Vancouver is known for its stellar craft breweries, but many of the taprooms that carefully select their IPAs, stouts and lagers don’t put the same effort into their food menu. That’s slowly changing. Some taprooms are venturing beyond burgers, wings and nachos to create a whole new dining category: beer brunch.
This is Vancouver’s own take on late-morning weekend breakfast. It’s lazy, easy and decadent. There aren’t long lines (or any lines) or fussy menus, and it doesn’t cost a fortune to get a satisfying meal to ease a hangover or fuel an afternoon hike or visit to the farmers market.
I didn’t drink beer while visiting these spots because I already know they have excellent craft offerings. For beer and brunch pairings, diners can go many different ways. A darker beer like a stout or porter can replace a morning coffee. The traditional mimosa can be swapped with a fruited beer. A more precise pairing can be achieved by matching the fruit in the beer with the fruit in the dish. A Mexican lager goes well with the spice in breakfast burritos, tacos and chilaquiles, as does a beer with tropical fruit. A crisp lager or kolsch can go well with pretty much anything. There’s no need to get uptight about pairing beer with food. Trading the freestyle ethos of craft brewing for the unnecessarily stuffy world of wine shouldn’t be the goal. Here are three places worth checking out to experience this local phenomenon that hopefully will continue to grow.
108 W. Evergreen Blvd.; 360-726-6914; www.mavsbrewing.com
Calista Crenshaw took over the space formerly occupied by the Old Ivy to create a place where parents with young children (like her) can hang out without having to pay a babysitter. A video arcade, board games and juice boxes are available to occupy little ones while parents enjoy craft beer and scratch-made food. Crenshaw decided to offer a morning meal because she loves going out for brunch and beer or mimosas on the weekend.
Mav’s offers breakfast items along with the regular lunch menu from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Mimosas come single ($6) or for the table ($15) with a choice of orange juice, POG (passion orange guava), pineapple or cranberry juice. The brunch menu is short, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Mav’s best-selling item is the carnivore burrito made with slow-roasted pork, scrambled eggs, chipotle black beans, potatoes and Oaxaca cheese ($13).
On a recent Saturday, I tried the Herbivore Breakfast Burrito ($10) with scrambled eggs, chipotle black beans, potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms and onions in a creamy sauce smothered in melted Oaxaca cheese. Burrito orders come with a choice of Silagy Sauce. Patrons are given a squeeze bottle to take to their table to dress their burrito. I chose Silagy’s classic Cilantro Lime Serrano Sauce. The large burrito came wrapped in a tortilla that had been toasted to a golden brown. The chipotle black beans were creamy and nicely flavored. The potatoes were cut into thin fries. These details made this dish a standout.
The French toast ($9) came on a large tray filled with thick, tender slices of egg-soaked brioche sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with syrup and butter. It was a rich, sweet and decadent breakfast dish that seemed very mimosa-friendly. It would also go well with the Matchless Cherry Delight sour beer with cherries and vanilla that was on tap.
Heathen Feral House
1109 Washington St.; 360-836-5255; heathenbrewing.com/feral-public-house
Owner Sunny Parsons said offering brunch was a no-brainer because Heathen Feral Public House’s Executive Chef Michael Garofalo used to own a breakfast place. He arrived at this downtown pub with some great recipes that he had developed over the years. Heathen also is Vancouver’s official San Francisco 49ers backers bar, which means they open at 10 a.m. for games.
“Who can watch early football without brunch?” Parsons said.
Brunch at this downtown favorite is served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, whether the Niners are playing or not.
Heathen offers a varied weekend brunch menu with everything from a basic breakfast with eggs, meat, potatoes and toast ($10) to country fried steak smothered in gravy ($14). Over 70 taps of Heathen brews include brunch-friendly options like Stellar Collision (a cold-brew coffee porter) or the many excellent fruited sours like Orange is the New Black with orange, blackberry and cranberry. Breakfast cocktails like a Bacon Bloody Mary ($12) and flavored mimosas ($9) are also available to accompany the hearty brunch selections.
I tried the chilaquiles verde ($13), the biscuit and gravy ($8) and a Bloody Mary ($9). I chose the chilaquiles because I like Heathen’s Colossal Nachos. The chilaquiles are made by frying Heathen’s own corn chips in salsa verde, onions, garlic and black beans. Cotija cheese, avocado, cilantro, sour cream, scallions and house-made pico de gallo are sprinkled on top. Two eggs cooked any way come layered on top. This was definitely my favorite dish of all the things I tried for this article. The hearty corn chips mixed well with the tangy salsa verde and the creamy melted cheese and sour cream.
I also got biscuits with gravy. The plate came with two buttermilk biscuits sliced and spread on a plate smothered with Heathen’s sausage gravy. The gravy is made with a proprietary spice blend with 12 spices mixed with heavy cream and a copious amount of spicy sausage.
“I love to add an egg over medium on top to take it to the next level,” Parsons said.
The Bloody Mary came with the right amount of spice for a weekend wake-up drink and a quirky bunch of garnishes including a small sausage. Not sure how to proceed, I set the toothpick filled with toppings aside in order to sip my drink without impaling my nose. The Bloody Mary had a nice flavor with a bit of a spicy bite. Parsons said 15 ingredients go into the drink, including tomato juice, olive juice, chipotles, fresh citrus “and some secret ingredients that are held tight by us Heathens.” I tasted something hot that may be horseradish, Tabasco sauce or possibly a combination of the two. The bacon version comes with bacon-infused vodka, bacon salt and a bacon stir stick. This porcine dream drink wasn’t available when I visited, but I’d like to try it on my next visit.
Uptown Barrel Room
2011 Main St.; 360-949-7255; uptownbarrelroom.com
A few blocks from Mav’s and Heathen, Uptown Barrel Room offers brunch hours from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The long menu includes everything from a simple two egg breakfast ($12) to lobster and crab benedict ($16).
On a recent sunny Sunday, I took a spot in the restaurant’s outside patio on Main Street at around 11 a.m. Classic rock tunes like “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac and “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest flowed through the speakers as two women behind me had a post-pandemic catch-up session with a healthy dose of laughter and mimosas. A couple more mimosas and I would’ve been tempted to join in on some much-needed girl talk.
Instead, I stayed relatively sober and in my own seat while feasting on breakfast tacos ($12), the Loaded French Toast ($13) and a classic mimosa ($5.50). The breakfast tacos come with a choice of flour or corn tortilla; I chose corn. For each taco, two tortillas wrap around a generous filling of scrambled eggs, peppers, onions and cheddar jack cheese with choice of bacon, sausage or ham. The tacos come with sour cream and salsa on the side. Overall, the dish was tasty, however the tortillas were a bit stale and the salsa had the dull flavor of a jarred variety.
The French toast arrived as two slices cut into halves and spread across the plate topped with a sprinkle of bacon and a drizzle of peanut butter. Choice of fruit was banana, strawberries or blueberries. I chose blueberries, but I think strawberries or bananas would also be a good choice.
Brunch doesn’t have to be crowded, crazy, expensive or eaten in Portland. Beer brunch is Vancouver’s contribution to this heavy, boozy weekend morning meal.