Beer tasting in Port Moody

Quite a number of my sentences recently have begun with ‘when I was here 10 years ago it wasn’t like this…’ or something to that effect. It’s unsurprising really, seeing as I’ve changed massively in the 10 years since I lived in Canada previously, yet I still find it necessary to point these things out on a regular basis. Apologies to all those who have had to listen to me carry on about it.

One thing that really has changed a lot is the craft beer scene. When I lived in Whistler, our main criteria when going to the liquor store (you can’t buy alcohol in supermarkets here) was to find the drinks with the highest alcohol percentage at the lowest price. I’m looking at you Glacier Berry cider and Mike’s Hard Lemonade. We drank beer in bars a lot, mainly because it was the cheapest thing on offer, but it was pretty ordinary.

Pretty much as soon as I arrived in Vancouver I heard people talking about the huge numbers of micro breweries in the city, and I have managed to visit a couple of them. Over the Canada Day long weekend, some friends asked me if I wanted to join them on a trip to Port Moody, about an hour outside of Vancouver, to do a mini brewery tour, which seemed like an offer too good to pass up for someone who relies heavily on public transport to get around.

First things first, we had to pack our growlers. You may be wondering what on earth one of these is, and considering I’ve only heard it in the context of a slightly lewd word for female genitalia it took me a minute to figure out what my friends were suggesting we take with us on this trip.

This is a growler:

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Basically, it’s a glass vessel to take your beer away with you. They come in various sizes, but they’re a good option if you want to take a reasonable amount of your favourite beer with you, and a much lower price than buying the bottled or canned version. As a side note, you can’t drink in parks here, so it’s for at home consumption only.

Anywho, we drove out to Port Moody and started our tour at Parkside Brewery, the newest addition to the PM brewing scene. We all chose to do a beer flight so that we could try a few different things, and there was a food truck selling amazing tacos, so we fuelled up in preparation for the rest of the evening. Parkside got top marks for best space (warehouse style but with lots of seating) and best mini beer glasses. I can’t really remember which beers I tried, but I thing I really liked 2 of them…I drank the other 2 anyway, of course.

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Ignore the salsa mess…

Next up was Yellow Dog Brewing which didn’t start too well as we had to queue to get in. I should add that all of the breweries in PM are on one street, less than a 10 minute walk from one end to the other, making the whole experience very easy.  Once we were inside we got our flights (they were each only about $7 for 4 beer tasters) and took them outside to a beer garden reminiscent of an English pub. I had my first ever taste of a sour beer here on recommendation of my housemate, but I’m not sure I’ll have it again – cider lovers would probably enjoy it – but I dutifully drank it all anyway.

I should definitely take notes at this sort of thing as I know I liked the beers best here out of all the places we visited (apart from the sour beer) but I couldn’t tell you what exactly I drank…occupational hazard of drinking I guess. Yellow Dog came a very close second for flight presentation, based on the bone shaped taster glass holder.

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There was definitely an IPA in there…

Next up was Twin Sails Brewing, which unfortunately was our least favourite of them all. Personally, I think was a bit beered out at this point, as I didn’t love any of the beers we tasted. I would however go back and go here first next time to put that theory to the test.

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We did have fun taking some selfies though.

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At our least favourite of the night. We choked it down anyway. 

We had one last brewery to go, but took a detour to a coffee shop for our designated driver to get a caffeine injection before we carried on, but this ended up being our undoing. The coffee shop turned out to be an incredible ice-cream shop too, and after stuffing our faces there, the last thing we felt like was more beer. So, we went home, a bit tipsy but content with our fill of beer for this trip. Still, it gives us something to come back for next time.

And just to prove that things do in fact change a lot in a decade, here’s a picture of me from what Facebook tells me is almost exactly 9 years ago this weekend, when I last lived in Canada. What a treat for you all.

