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Sampling the Moody brews on a British Columbia ‘beer train’

It was a sun-dappled weekday morning and I was trundling east from Vancouver, Canada, on the SkyTrain transit line’s shiny new Evergreen Extension.

I was heading for an unlikely craft beer hot spot in the small suburban city of Port Moody, the train flashing past wooded parks and sprawling shopping malls.

When I moved from Britain to British Columbia in the 1990s, transit train lines were limited and good libations were hard to come by. Since then, the SkyTrain network has unfurled across the region, and new microbreweries have frothed up faster than a freshly poured kolsch.

Vancouver is crowded with these ale makers, of course. But SkyTrain’s Evergreen Extension, which opened in 2016, has become an unofficial “beer train” linking four intriguing Port Moody alternatives.

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An hour away (with a platform change at Commercial-Broadway Station), they line Port Moody’s Murray Street like a row of oversized bar taps.

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On my journey, shoppers and day-tripping beer nuts like me dominated the air-conditioned cream-and-yellow SkyTrain cars. We briefly stopped at stations — Rupert, Holdom, Burquitlam — that sounded as though they had their own stories to tell. The glass towers of big city Vancouver faded as forested mountain ridges rose alongside.

By the time the doors swished open at Moody Centre Station, Burrard Inlet had been winking between the trees for several minutes. The vast waterway is one of the reasons Port Moody was founded; it also factored into an old railway tale I learned about later.

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But first, it was almost noon and time to wet my whistle.

An easy bar crawl

I was on Murray Street within five minutes, finding a line of low-rise, smudge-gray buildings housing auto shops and cleaning businesses. Microbrewery tasting rooms were nestled between them like fresh-budded hops.

In a straight line and mere steps apart, it was the easiest bar crawl route I’ve seen.

Not that a linear approach is required. I started at Yellow Dog Brewing Co., lured by its Labrador-themed signs. This microbrewery, opened in 2014, was Murray Street’s first.

I joined a gaggle of drinkers on mustard-colored metal stools at its long, glossy, wood bar. Server Marni told me about Chase — the beloved family pet for which the brewery was named — while slotting my four-glass tasting flight into a dog bone-shaped paddle.

After I verbally wagged my tail about the smoothly hopped Play Dead IPA, she pointed out Mike Coghill, Yellow Dog’s owner.

“One of the big things my wife and I missed when we moved here from Vancouver was the microbrewery scene,” Coghill said. “But building this place was definitely a leap of faith — we didn’t know if anyone here cared about craft beer.”

Luckily, demand quickly bubbled up. And with production surging, the idea for a homegrown Moody microbrewery scene made sense.

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A dog-bone-shaped tasting paddle at Yellow Dog Brewing.
A dog bone-shaped tasting paddle at Yellow Dog Brewing.
(John Lee)

“The four breweries here are all quite different but we work together as much as possible,” Coghill said. “We’re too small not to be supporting each other.”

A few doors away, Parkside Brewery, opened in 2016, echoed the fraternal feeling, said Vern Lambourne, head brewer.

Parkside’s handsome rec room-style bar includes retro-look fridges, mint-green neon signs and a popular shuffleboard table. But the deck’s umbrella-shaded picnic tables are the main lure on sunny days.

As I slurped my tasting flight, set in a paddle shaped like a small-scale park bench, I discovered a love for the copper-colored Dusk Pale Ale and the subtly fruited Fuzzy Wuzzy Peach IPA.

There are typically seven or so year-round, seasonal and cask Parkside beers available, Lambourne told me, plus two guest quaffs from other favored British Columbia breweries.

“The SkyTrain has definitely encouraged more Vancouver drinkers to come out here and give us a try,” he said. “But they often seem surprised that we have good beer in the ’burbs — people sometimes get a bit fixated on Vancouver’s microbreweries.”

A relaxed scene

It’s not the first time locals have had to deal with a Vancouver fixation. Taking a breather from the beer, I nipped across the road from Parkside to Port Moody Station Museum, housed in a historic railway station building.

