I am a little slow on the draw so while I was aware of the fact that a behemoth tap room opened a location in Vancouver, BC it took me until last week to actually visit and, to be honest, I only went in because I was at nearby Legacy liqour store and managed to snag a free parking space.
The Vancouver edition of Craft Beer Market is located in Olympic Village (False Creek) in the gorgeous Salt Building. Before I get to the modern incarnation of the building here is a little history courtesy of Scout Magazine
“Thanks to its crisp, polished finishes and bold color scheme, the Salt Building could easily be mistaken for a brand new structure leaning on our city’s penchant for industrial design. The truth, however, is that this spot is the real deal featuring a long history that reflects much on our city’s changing industrial landscape and operations.
Built circa 1930, the original 13,000 square-foot space served in partnership with the Bay Area salt trade in San Francisco, whereby unrefined salt was shipped to Vancouver for secondary processing and extraction… The structure features a complex roof truss system bearing weight onto numerous columns, with a large clerestory of windows brightening the long stretch of working space.”
Craft Beer Market a self-described ‘premium casual restaurant’ boasts 140 taps with over 100 of said taps devoted to beer, Canada’s largest selection. The sheer logistics of the volume of beer being tapped here is staggering and the sight of a mountain of tapped kegs sprouting silver tentacles, filled with numerous beer lines, is worth the visit alone.
Now I have to interject with a bit of a personal hang-up before I continue. Typically, I am not a big fan of big. Big beer, big box stores, big vehicles, big homes, (big hair is cool though), I feel like it all screams over-compensation or, even worse, it is simply big for the sake of being, well, big. As I sat down to peruse the menu I did my best to shelve this bias and be the objective blogger I was destined to be.
Lo’ and behold there are many beers on tap here so it is as advertised. Beers are broken down by style to help guests manage the mega-menu. Rotating guest taps and cask night on Tuesdays add some new items into the mix, while pre-chosen flights offer guidance to the overwhelmed – though the ‘what the locals drink’ menu boasting two Stanley Park beers did set off some alarm bells.
Odd as it may sound in this veritable sea of options I had a really hard time choosing something to drink, not because there were so many beers I wanted to try but rather just the opposite because there were so few.
The beer menu was predictable in the sense there were no surprises to be found. It was like walking into a provincial liqour store and seeing the familiar beers we know and love from the familiar brewers we know and love and feeling that slight twinge of disappointment that there is nothing to get excited over, nothing different to be discovered. For the non-craft beer nerd it must seem like a cornucopia of choice but for the veteran it felt a little stale. Granted the usual suspects are on tap so if draught versus bottle turns your crank you will be pleased.
I settled on an Elysian Oddland Series Spiced Pear Ale, a hoppy ale, and the hubby tried Ommegang Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout, a pretty standard stout. Overall, both beers were pretty middling. When our server asked what we thought I mentioned some thoughts on the Elysian but they pretty much tuned out so I figured we were not going to talk shop.
Personally, the whole thing felt a little corporate lacking in the ambiance, engaged staff and unique and/or challenging beer options that really make a tap room worth its’ salt. While I understand the need to have the majority of beers be something accessible I felt like there was no heart behind brand, that behind the beautiful facade there is no real love of craft beer here.