Nigel Springthorpe, co-owner of the bar Alibi Room and the recently opened Brassneck Brewery, made his way to Vancouver from a tiny town in North Yorkshire, England, at the age of 19 and has called the city home ever since. During that time, he's had a hand in the evolution of Mount Pleasant, a neighborhood just across the creek from the downtown peninsula that retains its historic working-class character. A century ago, the area was once known as "Brewery Creek" and it's just now regaining its reputation as a destination for drinkers and diners.
"No one's originally from Vancouver," says Springthorpe. "A lot of Europeans and English people go to a place like Vancouver and they’re like, 'Where's the culture? There's no culture!' But, honestly, I find it exciting to be part of a place that’s growing and growing quickly. It’s a unique opportunity to be part of the thread of a city."
Springthorpe was a bartender at the Alibi Room before he and his sister-in-law had the opportunity to buy the place and transform it into a craft beer-focused neighborhood hot spot. The project was exciting both because Springthorpe liked running a business and because he really likes beer. He says that his new venture, Brassneck Brewery, which launched six months ago, started when the location at 2148 Main Street came open. He pounced.
"The location, with its foot traffic, allowed us to do the concept," he says. "We wanted to have a growler shop and a tasting room, but we didn’t want to have to distribute in a traditional way with kegs and bottling."
Brassneck co-owner and brewmaster Conrad Gmoser, whom Springthorpe calls "the hardest-working brewmaster" he knows and the foundation of the brewery, works seven days a week to develop new beers and keep the tasting room busy. Gmoser has so far created 50 beers for Brassneck, with only two constantly available flagships (Passive Aggressive Pale Ale and Brassneck Ale). "We mess with the hops a little bit and tweak the recipes," says Springthorpe. "One of things I learned over the years at Alibi is that people enjoy choice. We like walking up to the bar and asking, what’s new? We wanted to instill that kind of philosophy in the brewery."
Here's Springthorpe's Guide to the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. It may not be cutting edge, but it's fun and – for the boozy entrepreneur, it's home.
Matchstick Coffee Roasters (639 E. 15th Ave.): "I go here three or four times a week."
Nuba (146 E. 3rd Ave.): "This is Lebanese cuisine. You feel kind of health-ish when you eat here. I come here if I feel like I need some vegetables.”
Sal y Limon (701 Kingsway St.): "A hole-in-the-wall Mexican place. They’re not rewriting culinary history or anything like that, but it’s good regular spot."
Pourhouse Restaurant (162 Water St., Gastown): "You need someplace to go when you get sick of your own place. Pourhouse is where I go if I want a nice dinner. They have really amazing cocktails, where you feel like all the molecules are fused together with attention and care, and they always have a different steak on the menu, which I like to get."
The Narrow Lounge (Main St. and 3rd Ave.): "This is a lesser known spot, just a couple blocks down from Brassneck. They don't have a sign, there’s a little red light and if the light’s on they’re still serving. They don't have great cocktails or an extensive beer list or an amazing wine list or anything like that, it’s just a good joint to hang out."
Guilt & Company (1 Alexander St., Gastown): "They have live music pretty much every night of the week, which is rare for Vancouver. It's a cavernous space in the basement of a heritage building, with local bands and a really great staff, keen on genuine, kind service."
Eugene Choo (3683 Main St., Mount Pleasant): "A Main Street institution that captures the Mount Pleasant look really well. They carry brands like Pendleton and Rogue Gallery."