Vancouver’s Last Hop Bine?
CAMRA Vancouver member, Julian Price, has made an interesting discovery: Brewery Creek is not just a cold beer and wine store. Here’s his story and your chance to brew up some history.
In 1905 the neighbourhood of Mount Pleasant was a logged-off area with only a few structures off Main or Broadway. One of them was a Vancouver Breweries building at the corner of what is now 280 E. 6th Avenue at Scotia. The brick and stone building is a heritage site and an artist live-work studio complex. The brewery was sited there because of the creek that flowed there. The water turned the grist mill and, of course, provided water for the beer.
Brewery Creek still flows but it’s underground now. It flows, as it almost always has, down to the False Creek flats at East First Avenue and Scotia. In fact, the Artech building has pumps underground to keep its parkade from flooding.
Across the street from Artech, there’s a large hop vine growing wild in the blackberry brambles. I can’t prove it, but it’s reasonable to suppose that spent hops and grains dumped outside the brewery found their way via stream, wind, or birds to where what now could be Vancouver’s last hop vine. False Creek was filled in to eliminate Mount Pleasant’s waterfront and Brewery Creek long has long since been sent underground, but the hops are still there…barely.
Recently, a City of Vancouver “Greenway” project has a planned bicycle path that will see the vine’s location on the boulevard bulldozed. The two-pronged approach of the path has brought the east end from Main Street to within a few yards of the vine. The westerly extension is at Great Northern Way and Brunswick, also within a half a block of the vine. I’m surprised there’s been a mature crop this year. I figured the machines would have sent the vine to oblivion weeks ago.
As the nights cool in the dying days of summer 2008, the last crop this old vine will produce has reached its prime. I’ve brewed with these hops, sold them on eBay, and given them away over the years. This is the last hurrah. I’ve taken samples of the hops to Derrick at Dix. He has said that he’s interested in brewing a fresh-hopped beer, but he will not be able to fit it into his schedule until the third week in September. The hops MIGHT still be there, but annihilation is imminent.
The vine is located on the north side of 336 East First Avenue, opposite the little park. Anyone interested in taking rhisome cuttings or hops will need pruners and gloves to clip away the blackberry brambles. The vine is large, so it will be possible to harvest a bunch large enough to brew anything from a basic five-gallon homebrew on up to craft brew sizes.
Another CAMRA Vancouver member has since advised me that another notable wild hop bine in Vancouver is on a pole supporting the wires for the heritage trolley, just below the pedestrian bridge over the trolley tracks, immediately north of where Hemlock meets West 4th.
So if you want to get some hops to make a fresh hop ale or add to your glass of bitter, pale ale, or IPA for some added fresh-hop aroma (be sure to bruise the cones before you add), here’s where you can find some. But before you do, take care to make sure they are not sprayed with defoliants or other such chemicals.
Update: reader Mattias Morrison has taken four cuttings of the heritage trolly bine and will be transplanting them at his new home in Campbell River.