Monday, February 23, 2015

North Van Pubs

It is no secret that I do like a good beer. One thing I always miss when in Korea is a good pub. Not a bar, a sports bar, a club or a Korea hof, but a real pub.

I think it is one thing Canada has kept from its British days that I like.

Not that Korea doesn't have good beers (as of 2014) but they are regulated by Korean bars with their drinking hours and practices, which means they never open before 4 (and usually 5) and expect you to get smashed. There are a couple of expat breweries in Seoul and Busan, but they, unsurprisingly, have an unfortunate habit of being full of expats. This means the eight drink minimum is in effect there too.

What I mean is a pub like you have in Canada. It is a place where people from the neighbourhood gather. They open at 10, and it is perfectly acceptable to go in on a Sunday at noon, order eggs and toast or fish and chips, two pints, and go home. It is a relaxing atmosphere where the point is to enjoy your company over a drink or two, rather than going out to get smashed. There is a place in Sangin called Draft, which is approaching that, but no food real food and a 5pm start. Still it is a beginning. The neighbourhood pub is a great tradition and one I am glad carried over from the UK (and talk about a place with great pubs!)

Anyway, a few of my favourites are in North Van. I managed to hit most of them up while on my trip home. Most haven't changed, with one very notable exception.

My personal favourite is probably Sailor Hagars. Mostly because of the Narwhal Pale Ale (craft beer from before 'hipsters' entered out lexicon) and great food (as in great pub food, so greasy and horrible). I went there on my birthday with my brother and Dad. It is also great, right behind Lonsdale Quay with great views of Burrard inlet and Vancouver Harbour. I also used to go there with Geoff and Elliot when we were all in college together (Geoff still lives two blocks away).

Across Lonsdale is the Rusty Gull. With Jack Lonsdale's totally redone this is as close as North Van has to a dive bar (which is to say not a dive bar by any other standards anywhere else). Decent beer and food available and live music. I went with Geoff and Elliot (it was our other hangout) my first Monday there. Good memories. I had the fish and chips after E rightly pointed out that if I was gonna do it (go to the Gull) I should fuckin' do it right. His wisdom won me over and in I went.

Jack Lonsdale's. This place was a real dive bar in North Van, which was a shame because it was walking distance from where my Dad lives. In the time I was gone they shut down, raised prices by a dollar, demanded shoes AND a shirt for service, and thus got rid of 95% of their old clientele. I went to the new Jacks with my sister and was surprised. I ordered Mongolian BBQ noodles as I was fish and chipped out. The also had the Stanley Park Amber Ale on tap. Not usually a fan of those Belgian beers but this one is nice with a light meal. A great change.

The Taphouse is technically in West Van but being that it is in Park Royal I'll count it. It is certainly more upscale (not sure if it should be counted as a pub, but fuck it). Anyway, I went there on the Saturday I landed from Tokyo with my sister, Mom and Aunt. Great fish and chips and that Stanley Park Ale. I was a bit jet lagged but I still had a couple Yebisu and Suntory in me from the flight over so I settled in nicely. Not sure I would want it as a regular hangout, but for dinner on a friday night I really enjoy it.

The Pemberton. Again, as close as North Van gets to a dive bar, so not really one. Down off Marine Drive they don't have the same tap selection as other pubs but great food (My bangers and mash were as good as any I had in London, even the Wetherspoon's one!) and Granville island Pale Ale is hardly bad, even if the brewery itself has been eclipsed by better brewers in the city. I went with my Dad, stepmom and brother to nurse a slight hangover with more beer. Drinking was a big part of this trip.

The Black Bear. Lynn Valleys neighbourhood pub. I met with my old Future Shop coworker and good friend Allan on my second Tuesday there for more fish and chips and a few pints. The Black Bear fought hard to get in there in the late 90's when the Helen Lovejoy's of Lynn Valley fought it. Fortunately we didn't think of the children and it has been going strong since 1997. If I ever live in Lynn Valley again (admittedly unlikely) I could make that pub my regular spot. For now though it'll just be a place I hit up when I am in the area.

I missed the last big NV pub, the Queen's Cross, despite the fact that my cousin Sarah works there. Mostly it is because it is on 29th up that big hill. My best memories of the Cross were from when I was 17 and the beer and wine ship didn't ID. That was a long time ago though, and I doubt you could get away with that one today.

I also had beer at a place called Green Leaf in Lonsdale Quay. Not a pub as such (no food) but more a brewery with a few taps. Good beer though, if a tad pricy for the glasses they offer (the 330ml variety).

I can't think of any others now that Seymour's is gone (I think it is anyway). It is something I enjoy doing, though if I lived in Vancouver again I think it would be a weekly thing at most, rather than the daily thing it is now. Still, it is a part of Canadian culture I do miss, and as I get older the idea of a three or four beer night being a night out sounds great, especially if the beer is something that can be enjoyed with great food and better company.

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