First Look: R&B Ale and Pizza House

R&B Brewing are actually one of the local old-school breweries, having opened in 1997 in the same space (now expanded and remodeled) on East 4th & Quebec St. They’re within walking distance of the new Faculty Brewing, Steel Toad, 33 Acres, Brassneck, and Main Street Brewing. R&B were a near-casualty of the Vancouver craft beer boom, and got increasingly overlooked, out-brewed, and ignored when everyone else was opening up tasting rooms where people could hang out, fill growlers, etc, while R&B were stuck with no ability to open a tasting lounge that’s become a critical part of becoming a successful brewery in Vancouver. On the brink of bankruptcy, they were bought out by Howe Sound Brewing in April 2015, with one of the founders, Barry, continuing on as an employee. With that injection of capital and manpower, they’ve finally opened up their lounge and pizza oven in August 2016. How do their beers fare now in today’s crowded and hot hot hot craft beer scene? And how’s their pizza?

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There was a time in 2013 when R&B seemed to be keeping pace with the craft beer scene. They had redesigned their beer bottle labels and did a great Birra Fresca Cucumber Mint IPA (a personal but not universal favourite). Their momentum seemed to be carrying over to 2014 when they launched a food-centric “Chef Series” of beers with local chefs such as Chris Whittaker (Forage, Timber), Andrea Carlson (Burdock & Co), Robert Belcham (Campagnolo, etc), Brian Skinner (The Acorn), and Owen Lightly (Aurora Bistro, Butter On The Endive — Owen sadly passed away in June 2014). I was excited for these new chef collaboration beers cuz no one else in town was doing anything similar, but I can’t recall if I saw the full lineup actually being released to stores. Things really seemed to fizzle and die.

So then the news of Howe Sound Brewing buying out R&B came out in early 2015, and after months and months of licensing and by-law issues, R&B have finally opened up their Ale & Pizza House.

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This is ironic because Strathcona Brewing just opened their doors a few weeks prior (review here) and ALSO serve pizza. How can we go from NO breweries serving pizza (not counting food trucks) to TWO breweries serving pizza in-house in the span of a few weeks? (Not counting the Steel Toad brewpub in this comparison. Also, I’m aware Dogwood Brewing started serving pizza this year, in conjunction with Rocky Mountain Flatbread, but I haven’t tried it yet.)

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Slam dunk?

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When you walk inside, the retail area (with growler fills, bottles, merch) is on the left, and the tasting room/lounge/bar is on the right.

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View of the growler station.

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Bottles and 6-packs.

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Merch!

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R&B have won plenty of awards back in the day, but not since 2012 if my research is accurate. Maybe they will again now that they’ve been revitalized?

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The lounge. Couches! And a long table. The Olympics were on tv. I love the wall of speakers at the back.

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It’s counter service here!

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Their taps are mostly the same beers that they sell in bottles and growlers. I was surprised to see two casks though! 16/20oz glasses are $6, and flights of four beers are only $5!

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The menu. It’s also available online.

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When you order, they give you this cute rubber light-up toy.

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It glows!

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Hey, the San Remo warehouse is across the street! You’ve probably seen their cans of chickpeas etc. in the supermarket.

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One of the columns on the wall has this interesting chart. Along with actors and musicians, the wall also lists the height of some Star Wars characters…

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…including R2D2.

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My flight of beers ($4). From L-R:

  • Tropical Fruit IPA Delight Cask (ABV unknown, maybe 6%) – Super fruity with a mild bitter finish. Contains mango and coconut, and is dry-hopped with Citra! Not bad at all.
  • Vancouver Special IPA (6%) – Hoppier, more bitter, slightly lighter body than the cask IPA. Contains Simcoe, Citra, Columbus, and Chinook hops. Not quite hitting that spot for me though…
  • East Side Bitter ESB (5.5%) – Balance of caramel, sweetness, and citrusy hops. Good stuff. This was a personal favourite back when it came out in 2011. IMHO better balance and flavour than Russel’s Blood Alley Bitter, which also came out around the same time. A nostalgic beer for me, and my favourite out of the flight.
  • White IPA (6.5%) – Zingy, floral witbier meets grassy and floral hops. A touch of soap. Not as good as Brassneck’s Free Radical but worth another glass or two for further study. Apparently this one contains pear juice??

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Tableside condiments.

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Hop & chili oil?? Wow. I tried a bit on my pizza but couldn’t really taste or smell the hops.

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Italian Sausage and Caramelized Onion Pizza ($12). I actually had a lobster roll at Kingsgate Mall just before this, so this pizza was plenty, and I left feeling really really full.

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Their menu online says these are 12″ thin crust Neopolitan (sic) style pizzas, but I think they’re still tweaking their pizzas cuz this was definitely not a thin crust pizza. Crust was too thick for my taste. Good amount of toppings though. Plenty of cheese for my taste.

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Dry, crisp underbelly.

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I do like the slight chew of the crust, I just want it thinner. I could see fresh-looking chunklets of tomato in the sauce but it needed to be brighter, punchier, and more flavourful. Sausage was good, and the onions were sweet and soft, but overall the pizza was a bit bland. Perhaps with a thinner crust the toppings could speak louder. Judging this pizza against any other pizza in town (Community Pizzeria, Pizzeria Farina, Pizza Carano, Strathcona Brewing, etc), the pizza here is merely good. Good-ish.

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R&B always made quality, accessible beers but also had a playful side that they didn’t get credit for (and possibly didn’t exploit enough). As it stands, I’m ok with their beers, and am curious about what they do in the future, but I’m not in a huge rush to go back, especially since the pizza didn’t quite hit a home run. Maybe I’ve just moved on from the days of Sun God Wheat Ale and Raven Cream Ale.

R&B Brewing Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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