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Life…or something like it

It’s been two months since I arrived in Vancouver, and in many ways I instantly felt at home. There are of course daily reminders that I have moved thousands of miles away from friends and family, despite the fact that pretty much daily I wake up to a stream of WhatsApp messages from the UK – it always brightens my mornings to know that I haven’t been forgotten (yet). Seeing as the subject of said messages tends to be along the theme of work, living situation, the weather, what I do at the weekends, I thought it efficient (or lazy?) to write a quick update on what’s been going on for the past few weeks.

Job(s)

I’m still working at the First Nations Health Authority during the week, but as it is a temporary contract I’ve also started working in a local restaurant a couple of nights a week to keep the dollars rolling in when the other work comes to an end. Both jobs have their pros and cons, but adjusting to working in an office on a temporary basis is a lot more challenging than I ever thought it would be, not to mention working at a level which is significantly lower than you are capable of…even though I do still have to ask about the paper sizes about 100 times a week. On the other side of things I’m really enjoying being back on hospitality scene; the restaurant I’m working at (Mission) is small, which means I get to do a bit of everything, plus the food is fantastic. I’m not sure they understood my excitement when I saw they serve Jansz and some great Margaret River wines – they don’t let me drink much of them though unfortunately!

The down side of working 2 jobs is that free time is precious these days, and it leaves very little time for searching for more permanent (and more stimulating) jobs.

Living

I’ve settled into Kits life, although the aforementioned lack of time means I haven’t been able to enjoy the beach (the weather has also scuppered this somewhat) as much as I’d envisaged, but I love the area and never really feel the need to go into Downtown Vancouver over the weekends. I am going to have to start the housing search again very soon though (yay…) as my current landlord is planning to put the rent up at the end of the current lease in September. I’m hoping that as I know a few more people here now, I won’t run into as many eccentric people as last time and can find somewhere a little more permanent this time around.

Weather

Well, I am British after all so it’s only right to talk about the weather surely?! As soon as I heard that Vancouver was having an unseasonably warm spring before I arrived, I knew the summer would be a wash out. I know, not channeling much positive thinking on my part, but I have been proven right! We’ve had a few nice days and one weekend of really warm temperatures, but overall it’s been fairly cool and quite wet. Personally I don’t mind too much, but it would be nice not to be wearing jeans all summer long. This does mean I feel right at home though, as I don’t think you folk in the UK have had it much better than me.

Extracurricular Activities (running)

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A quick dip in the river at the end of pretty mega trail run last weekend

Since the half marathon a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been running more than ever. This may seem illogical to some (me included at times) but my running mad friends have been pushing me further and harder than I’ve ever run before as they train for ultras, super speedy marathons, and even 100 mile races (read about my friend Sarah’s training here). I reached a point last week where I decided I may as well train for something big again too, and have upgraded my Victoria Half Marathon entry for October to the full marathon distance…eek. I’m still feeling a bit cheated out of my Manchester non-marathon, so primary goal is to finish it and finally tick it (officially) of my list, but I’d like to try and better my time too. Even though I don’t really have an official time. ARGH. Moving on…

Other

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Beer tasting in Port Moody

Do I do anything else?! Sometimes! I’m trying to squeeze as much into the gaps as I can, and I’ll write some more about some of the fun things I’ve done recently soon too. Although it sometimes feels like it, it’s not ALL work and running, honest.

Oh, and if anyone is interested, Canadians LOVE to ask me about (laugh at) the whole Brexit debacle. My first response is always along the lines of ‘I had nothing to do with that result!’ but it’s interesting how interested the world is in the UK’s political cock ups.

So that’s life right now. Sorry if you’re disappointed that I’m not scaling mountains and cuddling bears/Mounties on a weekly basis, but unfortunately my dirty clothes don’t wash themselves and I still have to eat from time to time (all the time).

My first Canadian (running) race

Maybe look away now if you’re not bothered about running…

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with reading race reports – anyone who’s ever read running blogs will probably know what I mean. They’re either excruciating because you know you’ve got to run that same course at some point, or they’re just a literal mile by mile (or km by km) account of the race, which isn’t really very interesting, especially to non-runners. We’ll see how this one goes.

