Granville Island goes legit with new brews and new look


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how macrobreweries will straight-up lie to you about their beer, presenting it as something that it’s not. In the case of Edmonton-brewed and multinational AB InBev-owned Lucky Lager, that means pretending to be a Vancouver Island beer when it is no such thing.

Photo courtesy Granville Island Brewing

But credit where credit is due, sometimes macrobreweries do the right thing.

Granville Island Brewing has a long and storied history in the B.C. craft beer scene, so it was with some disappointment that it was announced it was sold to Molson Coors subsidiary Creemore Springs back in 2009. While the original brewery on Granville Island was kept in operation, the majority of brewing was moved to the Interior to the Okanagan Springs brewery in Vernon. So, not Granville Island.

In 2015, as the craft beer revolution was in full force, GIB’s corporate masters wisely decided to pivot towards craft and brought on brewer Kevin Emms to take the reins at the original Granville Island brewery. Emms has some pretty impressive craft beer cred, by the way, having previously brewed at Deep Cove and Coal Harbour, and was the man behind Coal Harbour’s 311 Helles Lager, arguably the most successful craft lager in B.C. in the past decade. Emms has managed to make Granville Island Brewing somewhat relevant again with his stellar rotating Small Batch Series and criminally underrated Cellar Series.

But the brand’s aging core lineup was dragging it down, with its dated beers and hideous “hand drawn” labels. Most importantly, the beers most people associated with Granville Island were the ones not brewed there, and Emms had no part in them. The prized stallion was being kept locked in the stable.

Thankfully, GIB has corrected this.

Photo courtesy Granville Island Brewing

This week Granville Island Brewing unveiled its rebranded core lineup, complete with a new logo, new labels and new recipes, created by Emms, himself. Most importantly, the beer is brewed at Granville Island, like it says on the can.

Three brand-new beers will be joining English Bay Pale Ale in the new core lineup, all in tall can format: German-Style Pilsner, Northwest Pale Ale and West Coast IPA. All three are delicious and approachable, and represent a massive leap forward for the brand. One only wonders why it took GIB this long to do the right thing. Hopefully the ongoing Small Batch series will see a wider release, as well (especially that Brut IPL!).
In a lot of ways, Granville Island is a legacy brand. This is Canada’s oldest continuously operating microbrewery, after all, so its history is significant. For me, personally, it was one of the first craft beers I ever drank, so I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart (or maybe my liver) for GIB.

So while it’s no longer locally-owned, GIB is still locally brewed and employs dozens of Vancouverites. Thankfully there’s no deception as to the beer’s origin, either, and I think that means something. But most importantly, the beer’s legit. And isn’t that what it’s all about?