One of many majestic views from atop Whistler mountain.

Whistler/Blackcomb is one of North America’s premier destination ski resorts. In rankings of North American ski resorts, Whistler is consistently included in the top 10, often reaching the summit of the ratings. Whistler has been around for many years, but since being bought by Intrawest Corportation and merged with neighbouring Blackcomb Mountain, Whistler has experienced explosive growth and development over the last decade.

Whistler Village is heavily populated with bars and restaurants, and offers the beer connoisseur several opportunities to explore Canadian, and specifically B.C. brews.

The Brew House in Whistler village.

Pubs Visited: The Brew House – Whistler Village

The Brew House is Whistler’s only brew pub. Owned by the High Mountain Brewing Company, which also owns Yaletown and Dix in Vancouver, The Brew House offers seven of its own brews.

The building itself is a beautiful post and beam style construction, which is very prominent in Whistler. The building is divided into a restaurant section, and a pub section. While the restaurant section is very large, the pub section is rather small, and seems inadequate to house the busy trade that the establishment receives. However, its small space is quite comfy if you can wrangle a seat on a snowy evening for a couple of pints.

On to the beer. The Brew House offers 7 of its own brews: Big Wolf Bitter, Dirty Miner Stout, Pale Ale, Lager, Light Lager, Nut Brown Ale, and a Seasonal Brew, which was a Pilsner in early winter.

Our favourite by far was the Big Wolf Bitter, a flavourful, hoppy beer, with an underlying flavour of caramel, and a unique smoothness, reminiscent of C’est What’s Hemp Ale.

The Twin Peaks Pale Ale was very similar to the Bitter, but with a lighter flavour. Perhaps a more desirable alternative to those patrons used to consuming the offerings for the masses, but for the beer connoisseur the Pale Ale lacks any true uniqueness. A beer connoisseur would be best served by simply ordering the Bitter instead.

The Lifty Lager is a relatively unremarkable lager – good, but nothing exciting.

The Brewhouse also offers a Northern Light Lager, which was untested.

The Pilsner, the seasonal offering during the Bar Towel’s visit, was very unique brew, with a flavour of green banana, reminiscent of the wonderful Weizen from our Denison’s Brewing Company.

The stout was very disappointing. While the dark, opaque colour was enticing, the brew was nearly flavourless, and lacked the traditional roasted aroma and flavour common in authentic stouts.

Frank’s Nut Brown Ale was unavailable when we visited the Brewhouse.

Somewhat interesting is that the Brew House offers 25% off pub food for locals, with the tourist patrons paying full price. While a discount is understandable for locals because of what must be the exorbitant cost of living, the prominent posting of the signs for the discount made the Bar Towel wonder if more than one tourist patron was upset by the policy. It is understandable for the Brew House to want to establish itself as a “locals” hangout, but it would probably be better served to discount more discretely.

Dubh Linn Gate in Whistler village.

Dubh Linn Gate – Whistler Village

Dubh Linn Gate is an Irish-style pub located in Whistler Village, at the base junction of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. The atmosphere and décor is predictably Irish-esque: lots of Irish-related memorabilia, wood and stained glass throughout the pub and even Irish music (Van Morrison) being played.

Upon settling down at a table in the pub side (the restaurant section is all-ages, the pub side 19+), we were surprised to find how many beers were on tap. We counted 29 different beers on tap; however the selection was not as surprising. The tap selection was predictable for an Irish-style pub: Guinness featured prominently, with a complement of United Kingdom ales and Canadian mass market brews.

There were, however, seven west coast micros on tap, including selections from Big Rock, Vancouver Island and Shaftebury. The Vancouver Island Blonde and Shaftebury Honey Pale Ale were sampled. Both were crisp and refreshing, however not extraordinary or overly memorable.

It was interesting to note that for a pub that values Irish heritage so much, that there would be more stouts available than simply Guinness. One wonders if there is beer foul play about.

