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How to drink by aquabus in Vancouver

Vancouver is a beer lover’s playground best accessed by boat.
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Photo by David J. Laporte

Photo by David J. Laporte

It’s east to spot one of Vancouver’s iconic Aquabuses thanks to their hulls’ bright rainbow paint. They appear tiny against the dark waters and glistening modern buildings of False Creek, and from a distance can look more like bathtub toys than actual ferries. These 12-seat water taxis have been shepherding locals and tourists across the city’s False Creek waterway since 1986. If you happen to catch one of the newer Cyquabuses, you can even take your bicycle along for the journey. Along the eight-stop route are some of Vancouver’s best options for drinking craft beer. “I like Granville Island Brewing after work,” says Aquabus Capt. Max Santilli, a 26-year-old who’s been at the helm for more than seven years. “Their False Creek Raspberry Ale in the summer is perfect for hot days.” Santilli told me he feels there’s no better job than being an Aquabus captain. “It’s great to be out on the water and to get paid for it,” he says. “I can watch the harbor seals, and we had a gray whale that swam in to False Creek a few years ago and stayed for weeks. You get to see a really beautiful view of the city from the boats.” The sun set on my Aquabus ride promptly at 6:30 p.m. For a few minutes, the day’s dying light hit the silver geodesic dome of Science World, transforming it into a blazing, brilliant orb. The reflection threw gold glitter onto the water’s surface just as the lights of the other buildings winked on. If it weren’t for all the awesome drinking options awaiting me, I might have stayed on even longer.

THE PERFECT ITINERARY FOR DISCOVERING BEER VIA AQUABUS:

FIRST STOP: Granville Island
Canada’s first microbrewery is a fitting start: Granville Island Brewing Co. opened in 1984. Check out its Small Batch Black Notebook Series, which has spanned more than 15 beers made with local ingredients. We like the False Creek Raspberry Ale, made with real Fraser Valley Raspberries and beloved by locals. Linger a little longer at the Granville stop to get a taste of sake inside the Artisan SakeMaker company. Owner/creator Masa Shiroki has recently experimented with growing his own rice in the suburbs of Vancouver.

SECOND STOP: Yaletown
On this crossing, the Aquabus driver will have to dodge kayaks, dragon boats, sailboats and possibly seals en route to a trendy neighborhood that was the former train depot of old Vancouver (the train platforms have been converted into elegant bars and restaurants with street-side patios). Don’t miss Beatty St. Brew Pub, a new spot with a steam-punk vibe that the crew at Central City Brewing opened last summer, serving up their Red Racer line of beers as well as other creations and guest taps available by the flight, 10-ounce or 16-ounce pours.

THIRD STOP: Olympic Village
Locals have nicknamed this beer-centric stop “Yeast Van,” thanks to the high concentration of craft breweries. There’s Brassneck Brewery, Main Street Brewing Co. and 33 Acres Brewing Co. all within a 15-minute stroll of the Aquabus dock. Don’t want to hoof it a half mile? Tap & Barrel and Craft Beer Market are right there when you disembark and both boast plenty of taps. Head one block over to Steel Toad Brewpub & Dining Hall for late-night live bands and truly unique sips, like the Saison Sauvignon, a 6.5%-ABV farmhouse made with New Zealand hops.

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