Beer, Food, and Lodging on Vancouver Island

I realize I’m jumping around some chronologically, but I wanted to collect my Vancouver Island recommendations in one place.

Beer:
First, and most importantly, the beer.

Vancouver Island Breweries // tahoefabulous.com

White Sails Brewing, Nanaimo, BC
We stopped at White Sail Brewing in Nanaimo on our drive from the ferry to Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. The brewery is in an industrial type building, but beachy and full of light on the inside. I enjoyed all of the beers that I tried. Beer descriptions from the breweries, unless obvious. I tried:

Brickyard Beach Red Cream Ale (4.25/5)

Restrained hop bitterness with a balance of light caramel grain and a clean, dry smoothness to finish.

Mount Benson IPA (5/5)
Medium bodied. This beer offers a well balanced clean malty flavour characterized by its distinguished hop bitterness. Delicious aroma of fruit and citrus.

Ridge Ryeder Rye IPA (4/5)
This is a seasonal that’s not always available.

Snake Island Cascadian Dark Ale (3.75/5)
Medium bodied. Full flavoured with hints of chocolate and coffee. A healthy dose of Pacific NW hops to balance the dark malt character. Dark colour profile that drinks like an IPA…. delicious!

Cumberland Brewing Company, Cumberland, BC
Cumberland Brewing Company has a hippie vibe and constantly has lots of high end bikes parked outside. It’s a good fit for the mountain bike focused downtown of Cumberland. We ate there and had a couple of beers. The food was delicious, if a little pricey. I wasn’t super into the the beers they had listed – their beer list leaned towards bitters, wheat beers, sours, etc. The beers we ended up getting were decent, but not on my favorites list. The brewery is definitely worth visiting because the food and atmosphere are great though. I tried Finally IPA (3.75/5) and Tropical Hop ISA (3.75/5.

Beach Fire Brewing, Campbell River, BC
Beach Fire Brewing was my favorite brewery on Vancouver Island. The staff was friendly, the beer was great, and the interior was beautiful. We got there right after it opened on a week day, so it was pretty empty, but it seems like it’s usually a popular place. I am usually an IPA all day person, but at this brewery I noticed the beginning of a trend. I was preferring BC Pale Ales over their IPAs. I tried

Beach Blonde Ale (4.5/5)
Light, refreshing and flavourful. Perfect for a hot day at the beach, or where ever you find yourself soaking up the west coast sun. A clean, light body with a touch of malt sweetness, this balanced brew sports a subtle hop bitterness and flavour. It‘s all yellow polka-dot bikini, without the peroxide.

Ember Red Ale (3.5/5)
A smooth drinking, crimson-coloured Scottish ale. Malt forward with caramel and subtle roasty and chocolate flavours, balanced with mild English hops. It’s perfect for keeping your fire pit glowing.

Hight Tide Pale Ale (5/5)
A hop forward, west coast pale ale with restrained bitterness, but a big hop aroma and flavour. Just as the tides change, hops in this beer may ebb and flow to showcase new and novel varieties. It will always reflect a stoic focus on a new-world hops with rising flavours of citrus, pine and tropical fruits.

Wheelbender Stout (4.25/5)

Gladstone Brewing, Courtenay, BC
We stopped in at Gladstone Brewing to kill time while we waited for our ferry to the Sunshine Coast. We only tried a couple of beers, which were pretty good. The location was really crowded and loud and we were feeling pretty overwhelmed, but would be fun for a rowdy night. I tried

Gladstone IPA (3.5/5)
The Gladstone Straight 6 IPA glints a dark copper, aromas of tropical fruit can be found, but resinous pine is much more prominent. Lightly malted, strong bitterness from West Coast hops is the focus, complimented rather than diffused by bright citrus flavours courtesy of a generous amount of Southern Hemisphere hops. What malt character remains is most apparent after swallowing, where the light sweetness works to hold the bitterness on the tongue.

Gladstone Pilsner (3.5/5)
A bright, clear, golden Lager, the Gladstone Pilsner smells of crisp yeast and lightly spicy hops. Noticeably bitter, the combination of generous hopping and Pilsen malt results in an extremely refreshing brew. A light toasted finish creates a full body that remains dry and does not linger on the tongue.

