Stella's is now BierCraft
People always tell me to go to Stella’s Tap and Tapas Bar on Commercial Drive in Vancouver (there is a new one on Cambie too). They rave about the awesome beer selection, but I’d never considered Stella’s a destination worth seeking out. I’d go to their website to check out their beer menu and not be particularly impressed. What they have on tap is pretty solid, but not enticing enough to warrant a special trip. Turns out there is a whole other beer menu on the website under the Fresh Sheet tab that I’d been completely missing.
I finally made my first visit to Stella’s after work on Friday with some coworkers. The Fresh Sheet beer menu at Stella’s is even more impressive than the one on their website. I was delighted to find a six page menu listing many fine Belgian style beers. There were so many that I had a hard time deciding what to have. I ended up choosing Troublette, a witbeir from Brasserie Caracole, which was lovely.
I’d tried many of the sixty odd beers on Stella’s menu, but there were a few rare gems that I’ve never even seen available before. I’ll definitely be making the pilgrimage to Stella’s a few more times now. The appetizers we shared were delightful and where we sat on the patio offered entertaining views of Commercial Drive‘s funky residents. I know most Vancouver beer enthusiasts already know and love Stella’s, but I highly recommend making the trip if you haven’t yet.
My obsessive drive to find the perfect pizza and beer led me to two Kitsilano pizzerias – Incendio West & The Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company. Both of these restaurants are situated within a stones throw of each other and have both received positive reviews, they also happen to offer a selection of craft beer in both bottles and on draft. If I was making the effort to visit one pizzeria , I figured I should make the most of the evening and visit both. If I really want to find the best pizza and beer in the Vancouver area I will have to make sacrifices. This particular sacrifice comes in the form of eating multiple dinners in one night – a sacrifice I am more than willing to make.
We started the evening at Incendio West. Incendio West belongs to the Incendio Group which operates two Italian pizza & pasta eateries and Stellas Tap and Tapas Bar. Currently one of Incendio’s pizza joints is undergoing extensive renovations after a fire caused damage to the kitchen and dinning room - after learning about the fire I was not all that surprised to discover that the word incendio means fire. Chris recommended Incendio’s Gastown location to me months ago stating that they offered great pizza and a good selection of craft beer. I was saddened when he told me the restaurant had caught fire and would be closed for quite some time, but was equally happy to find that Incendio West was in full operation.
The beer menu at Incendio West is made up of bottled domestic and international beer – mostly light lager. Their draft selection includes R&B wheat ale and pale ale, Shaftebury Cream Ale , Okanagan Spring 1516 and Pale Ale and Stella Artois. Having never tasted R&B Sun God Wheat I decided to give it a try – it turned out to be a mild wheat ale and was not impressive. R&B Red Devil Pale Ale proved to have a much greater depth in flavour, which paired nicely with a Incendio’s pizza.
I originally thought that Incendio West baked their pizza in a wood fired oven – I was wrong, they use gas. I have no evidence to support that a wood fired oven creates a better pizza than gas, but my preference leans towards the wood fired option. Gas may be capable of creating enough heat to properly bake a pizza, but gas will never have the same authentic charm that a wood burning oven does. The pizza at Incendio’s was good – well topped with an appropriate amount of sauce and cheese. My only complaint was the soggy crust, a sign of an undercooked pizza. Looking around at other tables I found that almost all of the pizza lacked a slightly charred crust, which is a sign of a well cooked pizza. Proper pizza cookery requires enough bravery to leave a pizza in a hot oven long enough to fully cook the crust, even if the pizza is starting to char around the edges.
After feasting at Incendio West and a taking quick walk through the neighborhood and along Kits beach we arrived at The Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company. After spending an hour walking with hopes of burning off at least one slice of pizza, still none of us were hungry enough to sit down for a second meal, so we opted for takeout instead. Takeout would give me a chance to enjoy a fresh slice of their pizza while saving the remainder for the next day. Waiting for the pizza gave me enough time to poke around the restaurant to see if they used a wood fired oven and to also take a look at their beer selection. I am happy to confirm that Rocky Mountain bakes their pizza in a wood fired oven. Their beer selection is quite impressive as well, offering beer from Howe Sound Brewing in both 1 liter bottles and on draft – R&B Beer was also offered on draft. Seeing a table with a 1 liter bottle of Howe Sound made me wonder why more restaurants don’t offer 650 ml bomber bottles. A bomber is the prefect size for sharing and does not require the restaurant owner to commit to a full keg. The pizza at Rocky Mountain was good, but although the crust was fully cooked, it was noticeably inferior to Incendio’s Crust.
I have many places still to visit in my pursuit of finding the greatest pizza and beer in Vancouver. By the end of this summer I hope to conclude my search – I gladly welcome any recommendations for places to visit.