507 Columbia St., Vancouver, 360-566-2323, loowitbrewing.com.
Once housed in a charmingly dim and makeshift space full of dogs, Loowit underwent a radical remodel this summer. It moved the video games up front, installed a full kitchen, doubled the seating and also doubled its tap handles to 20. But aside from the fact that you get to drink more of it, the beer in the brighter, family-friendly new space retains its quality. The IPAs remain solid and hop-malt balanced in the old-school style—particularly a Shadow Shinobi IPA, aromatic with late hop additions—and a passion-fruit kettle sour refreshing, though a barrel-aged IRA is unfortunately over-oaked and boozy. On a recent visit, the Grimlock Rye Porter was the best on the menu, deep and dry with rounded caramel malt and the light crackle of rye.
2315 Main St., Vancouver, 360-314-6966, trapdoorbrewing.com.
Trap Door has maybe the smartest location in Vancouver. It's across the street from Vancouver's busiest dispensary, and right next door to a food-cart pod that includes decent Mexican and an outpost of E-San Thai. Throw in a huge board-game selection and a pair of TVs playing sports, and you'll never need to leave the block. And you won't want to, either: Over the past two years the Trap has upped its game considerably with an orange-juice tide of hazies—in particular, a fun and trashy Guava Shake IPA, a hazy Tang IPA that lives up to its name and especially an excellent Amarillo-Citra-Simcoe Glowed Up hazy balancing juiciness and just a light note of bitterness. A breakfast stout overshot pastry to end up boozy and syrupy, but a hibiscus Berliner was lightly refreshing and a hoppy Pilsner came on both clean and crisp. But for the most part, stick to the hazies—and get lightly hazy across the street if need be.
1300 Washington St. #200, Vancouver, 360-726-6921, tapunionfreehouse.com.
In a former accounting office converted into a beer bar complete with a patio and an upper deck, downtown beer bar Tap Union offers a surprisingly ambitious food menu to go with your Barley Brown's on nitro or Evil Twin
smoked Pilsner. They smoke their own pastrami on their high-stacked Reuben, and offer up a lovely looking meat and cheese board alongside bar snacks like $3 Thai-flavored popcorn. It's downright civilized in there.
114 E Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver, 360-258-0413, trustybrewing.com.
Trusty lives up to its name, brewing beers of uncommon balance with heartening regularity in a tiny blonde-wood cafe space serving up fresh poppers and carnitas nachos. Brewer and owner Gary Paul, who fled the printing industry and drove north to Vancouver from Portland's west 'burbs, brews a classic pine-citrus-malt West-Coast IPA called Corner Window freshened with plenty of Citra dry-hopping, a lovely brown replete with caramel and surprisingly flavorful pale that tastes like the straw of the fields. Come for happy hour before 7 pm and get $4.50 pints and $2 off all the food.
9811 NE 15th Ave., Vancouver, 360-718-8927, brotherscascadiabrewing.com.
Founded in April by a team of brewers who cut their teeth on what co-owner Sherman Gore calls a "trying" 2-barrel system at Northwood in Battle Ground, North 'Couve brewery Brothers is making much better beer than ever came out of those tanks. The Czech-style People's Pilsner pours clean with a strong bread note, while a rice-heavy Crazy 88 lager offers up a much fresher-tasting simulacrum of Tsingtao. The IPAs also hit the right notes, from a classic Northwest style Bold As Love to a tropical-hazy You Like 'A Da Juice. The best brew on the list was the JP's Meetinghouse Brown, a beautiful showcase for snap malt deepened with a bit of coffee—a terrific roundness of flavor in an often-overlooked style. Brothers Cascadia has an ambitious barrel program, and if you're lucky they'll have one tapped on your visit. And get a $1.50 carnitas taco from the Super Taco across the parking lot. It's as good as any you'll find in Portland.
Ben's Bottle Shop
8052 E Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver, 360-314-6209, bensbottleshop.com.
Alongside its wall of heavenly-lit bottle cases and 24 taps that split time between undistributed-in-Oregon locals Dwinell Country Ales and Brothers Cascadia and "imports" like a Deschutes Abyss tap, Ben's Bottle Shop has two very obvious amenities. Its big-screen TV is the size of some studio apartments, and in a big-box mall that looks like it should sell furniture, it's next to what may be the 'Couve's best restaurant, Rally Pizza—which offers up fine pies, inspired vegetable plates and equally inspired desserts. But it's also cool if you just bro out at the circular bar and watch a football bigger than your head, and then pop back down the 205 with an armload of Vancouver bottles you can't find in Portland.
Final Draft Taphouse
11504 Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver, 360-433-9966, finaldrafttaphouse.com.
Sure, it's in a mini mall next to a Palm Beach Tan. But with a massive mural on the wall, a repurposed-wood bar heavy on wood-grain and a penchant for intra-bar festivals and tap takeovers from both Portland and North Bank brewers, Final Draft feels like a next-level beer bar for the 'Couve. Among its 29 taps, Final Draft offers what's likely the broadest spectrum of beers from Southwest Washington, but more importantly it cherry-picks some of the best beers from each—whether a mojito from Heathen or an alt from Fortside—while also pulling beers from Block 15, Firestone Walker or Fort George. Final Draft just opened last July, but there's reason to expect they'll do very well in years two and three.