Lodging
We stayed at three campgrounds and a motel on Vancouver Island. I’d highly recommend the campgrounds we stayed at near Parksville (Hammerfest Trail Network) and Campbell River (trail write up coming soon!). We stayed at Englishman River Falls Provincial Park outside of Parksville and Elk Falls Provincial Park near Campbell River. These parks are quiet, clean, well maintained and CHEAP, especially if you’re used to California State Parks prices.

Camp 8 among the ferns and forest. #toasterroadtrip

A post shared by Greyson Howard (@greyson_goes_outside) on

We stayed at a private campground in Cumberland, which was very close to Cumberland Forest, but not the nicest. The campsites were small and close together and it was hard to find a flat place to pitch our tent. There’s not a lot of other camping options around Cumberland, so I’d recommend finding a motel or vacation rental. There’s a mountain bike focused hostel in Cumberland, The Riding Fool, that seems cool, but we didn’t stay there so I can give it a first hand review. Courtenay and Comox are a very reasonable driving distance as well.

Food
We cooked a lot of meals at our camps, but also tried a fair number of restaurants on Vancouver Island. We were more focused on beer and biking than food, but we ate a few places I can recommend. First up, Lefty’s Fresh Food, where I had probably my favorite meal on the island. I had an omelet with smoked salmon, artichokes and gruyere and parmesan cheese. I still think about that omelet. In Cumberland, I loved Rider’s Pizza. I pretty much never say no to pizza, especially after a bike ride. Finally, we hung out at the Broken Spoke in Courtenay for quite awhile. It’s a bike themed coffee shop with delicious and strong coffee, comfy couches, and plenty of magazines to read.

Oh, and Greyson tried his first poutine while we were on Vancouver Island.
 

Tahoe Winter Essentials

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Well, we’ve gotten more than a couple of feet of snow in the mountains over the last few days – I’d say it’s definitely winter! While we haven’t had a ton of snow the last few winters, I’ve figured out a few things that make the winter more enjoyable.

Winter Essentials

    1. A warm blanket. Greyson got me this Nemo Puffin Blanket for my birthday and I love it. You can even button up the bottom for a cozy foot pocket.
    2. A stylish beanie. Dry, cold winter air does not do the nicest things to my fine, straight hair – neither does stuffing my hair in a snowboard helmet for hours. A cute hat can cover up post-ride hair and keep your head warm. Krochet Kids has a bunch of cute options.
    3. Helmet and Goggles. Protecting your head and eyes is just as important in the winter as it is during the rest of the years. I like helmets that have vents so you can close them when it’s colder out and open them on warmer days. I have an older version of the Smith Sequel Helmet. I’m getting these Smith Squad Goggles with interchangeable lenses.
    4. Dry Shampoo. My hair gets super flat in the winter, and I can’t always throw on a hat. For those times, I swear by dry shampoo. I’ve tried a bunch of different brands, and my favorite has to be ROCKAHOLIC dry shampoo. It makes my bangs not-greasy, adds volume, doesn’t leave nearly as much white residue as other brands, and I love the smell.
    5. Down everything. There’s nothing better for cold, dry air than down. Patagonia now has 100% Traceable Down, so you know it is ethically collected. I have a Patagonia Down Sweater, a Marmot vest, and a hooded Marmot coat that are all great for different situations. Greyson even has down puffy pants that I occasionally borrow.
    6. Warm Base Layers. The most important part of staying warm while outside in the cold is a good base layer. I like natural fibers for their wicking abilities and their odor prevention. Anything from Icebreaker is super high quality like this long sleeve top and these leggings. For a cheaper brand that I’ve had great luck with, I recommend Stoic’s Alpine Merino Line. I have two pairs of bottoms and a long sleeve top, and they’ve held up really well. I find them on sale on Steep and Cheap fairly often.
    7. Coffee & Coffee Accessories. I drink coffee all year round, but there’s something special about a steaming hot cup of coffee when the temperature is below freezing. I’ve mentioned my love for the insulated Klean Kanteen before, which will keep your coffee hot for up to 6 hours! To make the best coffee, I like to use a pour over coffee maker or a French Press. Etsy also has a ton of adorable ceramic pour over coffee makers if you’re looking for something handmade. Last year, I splurged on this automatic Burr Mill for amazing, fresh ground beans.
    8. A Super Nice Ice Scraper: At one point, I had a really nice long handled scraper with an attached broom, but I lent it out, never got it back, and now make do with a regular scraper and cold hands. I also wouldn’t say no to this ice scraper with mitt attached.