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I found grainy photos and information panels on the early days of the pioneer-era community, and how it was chosen in 1879 as the western terminus of the mighty Canadian Pacific Railway.

The news triggered feverish investment in the tiny settlement until CP announced a line extension to Vancouver a few months later.

The history book I bought in the gift shop called the decision “a bitter defeat” for Port Moody, whose hopes of becoming the biggest town in the West were shattered like a dropped beer glass.

Locals likely drowned their sorrows with plenty of boozing, but these days the area’s drinking scene is far more relaxed.

Adam Crandall, co-founder of Moody Ales, at the bar.
Adam Crandall, co-founded of Moody Ales, at the bar.
(John Lee)

Near-windowless Moody Ales feels like a snug neighborhood bar where you can spend an afternoon nursing a pint or two over a board game.

I sat at the small L-shaped bar and talked to the friendly, tattooed server, who offered tasting flight suggestions.

I loved the Hardy Brown Ale’s toasted malts and the Huge Citrus Hazy Pale’s fruity spikes, before collaring co-founder Adam Crandall for a chat.

The room’s relaxed, accessible feel, he said, translates to the beverages.

“We launched with some very approachable beers that we knew craft beer first-timers would like,” he said. “But once they trusted us, we introduced a few different ones to the mix.”

That included the Hardy Brown Ale and a crisp-yet-malty Vienna Lager — both of which quickly gained a following — as well as some tasty smoked beers.

“Not many people would have tried these when we first opened but now they’re really popular,” Crandall said. “It’s like drinking a really delicious sausage.”

I strolled over to St. Johns Street and dived into a deliciously gooey thin-crust boscaiola pizza at Pizzeria Spacca Napoli, one of a handful of new restaurants in Port Moody that have opened alongside the city’s old mom-and-pop eateries. Fully fortified, I headed toward my final stop.

Twin Sails Brewing, next door to Yellow Dog, has a quirky tasting room with tall tables and faux-brick wall covering that recalls small-town taverns.

It was a sunny day, so the room’s garage-style front door was wide open. It’s a laid-back little bar with an intriguing drinks roster.

The four small glasses I sampled looked, at first glance, all the same: cloudy and creamy orange in color. But the flavors were quite different.

Hipster-bearded co-owner Cody Allmin, who dropped by for a chat when he spotted my not-so-furtive note-taking, told me the lineup has changed dramatically since he launched the brewery in 2015 with twin brother Clay.

“We started with German-style beers but then moved on to progressive American-style IPAs. We were the first brewery in British Columbia to specialize in these hazy, unfiltered beers,” he said, as I sipped a silky, hop-forward Street Legal IPA and a lighter, delightfully citrusy Dat Juice, a Twin Sails best seller.

But they’re not resting on their hops. An ever-evolving lineup — they’re planning 15 stouts this fall — keeps the locals sated. And it inspires more travelers to move past their favorite downtown Vancouver microbreweries and hop the Evergreen line to Murray Street.

“Vancouver has some great beers but Port Moody’s are better,” Allmin said.

If you go

Buy a TransLink transit DayPass (about $8 U.S.) from any SkyTrain station vending machine and you’re covered for your trip to and from Port Moody. Take SkyTrain’s Expo Line from any downtown station and transfer at Commercial-Broadway Station to the Millennium Line. Be sure to board an Evergreen Extension train that’s heading for Lafarge-Lake Douglas Station. Alight at Moody Centre Station.

Yellow Dog Brewing, 2817 Murray St., Port Moody; [604] 492-0191

Parkside Brewery, 2731 Murray St., Port Moody; [604] 492-2731

Moody Ales, 2601 Murray St., Port Moody; [604] 492-3911

Twin Sails Brewing, 2821 Murray St., Port Moody; [604] 492-4234

Port Moody Station Museum, 2734 Murray St., Port Moody; [604] 939-1648

Pizzeria Spacca Napoli, 2801 St. Johns St., Port Moody; [604} 939-5800


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