Ale and hearty: A visit to Vancouver's historic Hotel Georgia and the city’s first microbrewery

The Liberty Distillery makes a mean gin called the Endeavour. Photo: Vikram Achanta

The Liberty Distillery makes a mean gin called the Endeavour. Photo: Vikram Achanta

Nordstrom has been a success. My wife has finally found a particular dress after years of looking (perhaps not in the right places methinks). Or maybe it’s my presence and approval that tip the scales. Nordstrom is indeed a nice store, with, to my surprise, a full service bar within. We’re headed across the street, however, to the historic Hotel Georgia, and Prohibition, its bar within. Elvis, the Beatles and Queen Elizabeth II have all been guests at the Georgia, so I guess our due diligence is done.

Prohibition, as the name suggests, is a speakeasy-styled bar, located adjacent to Hawksworth, where Chef David Hawksworth and his team serve up contemporary Canadian cuisine. We get the last table, which is packed at 6.00 p.m. on a Sunday.

The cocktail menu has an interesting classification, and fresh from her dress success, my wife is feeling like something that is elegant/ celebratory/ sophisticated and orders a Hotel Georgia, a cocktail dating to the 1940s, and I order a Dry Tai. Both cocktails do justice to the bar and the hotel’s reputation and at CAD 12 apiece, are at least 50 per cent cheaper than their equivalent in a New York place. Perhaps Vancouver isn’t as expensive as it’s perceived to be? Or maybe I’m comparing the wrong things.

If pushed, I could perhaps swim across the narrow strip of water, which separates my hotel from Granville Island, but I opt for the pocket-sized boat instead. Realising there’s not much point in browsing through countless aisles of smoked meats and fresh cheese in the farmer’s market, we head for the retail pastures beyond.

While on Old Bridge Street, I spot The Liberty Distillery on my left. I’ve always perceived distilleries to be industrial-era relics spewing tons of smoke and this comes as a surprise. I walk in to see if it’s a scam and enter a large room with a bar at one end. Beyond that is indeed a tiny little distillery with a couple of wee stills, one copper and one alembic, which between them churn out an amazing variety of craft spirits. I ask the team there if they’ve given their stills names, like Patience, the famous still at Sipsmith distillery in the U.K. They thought it was a good idea. If you are headed to The Liberty, do check if the stills have names now.

I choose to have a tasting flight of the four gins they make, priced reasonably at CAD 8. Out of the four, Endeavour, made with 100 per cent local organic wheat, impresses the most. The bar is well integrated with retail, so you can pick up their range of spirits as well as cocktail books, equipment and a range of artisanal bitters. I buy a couple of bitters gift packs for cocktail enthusiasts back home and head off to find my family.

Once the rest of the brood has been found, I persuade them of the virtues of another pit stop, this time at Granville Island Brewing, touted as Vancouver’s first microbrewery, on this island of a thousand pleasures. Unlike at The Liberty Distillery, the brewery’s looming presence is very much evident. I order a taster round, with four samples for CAD 7, followed by Infamous IPA. The beer is so good I return the following day to down a quick pint of their Cream Ale at the bar.

Granville Island would be a fine place to bury me. Take note.

Vikram Achanta is co-founder andCEO of and Tulleeho,an alcohol consulting firm.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2022 1:46:45 pm |