The Big Brews News of the month is that Central City Brewing’s much anticipated Red Racer Restaurant has landed in downtown Vancouver, in the old Dix BBQ & Brewery spot. (871 Beatty St.) And, no surprise, there’s a whole raft of Red Racer brews on tap.
It’s never been entirely clear to me why Dix closed in the first place. At the time, it was among the best—if not the best—brewpubs in the city, well located and serious about its beers. Had they stuck it out, they would have reaped the benefits of being at the leading edge of Vancouver’s now in full swing craft brew revolution.
I think a license transfer was at the heart of the matter. But whatever the reason may have been then, it’s academic now—even more so since this month’s re-opening under the Central City banner.
Red Racer to the Rescue
I was anxious to see just what this long overdue successor to Dix would deliver. Walking in, on the surface, I was struck by how little things have changed. The overall feel and appearance remains similar. (However, the old brewery is now a semi-private, glass enclosed room, with cherry wood foeder barrel for aging sour beer.)
Then again, you’d have to be crazy to mess with the bones of this gem of an old warehouse space, with its massive, two foot square, cedar beams, partially tiled floors and industrial ‘steampunk’ metalwork that echoes the ‘hood’s history.
Take your pick from a good selection of seating choices. Personally I like a seat at the central bar the best. The stools (well padded!) have backs—and afford a pretty good view of the room. If you want to lounge, head for the overstuffed banquettes in back. I also appreciate that they’ve retained the original loading bay doors, which are raised wide open in good weather to allow in the breeze.
While there is a substantial kitchen in back (with the original barbecue still in place) quite rightly, it’s the taps that are the main focus. There are 40 of them in all. And though much of the action is understandably reserved for Red Racer, you’ll also appreciate the wide-range of excellent pints from a wealth of others, such as Storm, Bomber, Powell Street et al.
The 38 foot long main is a substantial affair and the lads (the bar crew is all male at this point) have a good time running it. The giant pipework gleams like some massive engine room; the mood’s upbeat— and good beer advice is there if you ask for it.
The biggest challenge is deciding on just which of the 40 taps with which to start. The good news is: you can pace yourself by opting for a 10 ounce glass. It’s a civilized way to try at least a couple or more different brews (at around a reasonable $4 – $4.50 a pop). You can also order a flight of four tasters.
I like the fact that I could work my way through contrasting flavours of Red Racer IPA, Red Racer Stout and Brassneck’s Shin Dig Tripel without feeling bloated at the end of the evening. The only fizzle was my friend’s Hopping Mad Cider cider, which proved somewhat innocuous … He quickly saw the error of his ways and ordered a Red Racer Imperial IPA.
Almost as extensive as the taps list is Red Racer’s suitably pubbish menu. It includes a formidable “build your own burger” section, which is definitely best navigated sober. Either that or just surrender to the Zeus Burger: Lamb Patty, goat cheese, lamb bacon, tzatziki, roasted garlic, onion rings, fried egg, butter lettuce, vine ripe tomato. You might need a couple of pints to go with that … (All burgers half price on Sundays.)
Our spicy squid with tzatziki turned out to be a good choice, with a respectable hit of heat in the sauce ($12). We also shared a half order of ribs (just four, a couple more would be nice, $16), with refried beans, (somewhat shy) cole slaw, and substituted garlic potatoes (in lieu of M.I.A. cornbread). Good tastes and, as our friendly bartender suggested, the stout was a slam dunk with the charry, nicely meaty ribs. But next time I’ll feel obliged to go for a full order ($28). Plus, I’ll be chasing down some brisket or pulled pork. Everything was prepared fresh to order—and our server went above and beyond in accommodating my friend’s onion and garlic allergies.
This is a room built for conviviality and conversation, with barely an intrusive TV in sight. Happily, just about the only screens around are the ones which show the taps list, constantly updated, complete with warning colour codes as to just how much (or little) of your fave brews might be left. (Shades of St. Augustine’s…) It’s a nice touch, although, for me, reading the beer list in hard copy is just a tad easier on the eyes. Your call.
In all, Red Racer Restaurant (or Beatty Street Pub, as they informally call it) is a great addition. And it couldn’t happen to a nicer beer.
See you there!
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