These essentials would make great gifts – for yourself or anyone who needs help staying warm this winter.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

My Favorite Restaurants in South Lake Tahoe

I am lucky enough to live in a beautiful tourist destination that I hope everyone has a chance to visit some day. And when you do, I hope you have an amazing time exploring the outdoor highlights I’ve featured on this blog. After a long day hiking/biking/skiing etc., there’s nothing better than a delicious meal (and a beer) to finish out the day.

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When friends and family visit, these are the places I insist we go to. Hopefully this list will highlight some places you wouldn’t find via Yelp or by wandering the normal tourist locations.

Best Apres Ski/Ride:

The Himmel Haus: Located directly across from the parking lot of Heavenly’s California Base, this place can get pretty busy, but it’s worth the wait. This place is a mecca for German beer lovers, and they often have beers on tap that you can’t get anywhere else in the area. While you can order a smaller beer, I’d recommend ordering a liter to get the full German beer stein experience. My favorite thing to order is the Warsteiner Pilsner and the pretzel (mustard cheese is to die for), kase-spatzle (fancy macaroni and cheese) or anything that comes with a side of mashed potatoes. During the week, they have a whole host of activities – I’m often at trivia on Wednesdays, and the on the weekends they frequently have live bands and theme parties (like Wigs and Onsies or Bierfest).

 

My roommate Kelly enjoys the three liter boot we earned with a first place trivia finish.
My roommate Kelly enjoys the three liter boot we earned with a first place trivia finish.

To Watch the Game/For Pizza:

MacDuff’s Public HouseMacDuff’s has, hands down, the best pizza in Tahoe. They also have a large beer menu, several big screen tvs, delicious fish and chips, and the spiciest wing sauce I’ve ever tried. It’s located just off the main road on Fremont Avenue, and has outdoor seating in the summer. After dinner, head to the bowling alley across the street for some cheap indoor fun.

Best Strip Mall Experience:

Artemis Mediterranean GrillOne thing you should know about South Lake Tahoe is that we have a lot of strip malls. This might not be something you’d notice if you stuck to the tourist/casino side of town. If you venture to where the locals hang out, you’ll definitely notice this. While strip mall after strip mall is not exactly the most aesthetically appealing form of city planning, there are some real gems to be found if you do some exploring. One of these gems: Artemis Mediterranean Grill for some seriously delicious Greek food. When my office was located near by, at least once a week someone went to pick up lunch there, and everyone in the office requested the same thing: Artemis Fries. They are thick cut fries topped with their secret seasoning blend and dipped in their seasoning sauce. I usually order the Super Veggie Pita. (Note: they now have another fancy marina location that’s just as delicious), but you’ll miss out on some of the local charm by avoiding the strip mall).

Best Dive Bar:

Turn 3: Located in the same strip mall as Artemis, calling Turn 3 one of my favorite places to eat is a stretch. It is my favorite dive bar, and it does have free peanuts and popcorn, so I say it counts. Turn 3 has a great 2 for 1 happy hour,  good prices the rest of the time, free bingo (with prizes!) on Tuesdays, microbrews and cheap lagers, pool tables, and you can throw your peanut shells right on the floor. What more do you need?

 

Best Restaurants in South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com
Pool and peanuts at Turn 3.

Best Overall Menu/Brunch:

Getaway Cafe: This is a place where you could close your eyes, open the menu, point randomly and know that your meal is going to be delicious. Despite this, I almost always order the parmesan crusted grilled cheese sandwich. Come one, there’s two cheeses inside AND one on the outside? Can’t beat that. I even order it at breakfast! I have ordered a few other things, and I always make my dining companions share their food, and can vouch for the quality of nearly everything on the menu. Getaway Cafe is located about 6 miles outside of South Lake Tahoe in the adorable town of Meyers, a gateway to great back country adventure and on your way in or out via Sacramento.

Best Coffee:

Free Bird: As a Pacific Northwest native, I love good coffee, and Free Bird delivers. It’s a tiny, tiny space with standing room for maaaaybe three people (so all coffee is to go). The staff is friendly, the store supports tons of great local causes, and they totally embrace the hipster local organic free range fair trade bird aesthetic (you can buy “put a bird on it” stickers!). They also have amazing chai.