The Dubh Lin Gate claims to serve “Whistler’s Biggest Pint” – tapping their brews to patrons in 20 ounce glasses. Evidently the standard in Whistler Village are 16 ounce ‘sleeves’, which are often referred to as ‘pints’. It is commendable that the Gate provides a full brew in this village of large mountains and small beers.

Amsterdam Pub – Whistler Village

A reasonably lively pub located in the base village of Whistler Mountain. Unlike the Amsterdam in Toronto, this pub offers only a few beers on tap, the most interesting being Kootenay Mountain Ale. Seems to be a popular hangout for locals.

Merlin’s – Blackcomb base

A popular après-ski pub at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, located in front of the Wizard Express lift. A lively pub, with enthusiastic staff and roaring tunes. Not much in the way of beer, though, with only a handful of taps, Kootenay Mountain Ale being the most interesting.

Bottled beers sampled:

Tree Brewing’s HopHead.

Tree HopHead India Pale Ale (Kelowna, BC)

Tree Brewing of Kelowna, BC, debuted their new HopHead IPA in 2000, touting it as one of Canada’s most hoppy beers. This is not a misleading claim. The HopHead is an extremely hoppy and flavourful beer, reminiscent of many American IPAs. The HopHead has a nice full body and mouthfeel, without the hoppiness being too overpowering. A fine ale all around. Unfortunately, Tree currently has no plans on distributing to Ontario.

Big Rock’s Cold Cock Porter.

Big Rock Cold Cock Winter Porter (Calgary, Alta.)

The Cold Cock is a strong (7%) porter from the Big Rock brewery of Calgary, Alberta. This brew is surprisingly light-bodied for a strong porter. It is, however, a tad too sweet. The Cold Cock Porter is unavailable in Ontario, however a number of Big Rock’s brews (including Traditional Ale, Grasshopper Wheat and others) are available in bottles and on draught in Toronto.

Vancouver Island Hermannator Ice Bock (Victoria, BC)

Along with Niagara Falls, Vancouver Island is one of the few (if not the only) authentic interpretations of the German style Eisbock in Canada. The Hermannator is stronger than Niagara Falls’ version (9% as compared to 8%). The appearance is dark, without much carbonation. Recent Niagara Falls Eisbock vintages have not been as dark as this Hermannator. There is a prominent aroma and flavour of intense maltiness. Sweetness expected in a brew of this strength; and it does not disappoint. The mouthfeel is full and smooth, and the sweetness continues through the aftertaste. Vancouver Island does not distribute any of its brands in Ontario.

Shaftebury Winter Solstice Ale (Vernon, BC)
Shaftebury Hemp Ale (Vernon, BC)
Shaftebury Rainforest Amber Ale (Vernon, BC)

These ales from the Shaftebury microbrewery in Vernon are all drinkable, however unremarkable. Shaftebury does not distribute to Ontario.

Tree Amber Ale (Kelowna, BC)

This brew has a strong maltiness in both the core flavour and aftertaste. A decent ale. Unavailable in Ontario.

Vancouver Island Hermann’s Dark Lager (Victoria, BC)

Hermann’s Dark Lager is an extremely and overly sweet lager. Vancouver Island does not distribute any of its brands in Ontario.

Okanagan Spring Old English Porter (Vernon, BC)

The Old English Porter is a strong (8.5%) porter from Vernon’s Okanagan Spring Brewery. The Okanagan Spring Brewery is owned by Sleeman Breweries of Ontario. The appearance is extremely dark, with a fizzy head. The body is quite light and carbonated. It is quite a sweet brew, with a flavour of roasted maltiness that lingers into the aftertaste. A decent porter, much more interesting than anything Sleeman brews in Ontario. None of Okanagan Spring’s brands are distributed in Ontario.

Whistler village offers has many, many more pubs, bars and beers that are not covered in this report. However, the Bar Towel was quite impressed with the experience of Whistler-Blackcomb, and a follow-up report can be expected in winter of 2001.