Beer with Breakfast at Steel Toad
Even though I’m not a huge beer drinker, I, like many of you, rejoiced in the recent development of craft beer culture here in Vancouver. We are, after all, a big enough city, that it is time we–ahem–grew our own, rather than looking south to Seattle or Portland for small-batch, artesian brews. It’s all part of the “support local business” movement, and I for one, love it.
Steel Toad Brewpub, is, in a way, taking that local experience to the next level.
Only open about 9 months, the space took about 2 years to create. You may remember the derelict and abandoned steel factory on he corner of Ontario and 2nd. This former eyesore (originally built in 1918), with busted-out windows, is now a beautiful, open space, and home to a brewery and dining hall.
It doesn’t get much more local than his. When I visited for brunch last week, our booth and the tanks where our beer were brewed were literally 2 feet apart, and separated only by a pane of glass.
You can’t buy Steel Toad’s (the brewery is named after the factory workers, or steel toads, as they were known back then), beer outside of the pub. Their licence doesn’t even allow you to bring a growler home with you. And he beer is good. So it’s well worth the trip.
Now, I fully realize that mimosas or Caesars are the brunch booze of choice for most people. But when at a brewpub… right?
There are rotating taps here, based on what he Brewmaster is working on. It’s worth noting that the brewmaster in question here, is an engineer who built all the tanks and did all the piping himself. He was trained in England, and you’ll see that old school, British pub-style beer reflected in he menu. The oatmeal stout was one of my particular favourites, and, after all, oatmeal for breakfast? Perfect.
My only complaint is that the brunch menu only has three items that are actual breakfast. There are tons of other options-burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, salads.
The upside is, the three things they do do, they do well. The options are bacon and eggs (bacon and sausage come from a butcher on the north shore), a benny, and a skillet. The skillet ingredients rotate based on what’s around, and the day we were there, it was a vegetarian skillet with eggplant, zucchini and artichoke hearts.
Special mention must be made of the potatoes. Breakfast potatoes are a dime a dozen, but to really do them right… that’s rare. These are pretty amazing; new baby potatoes, perfectly crispy on the outside, pillowy on the inside, and then tossed in their house-made beer salt. Yes. Happiness; thy name is beer salt.
The hollandaise also deserves an honourable mention–thick, pale and creamy, it made the perfect accompaniment to my poached egg, combining with the yolk as it ran out.
Service was professional and friendly. Our server was well-educated about beer and wine, and obviously passionate about his job, rather than it just being a job. We had some great conversations about the foodie/beer scene in Vancouver.
The space is ginormous, but it still manages to feel warm, without losing sight of the original purpose of the space. There’s lots of warm wood, much of it, I assume, like the beams in the ceiling, original to the structure. But there are also industrial touches everywhere; the bar stools have steel legs, and steel piping accents the bar. Some old, rusty ductwork hangs over the bar, an ever-present reminder of the building’s history.
Beer for breakfast never had it so good. Steel Toad effectively marries the past with the future, and it tastes delicious.
97 2nd Ave East (at Quebec), Vancouver, BC