Beer, wine & spirits – The liquid gold of the PNW

There are plenty of places to visit for craft beverages in Vancouver every day of the week

People raising beef glasses
Rusty Hoyle
RUSTY HOYLE Craft Beer & Wine Festival

It’s no secret that the Pacific Northwest is home to some of the world’s greatest beer, wine & spirits. In fact, the region has become a destination for people all over the world. From the Brewcouver beer passport, to Couve Cycle brewery tours, there are plenty of places to visit for craft beverages in Vancouver every day for a week without running out of places. It’s the liquid gold of the PNW.

It is said that Vancouver was built on beer. Well, it’s true, and it dates back as far as 1856. The first breweries were Star Brewery Co. Inc. (1933-1939), Interstate Brewery Co. (1939-1950), Lucky Lager Brewing Co. (1950-1985) and John Muench’s Vancouver Brewery, established in 1856 near Fort Vancouver. Between 2010 and 2015, the news about new breweries became seamless. The pioneers of the craft beer scene became popular and struck curiosity amongst locals and businesspeople alike. Breweries like Heathen Brewing and Fortside Brewing set the standard for great beer with their production breweries, and the word quickly spread. Both now have beautiful tap rooms, and Vancouver is now home to 14 breweries.

Beer isn’t the only craft beverage in town; Clark County is also home to 19 craft wineries. The state’s soil is rich in nutrients to make our grapes thrive. With an advantage of two extra hours of sun over California grapes, our wines are closely compared to French wines. Thirteen Clark County wineries resided in 2013, so the craft winery growth is consistent with the craft beer scene. The Craft Beer & Wine Fest of Vancouver showcases the award-winning craft wines from Clark County and Washington state, as well as the aforementioned craft brews from the area, and is held the second weekend in June at Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver.

The Craft Beer & Wine Fest started as an opportunity to showcase Clark County wines. As the festival grew, so did the beer scene, so naturally, beer is an added festival attraction. Craft spirits also started popping up in the area, and a new opportunity presented itself. John Vissotsky at Double V Distillery in Battle Ground stepped up and offered to showcase his spirits, starting with moonshine, vodka, Apple Pie and gin. Skunk Brothers Distillery from Stevenson, Wash., also stepped in and offered to help promote spirits with their moonshine, Apple Pie and cinnamon whiskey. Both distilleries have evolved into whiskey and bourbon, and it’s some of the best stuff on the planet. The festival is now showcasing the best the PNW has to offer, including a unique cocktail menu designed by local expert mixologists, using local spirits and local ingredients wherever possible.

The unique identity shift from “micro” brews to “craft” brews was rather subtle, but it seems like all of a sudden more and more businesses were adopting the term, and it became a way of life. Suddenly unique craft cocktails became the norm, and pairing nice, local craft whiskey with dinner and a Kolsch from 54-40 is expected. There are so many great craft beverages here, and the selection is expanding at an incredible rate. The Craft Beer & Wine Fest is proud to be one of the original presenters of “craft,” and we smile every time we see the word. “Craft” has become a trend that could potentially last for generations to come.

This town was built on beer, and then the craft beer exposed the craft wineries and opened the doors for craft spirits. The unique flavor, body and texture of a NW IPA cannot be beat in my opinion, and it’s what sold me on liking beer in the first place. The craft wine and craft whiskey here have similar properties; they are unique, are not the same old flavor and you can taste the craft.

The thing about Vancouver that never gets old is we share a bridge with our neighbors in Portland. It’s no secret that the Portland area is currently home to 84 breweries. Vancouver breweries share the love by collaborating with Portland breweries to make new recipes, share trade tricks and enjoy a cold brew with new industry friends. To north Portland, downtown Vancouver is their downtown; it’s much easier to get across the bridge to Vancouver than to fight Portland traffic at any hour of the day. By collaborating with Portland breweries, it creates synergy and grows the entire craft brew market. Vancouver was home to the inaugural Brewing Bridges Collaboration Festival in September, where Vancouver breweries collaborated with Portland breweries to create new unique craft brews.

The Craft Beer & Wine Fest of Vancouver also welcomes our friends from across the river. The festival takes place June 7-9 at Esther Short Park and will showcase 60 unique craft brew taps selected by friends at Z-Zeppelin Media. You can taste IPAs, wheat beer, dunkel, braggot, mead and many other unique styles. The festival also showcases the area’s award-winning craft wines from Maryhill Winery, Burnt Bridge Cellars and many other PNW wineries. Three local distilleries and seven unique craft cocktails compliment the festival. There is plenty of local food (did I mention the food scene here is awesome, too?) on site to pair with your pleasure, art, snacks & samples, and live music to round off the perfect getaway weekend.

Rusty Hoyle, sound engineer and event producer, is the event organizer of the Craft Beer & Wine Festival. He can be reached at littlerusty@gmail.com.

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