We pushed through the snow this weekend and visited Central City Brewing in the classy city of Surrey, and it was good.
Of all the places to drink beer, I think that a brewpub is one of the best. To me a good brewpub is all about their beer – the menu, atmosphere and, of course, the drinks should all be based around their own beer. A good brewpub takes pride in their beer and all of their beer should carry a signature flavor of the brewery and brewmaster. The Stout should taste radically different from the Pale Ale, yet still carry a signature style that is unique the brewery.
At most modern pubs, the beer that is served is shipped in from all around the world and the beer lacks a local flavor. Historically, every city or town large enough would have its own brewery and sometimes a signature style of beer. A Kölsch, brewed in Köln, is one of my favorite German ales and is a perfect example of a beer with a local flavor. A true Kölsch comes from Köln and will have a flavor that can only be reproduced in Köln (Many brewers outside of Köln are brewing great Kölsch style beers). I love brewpubs because they serve good beer that is unique and with a local flavor.
Central City Brewing serves great beer – their lineup during our visit included:
India Pale Ale
Raspberry Wheat Ale
Winter Ale (Seasonal)
Barley Wine (Sailor Hagar’s Thor’s Hammer)
Sadly I was the driver and did not have a chance to taste all of their beer. Chris, a passenger, had a sample of each beer available and, if asked nicely, I’m sure he will gladly share his opinions. I was fortunate enough to be with friends who let me taste their beers. All of their beer was good and nothing disappointing, but a few didn’t blow me away.
Central City’s Bock and IPA were the two standout beers (excluding the barley wine) – even though I did not have a chance to have full pint of either. The Bock, with a medium malt flavor and somewhat spicy hop finish, is a great first step into the world of beer for that friend we all have who only drinks lager. The IPA is fantastically hopped with the distinct citrus flavor and aroma of west coast hops, this is a beer for beer lovers. Overall, their beer is straight forward – no need to reinvent the wheel, with enough creativity to create a flavor unique to Central City Brewing.
The menu was good, serving a range of classic Canadian pub dishes. The Chef incorporated Central City’s beer into the menu perfectly, using beer as a braising liquid, in batters, cakes and more. I don’t think anyone was disappointed with their food.
The service was the only disappointment of the evening. I don’t like to be overly critical of servers; working in the service industry must be tough, seeing as the world has more than its fair share of jerks. Our server clearly didn’t have a passion for beer, describing their winter ale as “bitter” in a less than confident tone. After ordering their winter ale I can tell you that it is not very bitter and has a nice malty flavor. Everyone, even servers, are allowed to have off-days, I am going to assume this was an off-day for our server.
The real highlight of my evening was Sailor Hagar’s Thor’s Hammer barley wine. Barley wine is a real treat for me – it is served so rarely and is hard to find at most liquor stores in the Fraser Valley. This beer, brewed at Sailor Hagar’s in North Vancouver, strays from my concept of what makes a good brewpub. However, this beer was still brewed locally at the now non-brewpub, Sailor Hagar’s, and is so distinct from everything else available at Central City that I feel serving this beer is more than acceptable. Additionally, Central City’s brewmaster, Gary Lohin, is the original creator of this beer and the former brewmaster at Sailor Hagar’s. This particular brew was aged for 18 month and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Typical of most barley wines, it is complex with a strong toffee flavor and a more subtle roasted coffee and chocolate flavour. Rumor has it that Sailor Hagar’s in North Vancouver is currently serving an 8 year old Thor’s Hammer barley wine. Needless to say, I will be making my way out to North Vancouver to give it a try.
Central City Brewing is a great place for good beer and good food. It is the perfect place to take your friends that like beer, but don’t necessarily love beer. None of their beer is overly complicated, excluding the barley wine, and will not intimidate those we are not familiar with micro-brewed beer. The Fraser Valley has very few pubs and restaurants with a good selection of microbrew – it is good to have Central City so close by.