What beer brought you into the craft beer fold? West Coast City Girl, Yasmine Hardcastle, shares her gateway to dark beers, why it’s important to try new things, and the gateway beers of others in the BC craft beer community.

Autumn and winter are not only my favourite seasons for fashion, they’re also my favourite beer seasons. Why? Because it means the dark beers come out to play. Not all breweries offer a stout or porter as a warm-weather option, so summer and spring tend to be my palate’s experimentation seasons. My partner, on the other hand? He is all about IPAs and lighter beers. But we love trying new beer styles it’s what led each of us to our gateway beers.

A pint and a flight at R&B Brewing.

But before we get to my gateway beer, I have two confessions:

  1. Aside from a few lime-infused Coronas when in Mexico, I never used to actually like beer. This is what happens when your father lets you try his (will remain nameless) beer that you thought — and still think — tasted horrible, when you were too young to know better than to ask for a sip.
  2. Once upon a time, I used to think the aforementioned Corona was craft beer. Don’t judge.

With that embarrassing business out of the way, allow me to redeem myself by sharing how my travels, living in Vancouver, and an Englishman changed my tune about beer.

With the luck of the Irish and a taste of the midnight sun…

The first time I travelled to the UK in 2010, I went to a pub dertermined to find a beer that I liked — I didn’t want to be looked at funny for ordering a glass of red wine (which I soon learned is perfectly fine). I discovered two things that day: half-pints and that Guinness tastes amazing when it’s poured properly. But it still took another few years to get to craft beers.

My proper craft a-ha moment came when I went to Whitehorse to visit friends in 2013. One of their friends managed Yukon Brewing at the time, and I was introduced to the joy that is the Midnight Sun espresso stout. Hello! And thus my love for dark beers was cemented.

Date night
The Brit and I trying new things at Townsite Brewing.

And then I met an Englishman…

Fast forward to 2016, and the Englishman (who I call The Brit) I share life and home with began home-brewing with the goal to duplicate his craft gateway beer: Driftwood Brewery’s epic Fat Tug IPA. For ‘research,’ he asked if I would go to a craft beer tasting room with him. “Why not?” was my reply. (P.S. This is an excellent date idea or option for girls’ night.)

Our first joint tasting room experience was a tour of Central City’s amazing facilities, and we’ve since visited and re-visited breweries all over the BC Ale Trail, as well as in Seattle and the UK. Our initial tasting room meanderings were also the start of what I call the #pintandaflight. (While I prefer dark beers, I’m always keen to try different styles of beer—hence the flight—while The Brit will usually get a pint of IPA.)

gateway beers BC Ale Trail
Try a flight of whatever you fancy at Swans Brewery in Victoria. | Photo: Jana Josue

And before we moved to Victoria—where Swans Brewery has an excellent selection of in-house and guest porters and stouts—we had the extreme pleasure of living a five-minute walk away from New Westminster’s Steel & Oak Brewing. They make a fab dark lager and an excellent Baltic Porter. (As does Victoria’s Canoe Brewpub, come to think of it.)

Steel and Oak gateway beers
Trying new things at Steel & Oak.

The importance of trying new things…

As I mentioned, The Brit is keen on Fat Tug IPA, and IPAs in general. Before moving to Canada—and perhaps very English of him—his beer of choice was an ESB, though not of the craft variety. Home-brewing made him curious, and though he enjoys his own pints, he always takes a cheeky sip of whatever I have in a flight.

Porters and stouts never really struck his fancy until we went to Townsite Brewing for the first time—when I had to pry my tasting glass of Perfect Storm out of his hand. As you can imagine, we buy at least two of this oatmeal stout whenever we have the chance. The same thing happened when we went to Persephone Brewing, with their Nitro Stout. Must be something about the Sunshine Coast

This is all to say that a willingness to try new things is the way to finding something you enjoy. As an example, my Irish friend Orla is not a Guinness girl (gasp!), nor has she ever been a beer girl. But being game for anything an important trait for a travel blogger she was my date for the BC Beer Awards last year. And she discovered she likes sours and saisons because they remind her of cider.

Gateway beers of the BC Craft Beer Community

I asked some members of the BC Ale Trail community to share their gateway beers. I hope this inspires you to try a new style the next time you visit your favourite or a new tasting room!

“I’m a brewery owner, but my husband didn’t like beer(!) Someone told him he just hadn’t met a beer he liked… yet. And then he tried Parallel 49 Brewing‘s Russian Imperial Stout. He’s enjoyed the dark, bold beers ever since. Mine was Central City‘s Red Racer IPA — the grapefruit nose brought me in!” 

Michelle Zutz, Townsite Brewing

“A Hefeweizen in Germany on a backpacking trip in the early ’90s was one of the beers that really opened my eyes to the possibilities beer offered beyond the standard, mass market lagers I’d had before that. That set me down a path of exploring the beer world, looking for new beer styles everywhere I travelled. I’d say Four Winds Brewing’s Nectarous Dry Hopped Sour was a gateway beer for me into sours. After that, I remember I realized I liked sours when my mouth started watering when I looked at a bottle of Nectarous on a liquor store shelf.”

joe wiebe, thirsty writer


“The style that turned me on to beer with flavour was Granville Island Brewing‘s Winter Ale. And the one that really showed me what beer can be was Juxtapose IPA from Four Winds.”

Mike Ansley, The BEER RATER

“Way back in the day, when I was bartending, I discovered red ales through Parallel 49‘s Ruby Tears, and IPAs trough Driftwood‘s Fat Tug. Coming full circle, it’s now my job to talk about Ruby Tears!”



What was your gateway beer? Share on the BC Ale Trail’s Facebook page. I’d love to know!

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