City hall to convert cafeteria into craft brewery

Civic-themed offerings on tap at ‘Upper Brewery Creek’ facility

With beehives on its roof and community gardens on its lawn, Vancouver city hall has taken what it says is the next logical step and is installing a craft brewery in its basement.

In a few short months, City Hall Brewing Co. will open the doors of its 10,000-square-foot brewing facility and tasting room, occupying the former ground floor cafeteria of city hall.   

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Larger than a nanobrewery and smaller than a microbrewery, the $1.3-million “demibrewery” is the first project of its kind to be launched in North America by a municipal government.

“Craft beer has returned to Upper Brewery Creek” a press release from the city announced earlier this week, although no one from the city’s communication staff returned the Courier’s requests for an interview before print deadline.

Utilizing state-of-the-art brewing technology that requires less water and produces less waste, the brewery, according to the press release, is in keeping with the city’s Greenest City 2020 Action Plan. Discarded mash and runoff from the brewing process will be used to fertilize hops and barley grown on the back lawn of city hall, while growlers and other bottles sold at the brewery’s filling station will be made from biodegradable corn plastic.

city hall brewing

The brewery’s line of beers promises to be equally civic-minded. Rankin’s Lipwarmer is a described as a “robust” oatmeal stout that gets its name from long-serving city councillor Harry Rankin, while George Puil Bitter is a nod to the famously cantankerous NPA politician, with “a hoppy bite and lingering bitterness.” Lil’ Sweet Capri is a blonde honey lager named after the flaxen-haired former councillor Kim Capri, while Gregor’s Kilt is described “a beguiling Scotch ale as mysterious as what lies beneath the mayor’s tartan skirt.”  

Portland brewmaster Caleb Colten will oversee operations at City Hall Brewing Co., which will also offer in-house sausages, homemade marmalades and an assortment of “venison snacks.” Considered the bad boy of the Pacific Northwest’s craft brewing and artisanal fermentation scene, the grizzled 43-year-old is credited with all but inventing Portland’s bespoke schnapps and mulled wine craze when he opened The Rusty Gullet in 2011. Colten recently took home Innovator of the Year nods at the 2014 International Craft Brewing Awards in Munich for his Shorn Beard Yeast-Roasted Mead, which judges described as “intriguingly off-putting.”

The self-taught brewer and leathersmith says he’s looking forward to “brewing barley sandwiches and blowing people’s minds” while in Vancouver, which he only visited once before, when his former band, Hero Sandwich, opened for Wind Walker at the Hungry Eye in the mid-’90s.  

“From what I can tell Vancouver’s craft beer scene is still pretty young and innocent, so I’m kind of like the creepy uncle who’ll bootleg for it and give it a pack of smokes,” Colten told the Courier. “Brewing beer is not rocket surgery. People just need to relax and let nature do its thing. That’s why I prefer to call myself a ‘beer choreographer’ rather than a brewmaster.”

According to the city’s calculations, the brewery will be “revenue neutral” for its first two years of operation, and turn a healthy profit by year three, which will then be reinvested into alcohol addiction programs and social initiatives aimed at 20- to 50-year-old Mount Pleasant residents whose lifestyle, coupled with lack of exercise and poor footwear, make them susceptible to a litany of health problems. Calls to the city’s communications department for further comment were not returned by the Courier’s deadline.

hincandenza@vancourier.com

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