Varsity Brews: The Growler guide to game day craft beer options

In a city obsessed with craft beer, why is it so hard to find one at a game? iStock photo

Sports and beer. Best buds since forever, right? So you think it would be easy to find decent craft beer at the game. Wrong.

Beer offerings at most sport stadiums have traditionally been pretty grim. You basically had two options: flavourless fizzy piss-water masquerading as beer, or a lighter version of said piss-water with somehow even less flavour.

No one drinks this garbage because they enjoy it; they drink it because it’s a means to an end. The end being getting belligerently drunk.

But we craft beer drinkers are clearly above such ignoble pursuits. While the rabble might be content drinking their swill until they can’t see straight, we partake consciously. We imbibe to appreciate the artistry and alchemy in our pint glass.

By the way, why does everyone think we’re pretentious assholes?

So, yeah, you think it would be in the best interest of stadiums and arenas to offer craft beer as a means of encouraging responsible drinking, but I guess not.

The city’s two main sports venues — B.C. Place and Rogers Arena — do carry B.C. craft beer, just not a lot of it. And it’s not that easy to find.

Meanwhile, south of the border, the Americans seem to know what’s up. I was at Safeco Field for a Mariners game a couple months ago and couldn’t get over the craft beer selection. In all, Safeco has 35 different craft beers on tap, including hand-pulled cask-conditioned beers, barrel-aged stouts, imperial-strength ales, and 14 different IPAs.

Vancouver could learn a thing or two from our neighbours. (At least when it comes to craft beer availability. Politics, healthcare, public education, gun control… not so much.)

Rogers Arena’s SportsBar (400 Level), which opened last year, may boast the city’s “longest continuous bar” (which is a weird thing to brag about, let’s be honest), but it’s pretty short on craft beer. While there’s plenty of macro-owned “craft-y” beers like Shock Top and Goose Island on the menu, the B.C. craft choices are limited to 33 Acres of Life, Hoyne Dark Matter and Salt Spring Island’s Heather Ale. In a city — a province, no less — with such an obsession over craft beer, you would think there would be more homegrown stuff available.

The options at B.C. Place seem to be a bit better, with beers from Howe Sound, Red Truck, Central City, Parallel 49 and Steamworks available at the Thirsty Pigeon craft beer stand (Gates 203, 234 and 248).

I don’t know if football and “football” fans are a bit more sophisticated than hockey fans, but they seem to get more craft beer options.

While baseball season might be over, Nat Bailey Stadium, home of the 2017 Northwest League champion Vancouver Canadians, seem to be ahead of the curve when it comes to craft beer. The Craft Corner bar next to the third base entrance has offerings from Central City, Steamworks, Howe Sound, Big Rock and Whistler. Not bad considering Nat Bailey’s capacity is only 6,500 — roughly a third of Rogers Arena.

So your best options for craft beer on game day are probably not going to be at the stadium, sadly. But that’s OK, because there’s tons of awesome beer within walking distance of both arenas.

Both Central City and Howe Sound Brewing operate craft beer-focussed pubs mere steps away from B.C. Place and Rogers Arena. Central City Beatty Street (871 Beatty, CentralCityBrewing.com) has 40 taps of craft beer from across the province, while Devil’s Elbow Ale & Smoke House has 20 taps and some seriously good barbecue. If you’re in the mood for something Belgian, Chambar (568 Beatty, Chambar.com) has an impressive list of imported rarities from the Low Countries. And if you want your beer direct from the source, Yaletown Brewing (1111 Mainland St., MJG.ca/yaletown) is a short 10-minute walk from B.C. Place

But whatever you do, don’t sneak a mickey of navy rum into the game and mix the whole thing into one of those giant delicious lemonades and then forget there’s alcohol in your drink and suck the whole thing back in five minutes because it’s 30C and you just walked all the way downtown from East Van for the football game and you’re totally dehydrated and thirsty and now you’re super drunk and screaming and oh god how did this happen.

Definitely don’t do that.