For beer aficionados like me, who often select vacation destinations with beer in mind, it’s easy to overlook Vancouver, Washington because of its proximity to Portland. I suppose that’s understandable. Irrefutably, Portland is one of the greatest beer cities in the world. Still, the city on the other side of the Columbia River now supports its own collection of breweries and beer-focused bars and is certainly worthy of our attention.
The fact is, Vancouver would probably get a lot more recognition as a beer touring destination if it where anywhere else in the world. There are about 20 breweries in the area to support the thriving beer community. By the way, did you know that Vancouver is the fourth largest city in Washington? Only Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane are bigger.
I recently spent three days touring the beer scene around the greater Vancouver area, resisting the urge to cross the bridge into Portland. Truthfully, my adventure was incomplete; three days was not enough to fully explore the beer culture in and around the city. That’s noteworthy. Seriously, it would probably take five days to completely consume the Vancouver beer scene. I barely scratched the surface, so mine is by no means an exhaustive study.
- Pit Stop: Lunch at Ashtown Brewing in Longview (brewery with taproom and usually a food truck).
- Number of breweries and/or brewery taprooms visited: 11.
- Favorite breweries: Loowit Brewing, 54-40 Brewing, and Doomsday Brewing.
- Uber is your friend. Affordable and readily available transportation option.
- Favorite bar/bottleshop: Ben’s Bottle Shop.
- Where we stayed: Heathman Lodge.
- Favorite non-beery distraction: Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
For beer lovers, there are basically two parts to the Vancouver beer experience: downtown and everything else. Downtown offers a collection of beer spots in the heart of the city, but there are also a lot of breweries scattered outside of downtown and in the neighboring communities of Battleground and Washougal. In this post I discuss downtown Vancouver and the Washougal area.
First, let’s talk about sleeping, then we’ll talk about beer. As far as lodging is concerned, I chose to stay somewhere between downtown and out there. The Heathman Lodge is only a few minutes from downtown, but provides super-easy freeway access, making it easy to get out to Washougal, Battleground or any breweries on the east end of town. No doubt, this lodging option may feel rather extravagant for a budget-minded beer tourist, but compared to many other destinations, like Portland or Seattle, hotels are affordable in Vancouver, which means its a good place to indulge in some nice accommodations.
The hotel combines a lodge-type experience with the kind of luxury you’d expect at a Heathman property. The lobby feels very much like a mountain lodge, with exposed timbers and vaulted ceilings, while the rooms are modern and lavishly appointed. (Dog owners, they do have some pet-friendly rooms; ask when booking.)
The Heathman Lodge is the home of Hudson’s Bar and Grill, one of the finest restaurants in the Vancouver area. The food is fantastic (crab cakes were amazing, made with crab and local bay shrimp) but they also have some good, local beers on tap for you as well.
The Downtown Crawl
In downtown Vancouver, an easily walked one-mile crawl allows you to visit four breweries and an addition two brewery tasting rooms.
Start your crawl at Trap Door Brewing, on the north end of the route in a part of town known as Uptown Village. The taproom is spacious and lively. You’ll usually find six or eight Trap Door originals on tap. Outside, a large and pet-friendly patio. Right next door, a food truck court gives you plenty of dining options. Family friendly until 8:00 pm. (2315 Main St.; 360-314-6966)
Leaving Trap Door Brewing, head south on Main Street for about two blocks, which is where you’ll find the Doomsday Brewing Safe House. This is the brewery’s satellite tasting room, ergo no brewery on site. (The brewery itself is located in Washougal, which we’ll talk about later.) The Safe House is a 21+ establishment offering 15 rotating taps, cider and wine, a year round outdoor seating area, and food trucks regularly. (1919 Main St.; 360-503-7649)
Head one block west to Washington Street and continue south for about seven blocks to the Heathen Brewing Feral Public House, a pub that almost feels like a lively sports bar and serves as the brewery’s satellite tasting room. The brewery and tasting room is located about eight miles away in Northeast Vancouver. The Feral Public House is a popular, happenin’ place with a full complement of Heathen beers on tap and a full menu offering pizza, burgers, salads, and entrees. Kid-friendly. (1109 Washington St.; 360-836-5255)
