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Calabash x North Point Brewery

I did not know that downtown had its own brewery. I have driven past the property on many occasions and never knew what was holding the space within. So am happy to have checked it out today and learned that North Point Brewery operates out of this spacious Bentall work space. Thus, furthering Vancouver’s reputation for micro breweries and craft pours.

The space is bright and inviting with lush greenery to liven glass and metal up. There is a diversity of seating with a living room setting that includes couches, wicker chairs, and bean bags. There are high top bars facing the windows for a walk by traffic view.

And nooks that include curtains you can draw for a more private occasion. The latter was ideal for our trio, and that is where we were seated. We would eat so much that we jokingly contemplated the possibility of drawing said curtains, and taking a midday nap. Siesta!

In an effort to offer more for those looking for an after work destination, and a chill spot to unwind at by Burrard Skytrain station, North Point has teamed up with Calabash Bistro (a Jamaican Bistro originally located on Carrall street in Gastown). The goal is to bring a dynamic food and drink menu that perfectly pairs punchy and spicy Jamaican flavours with the perfect IPA, lager, ales, and sours. So we were here today to check out the entire offerings of both. Noting that Happy Hour is from 2-5pm with $2 off beers, $1 off ounce wine, and 15% off all food items and combo specials.

This sort of team up is already seeing great success with Calabash’s collaboration with Copper Penny Distillers in North Vancouver. There, they serve a unique bistro menu that pairs with Copper Penny’s small batch gin. Where you have refined Jamaican flavours that play off the floral and herbaceous essence of gin. Whereas here, downtown Vancouver, you have pub favourites and hand held snacks that pairs well with beers.

We would pretty much try the entire menu starting with North Point’s beers. They have 4 on tap and 4 in tall cans. And the best way to learn more about the former is to order one of their flights, served on a square board.

The Life of Riley IPA is your typical hoppy IPA with its telltale bitter after taste. The Irish Red Ale is full bodied with a juicy and warming finish. The Berry the Hatchet Sour is a tart, lip puckering sour with red fruit on the nose. And the Lite Lager is easily the most crushable, as its name suggests.

Calabash has only started catering the food at North Point Brewery 2 week ago (during our time of visit), and already it seen like a great match, with a well conceived and perfectly paired food to drink menu.

The Mixed chips and dip platter is a must. A collection of chips and a variety of dips, ideal for group sharing and light grazing. Plantain, cassava, potato chips, and tortilla. Accompanied by a mango and tomato salsa, hummus, and guacamole. The combination of chips to dip makes this platter exciting to pick through. I particularly enjoyed the starchy root vegetables, finding the perfect crunch to best gouge dips with.

The hummus was spiced with curry. You get the same thick whip you would expect from a mash of chickpeas, but with a completely new taste profile.

Similarly, it was the familiar base, taste, and texture of the guacamole: chunky and creamy; but when seasoned with Jamaican spice it become a whole new dish.

My favourite dip was the sweet tomato and mango salsa as the fresh agent to the assortment.

You can’t visit a Jamaican themed eatery without having some Jamaican patties. Very popular in Toronto, they haven’t quite picked up steam here yet. Considering how good these were here, they should be soon.

Available in 3 varieties with 3 different choices in sauces. Jamaican ketchup, jerk mayo, and/or mango tamarind. We would try all of each. I suggest getting all 3, but if you can only pick one, check out my suggested pairings below.

The Chicken curry was surprisingly moist for larger chunks of shredded chicken meat. The curry flavour was minor and paired best with the mango tamarind for a sweet and tangy finish that flowed well with the spicer seasoning of the patty.

I found the beef dry and bland by comparison, which was definitely not what I was expecting. Here, the ketchup was the ideal match, injecting a stronger sweet and tangy tomato flavour that ground beef is all too familiar with.

The vegetarian Lentil option was the most filling and the most flavourful with more depth of spice. Here, I would recommend the jerk mayo with its creaminess to inject some lightness and a refreshing element.

A great way to sort through all the Jamaican spices used by Calabash is to order them over popcorn, as another great bar nibble. The cilantro green seasoning gave you a tart tang. The berere spice gave you a nasal heat. And the jerk was equal parts zesty lime and spicy chilli.

And if you like the spice and want to bring some to flavour your food at home, you can do just that with their seasonings sold by the portable tin.

Another classic bar snack given a Jamaican flare is their Jerk wings, available dressed in the same sauces that accompanied the patties above. Jamaican ketchup, jerk mayo, or mango tamarind.

For a handheld more crispy and crunchy look to the Spiced pork rinds. The uneven ridges holds the seasoning spice real well. These were one of the best restaurant pork rinds I have had to date.

And if you are in need of something more filling to accompany your beer(s), they also have sandwiches, which they call Grilled Panini Choppas. Each order comes with more root chips, because you cannot have enough! Best chips period.

The Roasted curry vegetable included spinach, jerk mayo, mango tamarind chutney, and goat cheese. I liked the contrast of the heavy feta with the acidic curry for a more exciting flavour pairing.

The Jerk bacon included brie, green onions, jerk mayo, tomato, and spinach. I could have used more of the aforementioned veggies to help balance out the saltiness of the bacon here.

In contrast, I found the Curry chicken sweet and similar to a curry puff. Curry chicken, roasted vegetables, and spinach.

They also offer salads, for those interested, we didn’t try it, so I guess we weren’t. (Hahaha)

And they don’t have a dessert option, but if you want to end in sweet, they do sell gummies by the bags for an easy grab and go option.

In closing, this is such a fun collaboration, as you don’t see many places offering authentic Jamaican cuisine, let alone a place pairing it so well with beers. A unique spot for happy hour worth checking out.

North Point Brewing Cafe
1025 Dunsmuir St, Vancouver, BC V7X 1M5

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