only to spot keep your self dry with, but as an effective way to wipe your hands and mouth.

At the Two Rivers Meat stand, they had their famous ribs, splayed out and rotating on a grill. This year you could even enter to win a rib off the rack. Grass Fed & Finished, Dry-Aged Tomahawk Ribeye.

They were also slicing up sections from the longest sausage I’ve ever seen, curled up on the grill.

These Dry-Aged Beef Sausage Coils looked like meaty cinnamon buns. Juicy and zesty as is, but best with a dip in some coarse Dijon mustard for contrast.

Mount Pleasant Provisions had some wonderful Teriyaki Short Ribs in a scallion ginger sauce, over a poppyseed slaw. Tender and chewy ribs. It does takes some finagling, but the meat comes easily off around the bone. They are well known for their big bold Asian fusion flavours, and it came across here. They also brought a few of their vintage furnishings to the event, to really set the mood and make themselves at home.

Anh and Chi had a whole baby pig slowly rotating on the spit to draw you in.

Carved on the spot for their Asian-spiced Whole Roasted Hog Lettuce Wrap with pickled green onions, purple cabbage, daikon, and Rebel BBQ. Server on a whole leaf of lettuce, I would definitely classify this as a healthier option. I just wish I got more flavour from the meat than the greens.

And Jungle Room was right next to them. They too had their own sucking pig over the fire for their Slow Roasted Coconut Suckling Pig, Cabbage Urap, and Sambal Matah. Served shredded as is, with only a bit of deep fried crackling for crunch. I sadly didn’t get much of the coconut or sambal. This I would have liked better over rice with much more of the intended sauce. This bite didn’t do the restaurant justice.

Next, I had to visit my favourite restauranteurs Steph and Kevin of Okini. They were using a large flame to keep themselves warm and to flash cook their Baby back ribs with tomato yakiniku sauce, beni shoga, and micro. This was the heavy handed and rich flavours that their elevated Asian-Japanese restaurant is known for.

Familiar face and Chef Adam Middleton of Arc was keeping busy assembled their Smoked lamb over flat bread with raita samples. This was one of the best balanced bites of the whole event. The creamy sauce brightening up the deep char of the gamey lamb and the chewy flatbread offering a guiding base. This was one that I wanted to go back for more of.

For drinks, I stuck with red wine finding it more complementary to all the meat we were having. And it continued to keep me warm. I am already familiar with, and a fan of Black Sage winery and their big bold reds. I enjoy their Cabernet Franc and their Cabernet Sauvignon. And today got to taste one of their red aged in a whiskey barrel.

My favourite display was the one made by Finely Forged Goods, Leechtown Blacksmiths. They crafted a pyramid out of metal and hung from its various rungs were whole pineapples, whole chickens, and a chains of sausages. All slowly cooking and keeping warm thanks to the shallow fire at the centre of the structure.

And speaking of presentations, the Paella Guys were on location stirring up their giant servings of seafood and vegetable rice. Not only substantial and a delicious side for all this meat, but a spectacle worth catching in itself.

There was so much more to taste, eat and drink. However, the rain only got harder and having to juggle between eating and taking photos and notes, got harder. I eventually gave up and just enjoyed the day for what it was. Rumour has it they will be moving the event back to July next year, opting for overheated asphalt over flooded tents and a tropical downpour.

However, regardless of rain or shine you now have two guides on how to fully enjoy and what you can expect at the next Brewery and The Beast. Be sure to book mark the date as the event always sells out.

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