The days of the “wide mouth bottle” for easy drinking are behind us. Being mocked by a set of icy blue mountains on the side of your can is, now, a thing of the past. Promotional party backpacks (hat not included) are no more. The times have changed. Put down the dude lager and pick up a bottle of micro brew, man. I’m talking about craft beer, of course.
Craft beer culture has exploded in Vancouver in only a few short years. It’s right in there with yoga, hiking and the beach for “cool things to do” in the city. Gastropubs and tasting rooms are popping up all over the place. Social hubs with walls covered in taps connected to beers that taste like fruits and flowers and sunshine and roses. A welcome change to most standard beers. As a collective, we’re becoming more educated about our beers. Our tastes are becoming more refined. More people now know the differences between a porter, a lager, a stout, or a belgian cream apricot cinnamon blend ale.
I made that last one up. A test. You passed.
American beers. Canadian. European. Creamy. Dark. Light. Fruity. Bitterness measured in IBUs. What’s an IBU? I don’t know. Do you know? Excuse me, where’s this beer from? Hmm interesting. This one goes well with mustard, he says. Pretzels? Okay. That sounds good. Ooh can I try yours? That’s amazing. I love dark beer. That’s almost like a meal in a glass. You have beer in your moustache.
With all these choices and exposure, we really have no choice but to learn about beer through osmosis. Soaking up the suds to the fullest extent takes an educated guess when looking at the menu. If you don’t like IPAs, don’t order a beer with an 80 IBU. Simple as that. The menus are long and full of hard-to-pronounce names. It can get confusing. Dark, light, full, heavy? Where does a guy who drinks Budweiser, and has never heard of names like Deschuttes, La Chouffe, Delirium, go to enjoy some craft beer without hesitance? The general public needs a beginner’s guide to craft beer.
Located in Yaletown, a skip away from the Canada Line (1269 Hamilton street), Prohibition Brewing Co. (PBC) is serving up a simple, elegant atmosphere for the casual drinker. A place for those who might be a little intimidated by the expansive beer lists found at larger establishments. With the opposite approach (only 5 beers on tap), PBC is reaching for quality over quantity. Too, with all their meats, cheeses, beer makings being procured from shops and delis around town, PBC is guaranteeing quality, locally-sourced food and drink. Even the artwork found on the bottles and walls is all commissioned by Vancouver-based artist Roy Doyle. This restaurant is purely BC-owned and operated through and through. Not many restaurants can put that stamp in their tagline.
The room itself is what I would picture a modern spin on the speakeasy. A dark, wooden bar highlights the room in the center. An open, island concept that promotes conversation between patrons. Red booths and dark tables scattered around. No TVs either. A deliberate decision, along with some great cheese and meat platters, that encourages sociability between guests and staff. In the Digital Age, anything that doesn’t encourage stuffing your face into a screen should be hailed and celebrated. Cheers to that.
Prohibition Tasting Room’s interior is plastered with themes from the era in which it takes its name. A blind pig on the front door, giant wooden barrels stuck to the roof, the curly font found on the menu, and even the names of their beers: Bootlegger, Smuggler, and Lawless pay homage to a time when alcohol flowed underground. During the early evening the speakers bleed the old-time blues (Robert Johnson, Lead Belly, Blind Lemon Jefferson…etc.) and switch to blues-rock at night to liven the mood (The Black Keys, The White Stripes…etc.). PBC blends the old with the new in a way similar to Goorin Bros. Hat Shop down the street. A timeless feel that will never become stale. This aesthetic only sweetens with age.
Like any new business, PBC is still working out some kinks. The response, so far, has been great for a fresh start. Every week has gained more traction than the last, with positive reviews from locals and industry folks alike. I don’t blame them, a unique gem like Prohibition can’t help but shine in a part of town surrounded by corporate restaurants and chain department stores. A local, independent pub focused on providing residents with simple food with great ingredients paired with a fine glass of craft beer. Perhaps, even, a potential spot for local, live music as well. A blues, jazz, ragtime-themed dance party could be just what the bootlegger ordered to increase traffic even more.
Essentially, two words pop when Prohibition Tasting Room comes to mind: simple and local. It’s bare bones basics here, but it works incredibly well for this place. The food and beer are made in-house. The music and atmosphere are timeless. The staff and owners are friendly. The prices are good and the cocktails (Moonshine Sour, anyone?) are even better. This is what Vancouver is missing: a pub for the average guy. There’s no pressure to act a certain way here. Be yourself. Enjoy the beer, the music, and strike up a conversation. It’s that simple.