First Look: Devil’s Elbow Ale & Smoke House

Howe Sound Brewing’s new Vancouver pub is finally open in the old Chambar space: Devil’s Elbow Ale & Smoke House. Their website isn’t quite live yet so check their Twitter feed if you want to see their full menu. They officially opened their doors on Halloween but I didn’t get around to checking them out until a few days later.

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I believe this type of establishment is a “tied house” where a single off-site brewery supplies most of the beer. In this case it’s Howe Sound Brewing based in Squamish. From what I’ve read, Howe Sound Brewpub is a pretty good brewpub destination but I never go up that way, so it’s nice to finally experience some of that Howe Sound pubby goodness in Vancouver.

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The new Chambar is just a couple doors to the right of Devil’s Elbow, making this area a prime candidate for another beer/food crawl! 😉 Funny that a place like Chambar would ever be part of a crawl, but I’m game. A night of Chambar, Devil’s Elbow, The Abbey, Wildebeest and Pidgin…wow. Too bad Taishoken closes at 9pm, it’d be awesome to finish off a night with a hot bowl of ramen.

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The basic space inside Devil’s Elbow is similar to the old Chambar. It’s a long narrow space that goes right to the back windows. Bar is in the same spot. Interior has more wood, and main colours of black and red. I was there on their fourth night of operation. Staff were friendly and enthusastic. The bartender was knowledgeable about the beers — as he should be — but what was great was that he had his own perceptive, personal take on the beers that I found interesting.

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They carry all of the regular Howe Sound beers plus the seasonals and a few beers that were new to me. They have the Woolley Bugger Barleywine! But at 11% ABV it was too much for me to drink on a Monday night…I do want to try it soon though.

BTW, I think the board mistakenly lists Hopraiser IPA as being 6% ABV when I think it’s actually 5%.

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Six guest taps. Nothing too weird or challenging. Should I give Postmark another chance? Should I???

Servings are real 20oz pints! Some of the stronger beers only come in 12oz sizes. You can also order 12oz size of any beer, if you’re a lightweight like me 🙂

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They call themselves a “smoke house”, so we’re talking barbecue and all the stuff that goes with it. Some of the food incorporates beer, like the Ale Cheddar Soup and the IPA Mac & Cheese. Those Kettle Chips with Maque Choux sound interesting, but sound like a pretty big share portion at $9. I didn’t go for it but I think “maque choux” is a southern corn relish-type thing.

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Salads, sides and sandwiches. I like that sides are only $4. Sometimes I like sides more than mains! I could eat a whole dinner of just sides.

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Meat plates.

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I didn’t pay attention to the other drinks on the menu, but I think they also offer hard stuff along with wine and cocktails. They have two desserts: a Deep Fried Cheesecake (!) and a Hemp Fudge Brownie. The brownie is a prime candidate to pair with their richer, heavier beers like Pothole Filler Stout or Woolley Bugger Barleywine.

The beer, food and vibe are quite different from Chambar, which is great. It’ll allow them to co-exist rather than compete.

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L-R: Hopraiser West Coast IPA (5%) and Sky Pilot Northwest Pale Ale (5%), both 12oz servings. These two beers were new to me. They’re not hugely different from each other…slightly different hop profiles but both drink pretty easy and have plenty of flavour. One thing that really jumped out at me was the creamy mouthfeel of the Hopraiser IPA. Not sure how this was achieved but I really enjoyed it. Maybe from the hop-bursting and dry-hopping techniques? So Hopraiser ended up being my favourite out of the two. And yes, Hopraiser is the clearer beer whereas Sky Pilot was cloudier.

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Sausage Plate ($20) with one beef sausage and two lamb sausages, baked beans, coleslaw and dipping mustard.

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The sausages are smoked then grilled. They do that criss-cross cutting into the sausage. I’m ok with it, but sometimes I like to cut or bite into a pristine sausage to experience that snap and have the juices squirt out everywhere 😀 If you’re a sausage fan, you’d be happy with this plate. I didn’t get a huge amount of smokiness from the sausages though. I’m not sure what their smoking setup is like. I should’ve read the front of their menu, which has their whole spiel…

The standout for me were the baked beans with crispy fried onions on top. Smokey, balanced, packed with umami, and not sickly sweet like baked beans from a can. I could eat a ton of these beans and then levitate out the door like a gas-powered hovercraft.

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Side of IPA Mac ‘n Cheese. This was just ok. I couldn’t tell there was IPA in there, and I needed a cheesier and saltier kick. I snuck some Maldon sea salt flakes on top it and it tasted a bit better.

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I do like the wooden serving boards though. I left a lot of knife marks in the other board. It’ll be kinda cool to see these boards age as they get used.

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A nice quote that applies equally to John Mitchell and Frank Appleton’s pioneering craft beer work that started more than 30 years ago when craft beer didn’t exist in BC. Cheers!

Initial feelings are positive. I’d like to come back to try their brisket and ribs, to get a fuller sense of what their “smoke house” idea is all about, and to see how this place fits into the Vancouver dining scene in general.

Devil's Elbow Ale & Smoke House on Urbanspoon

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