The Curious Case of Murray Street

Image by Jonny Healy / The Growler

Image by Jonny Healy / The Growler

It was once a sleepy, little suburb that’s mutated suddenly into a craft beer hotspot.

Since 2014, three breweries have opened along Port Moody’s Murray Street – Yellow Dog, Moody Ales and Twin Sails – revitalizing a declining industrial area into a thriving beer district, which locals dub Brewers Row. The breweries are jammed on any given weekend with young families, escapees from brewery-free Coquitlam, Vancouverite beer-snobs, retirees out for a bike ride and a pint.

The city’s fourth (and largest) brewery, Parkside Brewing, is opening any day now, if it hasn’t already. Parkside’s noteworthy for several reasons, not least because this is the long-rumoured and –awaited new project from the influential former Granville Island Brewing head brewer Vern Lambourne.

And with 6,500-square-feet, a 100-person seating capacity and an outdoor picnic area, Parkside will undoubtedly become a destination brewery for beer fans across the Lower Mainland and beyond. It signals the arrival of Port Moody – and Murray Street specifically – as a major player in Canadian craft beer.

But how did it happen?

“Well, I don’t think it’s ‘how,’” says Yellow Dog founder Mike Coghill. “For every community, really right now it’s a matter of when, and how much the community gets behind it.”

When Yellow Dog opened in 2014, it joined Aldergrove’s Dead Frog Brewing and Chilliwack’s Old Yale Brewing as one of only three Lower Mainland breweries operating east of Vancouver. It was an immediate hit, and also offered a glimpse at the craft beer fervor that has swept most other municipalities since.

“Once everyone saw how busy we were, and how successful Yellow Dog was right out of the gates, they figured [Murray Street] was a good neighbourhood for breweries,” Coghill says.

Of the Tri-Cities, only Port Moody has the correct bylaw zoning required for breweries. And in Port Moody, Murray St. is the only neighbourhood that carries that zoning. It’s also a community made up of young, urban-minded families – many of whom have moved here from Vancouver – and where most businesses are locally owned and supported. Add to this the swell in popularity of craft beer throughout North America, and you have the ideal environment for a beer district to flourish.

“Before the breweries opened, I had no idea we had a pent-up demand for craft beer,” Port Moody mayor Mike Clay says. “But from the day Yellow Dog opened, it’s been very well received. Probably the most popular thing in the area is the breweries, for visitors and locals.”

He says that it’s “dramatically” changed the dynamics of the neighbourhood – there’s foot traffic along Murray St. that it’s never seen, and once-vacant buildings are no longer shuttered.

It’s also cultivated a new kind of community that’s unique to the craft beer industry. “We’ve already meet as a unit,” says Sam Payne, Parkside’s co-founder and sales director. “We have monthly Brewers Row meetings to see how we can help each other and what events we’re going to go into, and those sorts of things.”

Through these meetings, the four breweries have agreed to do at least one collaboration beer per year to support an organization or event in Port Moody, starting with a schwarzbier to support the Port Moody Arts Centre.

They’ve also been working together in tandem with the City of Port Moody and the BC Craft Brewers Guild to promote Port Moody and Brewers Row as a tourism destination through the Destination BC Ale Trail project, which has considerable potential for the city once the Evergreen SkyTrain Line opens in 2017.

“It opens up a block and a half away from us, so it’s in our best interest to drive people to the area,” Payne says. “The more people that are at Yellow Dog are more people that are at Parkside, are at Moody Ales and Twin Sails.”