First Look: Great Pizza at Strathcona Beer Company

Everyone seen the promo video for Strathcona Beer Company yet? They’re really showing their love for skaters, motocross, bocce ball, weenie-roasting, working out on rooftops, and beer! This place finally opened on Friday, July 15 after a bit of controversy over opening up a brewery in a low-income neighborhood that struggles with addiction.

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Strathcona Beer Company is located on East Hastings & Campbell, kitty-corner to Ray-Cam Cooperative Community Centre, and on the same block as Les Amis du Fromage, Tom’s Eastvin Winemaking, and Dan’s Homebrewing Supplies. It’s also across the street from The Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary. Good times.

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At least their opening wasn’t as big of a fuss as when Pidgin opened back in February 2013. Gentrification is a complex and sensitive issue. Maybe we should all discuss it over…

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…PIZZA! OMG wonderful-smelling pizza…

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The stars aligned this day cuz I love me a well-made, crisp, clean pilsner. It’s an underappreciated style that has some unfortunate connotations.

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They’ve got a black, white, gold, and concrete theme here.

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Simple hours. Love it.

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Maybe it’s partly to assuage the controversy, but these neon letters saying “Community” were the first thing I saw when I walked in the door. For better or worse, this place (and its customers) are now part of this community.

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On the left side are empty growlers, a fridge of ice, a fridge of 40oz bottles, and the growler-filling station with the kitchen behind it. To the right of this photo is the merchandise corner and the washrooms.

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Branded bags of ice for your partay.

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It’s hilarious and awesome that these guys are the first brewery to sell in classic 40oz malt liquor sized bottles — and that it’s a Belgian Strong Ale is a surprising choice.

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The merch corner.

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Big skater/eastside theme here.

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The bar area with a view of their massive tanks. MASSIVE!

Even though it might look like a restaurant, it’s counter service here, so you order and pay at the bar then find somewhere to sit.

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They also have this interesting mystery glass room. Semi-private party room?

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Some really interesting design touches. A lot of the seating is communal long tables. I like it.

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And right across the street is the aforementioned Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary, one of the oldest and earliest in Vancouver. Interesting that the NIMBYs were ok with the dispensary but not ok with the brewery… Remember, the Astoria Pub is just a block away.

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A little message on the door as you leave. But really, what you encounter in this neighborhood is nothing if you’ve ever dined at Dixie’s BBQ, Pidgin, Darby’s Gastown, Save-on Meats, Acme Cafe, etc.

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The food menu. Aside from three salads, their main focus is PIZZA! This is a first for a local brewery, I think! I know Dogwood also does pizza, but we’re talking about real, made-from-dough pizza. Steel Toad I would put in a slightly different category because that’s a full-on brewpub with TVs and a food menu, but doesn’t do growler fills.

Apparently Strathcona’s pizza guy is from Pizzeria Barbarella on Broadway near Fraser. I had moderate expectations.

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Their beer menu. The ones that were available had the checkmarks, in addition to their new Premium Pilsner. Looks like they have a kolsch and a saison coming. All of their beers are approachable, sub-7% beers.

NOTE: I wish they listed prices and serving sizes for their flights and glasses of beer. Probably a temporary oversight. Or maybe I wasn’t looking in the right place?

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I can’t keep from hearing “dolla dolla bill y’all” in my head when I look at their logo.

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Their flight boards are shaped like a skateboard!

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I tried everything except their Lemon Radler.

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I won’t go into a huge amount of detail on their beers cuz they’ve only been open two weeks, but I think I’ve got a good sense of their target market for their beers and what they’re trying to achieve.

L-R: Premium Pilsner (5%), India Session Ale (4%), Strathcona Gold Belgian Ale (6.65%), and Strathcona British-Style IPA (6%).

The pilsner was super clean and easy to drink. No flaws per se, but at the same time not that interesting either. If I came back for a pizza, I’d definitely order this again though. But my favourite pilsners usually have a bit more of a unique hoppy element to them, like Pilsner Doehnel. If you bring your non-craft beer geek friends here, this is the beer for them.

The ISA had a hint of iodine/plastic/bandaid, so hopefully they can resolve this off-flavour as time goes on and they get used to their equipment. Aside from that, it’s just an ok ISA.

The Gold had a big Belgian yeast aroma and flavour but with that same plastic/bandaid thing happening as with the ISA, but maybe to a lesser extent. I also got a bit of a hot alcohol thing which was weird for a beer that’s only 6.65%, so I just have to chalk it up to being a really new brewery.

The IPA is brewed as a British-style IPA, which is a bit more malty and less aggressively hoppy as typical West Coast IPAs.

Overall, I wasn’t that thrilled with the beer, but I would go back for the pilsner. I imagine these beers to be in the same “camp” as breweries like Postmark, Red Truck, and Off the Rail — breweries that do lower ABV beers that aren’t too challenging, and are more for social lubrication rather than geeky, beard-stroking inspection.

Then, after a somewhat lengthy wait, this landed on the table:

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Diavola ($16) with tomato sauce, mozzarella, fior di latte, sopressata, kalamata olives, sliced jalapenos, chili oil, and fresh basil.

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The crust is a golden yellow and quite thin. I am totally fine with the amount of toppings they put in the pizza. For a crust this thin, I think the balance works. If you like your pizza meats spicy and salty, you’ll like the Diavola.

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Some charring on the bottom. Not quite leopard spots.

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If this was a restaurant, I would be impressed by their pizza. But this is a brewery with a kitchen attached, and I was pleasantly surprised and a bit amazed. This was great stuff. The crust was crisp with a bit of chew, and not in any way tough, even as the pizza sat for ~20 minutes as I chatted and drank with my dining partner. From what I remember from my last visit to Pizzeria Barbarella more than three years ago, their pizzas were much more loaded, more chewy, but not as crisp as I’d like. At Strathcona, the pizzas are thinner, crispier, and less heavy. Looks like their pizza guy hasn’t just replicated Barbarella’s pizza, he’s done his own thing and I love it.

I hope this pizza wasn’t just a fluke. I’ll be back to try some more while their beers hopefully continue to be refined and improved.

Strathcona Beer Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

3 thoughts on “First Look: Great Pizza at Strathcona Beer Company”

  1. Ya nailed the beers for me at least. I’ve had the lemon radler twice and while I give them props for producing a non-sweet version (lemon juice rather than lemonade) the juice they use gives it an artificial flavour. And it’s pretty much all you taste — I wouldn’t know that it was a Kolsch underneath. Fingers strongly crossed that they’ll iron out the kinks and make a real go of it.

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