The reports that Maple Leaf players and personnel are being spotted working on their tans and tweaking their golf swings on the beaches and golf courses around the world can only mean one thing - the NHL regular season is over and this year's battle for Lord Stanley's mug is about to begin.
This is music to the ears of bar and restaurant owners who are preparing for the hordes of thirsty fans who will be gathering together at their favourite local watering holes to slake their thirsts while cheering on their favourite teams.
Historically, for Canadian hockey fans, that has meant gathering in some dark bar around a television, or in front of a fuzzy image projected on a screen, while drinking macro-lager swill, but times have changed since I had hair and a waistline, especially here in Vancouver where there are a variety of licensed establishments that feature numerous high-definition televisions and big screens and serve up a variety of world-class craft beer for thirsty sports fans.
VanEast Beer Blog put together a list for the craft-beer loving hockey fan to help guide them to some of the better hockey-watching, craft-beer-friendly places. Remember, this is my list and I do not claim it to be THE list. It is a biased list and reflects, in every way, the opinions of the writer. I welcome anyone to send in their favourite places to drink craft beer and watch the game in the comments section of this blog.
The number one place to enjoy the game with friends and family with the craft beer of your choice is your place. Where else can you get the exact beer you want to drink, eat what you want to eat, put the game on pause (if you have a PVR) while you go get or off-load beer, replay key plays to your heart's content and where, at the end of the night, you do not have to tip your server! And, it is the only place you can control who sits next to you, thereby ensuring you do not end up next to some bandwagon-jumping drunk whose ignorance of the game is only surpassed by their obnoxious need to voice said ignorance. Although it is a lot of fun to head out for the night to your favourite watering hole to take in the action and soak up the atmosphere, no where beats home.
Vancouver - Eastside
St Augustine's Craft Brew House and Kitchen - 2360 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
The number one place to watch the Canucks, or any sorting event for that matter, in Vancouver and perhaps BC, is St Augustine's Craft Brew House and Kitchen. With 40 taps of craft beer, 13 televisions and a location less then a slap shot away from the Commercial Drive transit hub, it is hard to beat Augie's. The downside is every sports fan in the city who loves craft beer knows it is THE place to watch a game so you have to get there early. Last year for the final series, people were arriving four hours before the game to secure tables. Check the website for reservation status. Augie's is also kid friendly and, despite what some think, is a restaurant.
Biercraft Commercial Drive - 1191 Commercial Drive
If you are looking for a less stimulating environment but still want a great selection of craft beer, Biercraft could be the place. With a 100-inch hi-def screen and two 42 inch televisions you won't miss the action. There are 25 beers on tap and a staggering 80 bottles to choose from as well as a great food menu. They do pull in the Eastside hockey crowd, but not to the extent of St Augustine's.
Westside - Cambie area
Original Joe's - corner of Cambie and W Broadway.
This choice may surprise a few people, but the Cambie & Broadway Original Joe's is slowly turning itself into a craft beer destination and they love their Vancouver Canucks! They don't have the most comprehensive selection of craft beer but you will find Driftwood, Red Racer, Howe Sound and Lighthouse beers among their selection. They also have in-house beers, brewed by Calgary's Big Rock Brewery, that are brewed exclusively for Original Joe's. They also serve full 20 oz measures of draft if drinking pints is your thing. The place lines up early on game nights and there are more than enough televisions and a big screen to ensure you will see the game. It is also perfectly located across the road from the City Hall-Broadway Skytrain Station.
Biercraft Cambie - 3305 Cambie
The Cambie version of Biercraft has a slightly different vibe and some different beers on tap, but similar numbers of taps and bottles to choose from and the same type of viewing set up. The food is great and as with the Commercial Drive location, you know your beer is going to be served with the love and respect it deserves.
West Side - Kitsilano
Darby's Pub - Corner of MacDonald and W 4th
For those who don't know, Darby's has quietly become one of the go-to craft beer spots in Kitsilano. Darby's has a 108-inch projection screen and seven flat screen televisions and 20 taps of draft beer, 14 of which are of the craft beer variety. As an added bonus, Darby's Liquor Store, attached to the pub, has an awesome selection of craft beers to purchase for your fridge at home. Darby's does take reservations.
The Bimini Public House - 2010 W 4th Ave
If you want to take in the action at Vancouver's oldest neighbourhood pub, Bimini's is the place. They have recently remade themselves and are beginning to build a reputation as a great craft beer house that has a great atmosphere during the games.
The Sunset Grill - 2204 York
I was just at the Sunset Grill last week for the #YVRBeerTweetup and it is a great venue with 14 hi def televisions and 15 taps of beer. It is a smaller venue with an intimate feel that will lend itself well to creating a great atmosphere for watching the game. I could see the Sunset becoming a very popular place to go for the action during the playoffs.
Smiley's Public House - 911 W Pender
Smiley's is a craft beer joint that has a definite pub feel to it. Of all the Donnelly Group establishments, Smiley's probably has the best craft beer selection, with 28 taps. There is plenty of room at Smiley's to gather with a large group and I understand they will take reservations and hold them until one-hour before the game. I think Smiley's is a very under-rated place by craft beer lovers and if I am Downtown, this is probably where I would take in the game.
Malone's Urban Drinkery - 608 W Pender
Many in the craft beer community disagree with me about Malone's but I think it is a great place to stop in for a craft beer. It has long been known as a place Downtown to go watch the games, but the difference is now you have a very decent selection of craft beers to choose from as 27 or their 36 taps are dedicated to craft brew which are very reasonably priced. Malone's also has 11 televisions and a big projection screen so you won't miss the action. It is also just one block from the Granville Skytrain Station.
Central City Brew Pub - 13450 102nd Ave
It's Central City Brew Pub, with Red Racer beer fresh from the source in true pint servings, do I have to say more?? Well, in case I do, they have two large projection screens and televisions everywhere you turn and love their sports with a passion. If that is not enough, it is about 200 metres from the Surrey Central Skytrain Station and they do take reservations. Food is great as well.
Pumphouse Pub - 6031 Blundell Rd
The Pumphouse is probably the place that gets mentioned most to me as the place to go watch a game outside of Vancouver. With 24 taps of draft beer, most of the high-end, craft variety, six televisions and a large projection screen it is a great place to catch the action if you are out in Richmond.
Howe Sound Brew Pub
There are few places I love to go out of town for a beer than Howe Sound Brew Pub. If I was going to get away for a weekend during the playoffs, this is where I would go and I may in fact do so on my holidays coming up in a few weeks. With their world-class beers, great pub, which is known for attracting sports fanatics for the big games and the hotel attached, it has all that I need. It doesn't hurt that everyone I have ever met associated with Howe Sound are amazing folks. Seriously, it is worth the trip to go check them out.
Mission Springs Brew Pub
Because I love the creations of head brewer Timmy Brown and because I know that there are few places that support their Canucks more than the Mission Springs gang, I am including them on my list of out-of-town places to go. If you find yourself anywhere near Mission around game time, do yourself a favour, grab a beer and soak up the atmosphere in the brew pub. And if you see Timmy hanging about, say hello from Paddy.