Canadian races mostly start a lot earlier than in the UK – the start time was 7.30am for the Scotiabank Half Marathon last Sunday, which meant a 5.30am alarm to allow enough time to have breakfast and get the bus up to the University (UBC) where it started. The weather forecast was for temperatures around 24 degrees later in the day so I actually didn’t mind the early start too much, but my housemates probably didn’t appreciate me stumbling around and using the microwave at that hour on a Sunday.

Mine and most others pre-race fuelling strategy: porridge, banana, bagel, that sort of thing. Allan’s strategy: leave your breakfast at home and inhale a sausage McMuffin and two hash browns 20 minutes before the start. I can safely say I think he regretted that for most of the race.

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Pre-race selfie. Allan digesting his sausage McMuffin.

 

In a race report you seem to have to talk about the length of time you queued for the toilet before the start and express your frustration/surprise either way. We managed minimal waiting times and no one got angry. Canadians are almost as good at queuing as the Brits.

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At the start line

There was also minimal fuss at the start line, so we took a few selfies and we were off. My running friends here have a slightly different concept of racing to me – one which seems to involve feeling a bit like you might die/throw up for the duration of the race, which I’m not so keen on. I paid $60 for the experience, if I wanted to feel like that I’d just go and buy $60 worth of sausage McMuffins – I’m pretty sure that would result in the same feeling.

I spent the first few kilometres (sorry, I’ve been converted) being overtaken by everyone as I started with my speedy friends, and reminding myself that I wasn’t really going that slowly. It’s quite an ‘undulating’ course (a word runners love to hate) and I’d been warned about a couple of the hills later on, but I swore quite loudly when I realised the ‘flat’ out and back section was actually gradually back up hill for quite some time.

Anywho, once that bit was over it really was downhill for a while, around the edge of the University, with views out towards the ocean – it was glorious. I think was grinning from ear to ear for most of this and, a first for me, managed to take some photos whilst running.

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I can’t really write anything interesting about the next few kilometres – it got flatter which after the downhill felt a bit like wading through mud, it got hotter, which started to make my face feel like it was on fire, and my shorts starting chafing, which was an entirely unpleasant experience. I was enjoying myself though, honest.

One thing about smaller races (and ones that start and finish in different places, like this one) is that the crowds are concentrated towards the end or in small pockets so it was very quiet for a lot of it. I sometimes have a little chat with myself later in a race too, so without the crowds to drown it out, I looked like a bit of a loon.

The running community in Vancouver is pretty strong though, and given that I’ve only been in Canada for a short period of time, it was amazing to have the cheering support (and freezies – ice pops!) from the  Mile2Marathon guys, and what can only be described as a wall of sound from Van Run Co which helped push through the last couple of kilometres.

I always get a bit overexcited when I realise the end of a race is in sight, and started a slightly impromptu sprint finish with 2km to go. Too soon. I was prepared to have the sick/death feeling for a short while to get the thing over and done with but I had to reign it in a bit for fear of one of those becoming a reality. Race organisers are a cruel breed as so many races seem to end on an incline, a nice way to make you really earn that medal. Anywho, I crossed the line in 1:50:31 – a minute faster than my previous personal best, plus no vomiting or dying, so I was pretty pleased.

I won’t lie, one of the reasons I’d entered the race was because I had been told (by several people) that the post-race food included cookies the size of your face. As soon as I’d found my friends (who had all finished about 15 minutes ahead of me) we set off in search of these fabled treats. To the credit of the race organisers, there was an excellent spread of mini bagels, bananas, yogurts with granola, and the cookies…which were definitely not the size of MY face anyway. Maybe the face of a small toddler? Here’s a really terrible photo for comparison.

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As we’d started so early it was only about 10am by the time we’d all finished and sorted ourselves out, leaving plenty of time for one of the best things about long distance running – a second breakfast. Homemade pancakes, fruit, muffins and banana bread are an excellent refuelling option.

You may have got to this point and be wondering why I continue to run if all I can tell you about a race is that it was hot, hilly, painful and the cookies were too small? It is kind of addictive, and collecting race medals is the adult equivalent of badges, I think. Plus you get to eat two breakfasts.