Head back over to Main Street and continue south for one block to Evergreen Boulevard, which is where you’ll find Trusty Brewing. Formerly, this was Dirty Hands Brewing. I have no idea how the beer was at Dirty Hands, but the new owners certainly chose a more appetizing name. It’s a bright and cheery space on a main corner downtown. The beers are all solid and accompany a small food menu offering sandwiches and munchies. (114 E Evergreen Blvd.; 360-258-0413)
Head one block west on Evergreen Boulevard to Old Ivy Brewery and Taproom, formerly the home of Salmon Creek Brewery and Pub. The configuration of the place hasn’t changed too much since the new owners took over, it’s still comfortably dark and cozy, with a traditional pub vibe, but the beers seem to have improved. They have a dog-friendly patio when weather allows and the pub is kid-friendly all the time. The food menu includes sandwiches, salads and some other specialty items, like the Mega Ivy Tots: tater tots served with Tillamook cheddar cheese and chili. Shut it! (108 W Evergreen Blvd.; 360-993-1827)
Continue west on Evergreen Boulevard for one block and go south on Columbia Street for three block to discover Loowit Brewing Company. The front room has the bar, some tables and a couple television. The back room has more tables, video games, dart boards and a roll-up garage door. Note, Loowit is dog and kid friendly. (507 Columbia St.; 360-566-2323)
Beyond the breweries and brewery outposts mentioned above, there are some other notable beer destinations downtown, and they’re all pretty much right along the path described above. Take a look at our map of SW Washington beer destinations to locate those places.
Between downtown and destinations to the east, there are two notable beer stops. First up, Fort Side Brewing. This one would be easy to miss, and by that I mean it would be easy to drive right past it. Don’t do that. Located in the middle of a unremarkable strip mall, in a part of town populated with a whole lot of unremarkable strip malls, Fortside Brewing offers a transformative experience when you step from the parking lot into the cozy, beer-only tasting room. The brewery is behind glass at the back of the room. Dog friendly. (2200 NE Andresen Rd.; 360-524-4692)
Not far away, in yet another strip mall, Ben’s Bottle Shop offers much more than the name suggests. Yes, it’s a bottleshop, but it is also a kickass beer bar and feels a bit like an upscale sports bar (21+ only, but kids are okay in the bottleshop). In addition to 20-something taps and a ton of bottles, they also have a food menu. Ben’s is not only the best beer bar in Vancouver (IMHO), but it would probably be the best beer bar in just about any town. 8052 E Mill Plain Blvd.; 360-314-6209)
About fifteen minutes east of Vancouver on Highway 14, the little town of Washougal is now home to three breweries.
Located off the beaten path, in an industrial complex near the river, a park, and a wildlife preserve, 54-40 Brewing is deceiving from the outside, looking very sterile and plain, but once you step inside it is surprisingly inviting and comfortable. The beers are excellent and this might be one of the best breweries that people in Seattle have never even heard of. They don’t serve food but there are food trucks around on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Dog- and kid-friendly. (3801 S Truman Rd #1; 360-844-5932)
A transplanted Portland brewery, Amnesia Brewing now operates its brewery and pub along Main Street in downtown Washougal. The company moved north of the river about three years ago. Actually, Amnesia Brewing’s PDX operation was sold and taken over by Storm Breaker Brewing, and then Amnesia built a new brewery in Washougal. Something like that, anyway. The food menu is made up primarily of salads and sandwiches featuring meats from a local BBQ joint. Kid-friendly. (1834 Main St.; 360-335-1008)
Not far away, but removed from downtown, Doomsday Brewing operates its brewery and tasting room along C Street. Bare bones but inviting, I found the beers here to be among the best I tasted on my adventure. The food menu offers pizza and hot dogs. Kids are welcome. (421 C St #1b; 360-335-9909)
As I mentioned before, I spent three days on the ground in Vancouver and only scratched the surface of the beer scene. I know how hard it is to resist the gravitational pull of Portland, but I highly recommend a beer-themed visit to Vancouver.
There are more breweries and beer spots to visit in Vancouver that we did not visit. We did not “miss” them. We simply did not have time. I strongly encourage you to check out our Map of SW Washington Breweries, which includes more than breweries (beer bars, bottleshops, etc.).
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