The Hopscotch Festival is a week-long series of events including the Grand Tasting Hall which features whisky, beer, spirits and food sampling in Vancouver.
Hopscotch Festival of Whisky, Beer & Spirits
The Vancouver Hopscotch Festival is an annual festival that features two dozen whisky and other beverage-sampling events at different venues around town including the massive Grand Tasting Hall which showcases hundreds of whiskies, beers and spirits from BC and around the world.
Last year the event ran from November 18th to 24th and the headliner event, the Grand Tasting Hall, was on the weekend of November 22nd and 23rd. In 2020 the festival celebrates its 25th year and its dates and details will be similar.
Grand Tasting Hall
The Grand Tasting Hall is the main event during the Hopscotch Festival and in 2019 it happened on the Friday and Saturday of November 22nd and 23rd at the PNE Forum at 2901 East Hastings Street. There were sessions from between 6:00 until 10:00 pm both days. 2020 will likely be similar.
NOTE: The Grand Tasting Hall sells out every year! Book your spot well in advance! Look out though for discounted tickets.
About the Grand Tasting Hall
At the Hopscotch Festival’s Grand Tasting Hall the PNE Forum is full of distillery representatives offering samples of Scotch, Irish, Canadian, American and other whiskies, as well as various types of craft and premium beers, wines and other spirits from around the world. At the event there is also a food exhibition and live music throughout the evening.
The Grand Tasting Hall event has expanded over the past 23 years, and it has experienced an especially large growth spurt since 2016. A couple of years ago there were close to 130 vendor booths offering over 400 different products compared to just 80 or so participating vendors and 300 products from the year before.
Grand Tasting Hall Cost
In 2019 admission to the Grand Tasting Hall costs anywhere from $34 to $52 including taxes and fees for one night. Pricing is based on a sliding scale, however, meaning that prices go up as tickets sell out.
At the Grand Tasting Hall event participants buy Hopscotch Tokens in increments of 5 and 20 at the cost of around $1 plus tax per token. The Hopscotch Tokens can then be used to purchase beverage and food samples from the various participating breweries, distilleries and food vendors.
Many of the beverage samples cost only 1 or 2 tokens, which is very reasonable for this kind of event. Most beers and ciders cost about 1 token, although occasionally more. Wines are typically 1 or 2 tokens and spirits range from 1 to up to around 9 tokens for the really fancy stuff. Food menu items range from around 2 to 10 tokens.
Grand Tasting Hall Participating Vendors
Typically the Grand Tasting Hall venue has been divided up into different category sections. In recent years these have included the following:
- BC Craft Pavilion – featuring dozens of local craft beers from a variety of British Columbia breweries. Expect to see Bomber Brewing, Bridge Brewing, Central City Brewers, Foamers’ Folly, Granville Island, Hearthstone, Moody Ales, Parallel 49, Powell Brewery, Spinnakers Brewpub (from Victoria), Stanley Park and Yellow Dog.
- Beers From Around The World – as the name suggests, this area features premium international beers from all over the globe. Expect to find brands like Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic, Warsteiner, Erdinger and Pfungstädter from Germany, O’Hara’s Irish Stout, and a number of other distinguished international brews.
- Whisky Corner – the main attraction at the event, this zone features over 100 whiskies including Single Malts, Blends, Whiskey (with an “e”), Whisky (without an “e”), Rye, Bourbon and the like from a wide range of countries including Scotland, Ireland, Canada, the US, and Japan. In the Whisky Corner there’s usually Canada’s Crown Royal, Glendalough Whiskey from Ireland, Glenfarclas Whisky from Scotland and Jack Daniels from Tennessee, as well as other famous whisky brands like Auchentoshan, Johnny Walker, Jameson, Glenfiddich and Wild Turkey.
- The Wine Garden – prefer wine to beer, whisky and other liquors? Then this is where you’ll find an assortment of fine reds, whites and rosés.
- BC Craft Spirits – BC has a thriving craft spirits industry and this is where you’ll find some of the best including, some years, award-winning Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery (from Vernon and Kelowna), among others. (Note: Okanagan Spirits is one of BC’s best, but they don’t always attend this event. If you miss them, check them out when they are at the Vancouver Christmas Market between late November and Christmas Eve instead.)
- Spirits Of The Globe – includes samples most years of el Jimador (tequila), New Amsterdam Vodka, Cobees (from Korea), Grand Marnier, Nikka Whisky (from Japan) and other liquors from around the world.
- Restaurant Row – where you’ll find appetizers and other tasty treats by celebrity chefs and top Vancouver restaurants. For an idea of what to expect, participating vendors in 2018 included The Pawn Shop, Dixie’s BBQ (Texas-style barbeque), BKH Jerky (Singapore-style jerky), Beta5 Chocolates and others.
- The Music Lounge – popular local bands play all evening both nights.
Other Hopscotch Festival Events
In addition to the Grand Tasting Hall event at the PNE Forum, various other smaller events also take place at different venues around Vancouver during the Hopscotch Festival. Many of these are hosted by area bars and restaurants, and most focus on a particular brand or type of whisky.
Examples of some of the Hopscotch Festivals’ various smaller events include a Whisky 101 session where a local whisky expert hosts an overview of the classic liquor and its many variations including Rye, Bourbon, Irish whiskey, Scotch whisky, Single Malt and Scotch Blend. There are also special dinners and other events, many of which sell out well in advance (so book early if really wanting to go)!
New for 2019 was the Great Whisky Smoke. This event occurred prior to the Saturday Grand Tasting Hall and included whisky samples, catered food and cigars, as well as free admission to the Tasting Hall, free coat check and a few free tasting tokens.
Tips and Advice
Below are some tips and suggestions to help you make the most out of your Hopscotch Festival experience.
TIP #1: A number of events during the Hopscotch Festival sell out in advance, including the Grand Tasting Hall. Buy your tickets well in advance to avoid disappointment!
TIP #2: Go to the Grand Tasting Hall with an appetite as the event features lots of food. Pace yourself though and don’t drink on an empty stomach!
TIP #3: Get in line for the food vendors early. There are only half a dozen or so to choose from and the most popular sell out of menu items before the end of the night.
TIP #4: Don’t forget to plan ahead how you expect to get home.
TIP #5: At the Grand Tasting Hall there are bottles of whisky and other items for sale. If planning to do some Christmas shopping, consider making your purchases just before you leave so you don’t risk putting your packages down somewhere and heading home without them. Conveniently, the event’s liquor store is located near the main exit.
TIP #6: Watch out for discounted tickets. Pretty much right up until the event last year the organizers were offering 4 Packs of tickets for just over $100 (or $120 depending on the date), which was a great deal considering that full price for one full-priced ticket to the Grand Tasting Hall event was between about $42 and $46. That being said, the offer was only available through the festival’s “sponsored” Instagram and Facebook ads and not on any of their regular online channels or website.
For further details about the Grand Tasting Hall and other related whisky events in November, see the Hopscotch Festival website.
For a list of other beer, wine and liquor venues and special events, check out the following:
For a list of other festivals and events this time of year, check out the following:
- Vancouver’s November Calendar
- Festivals & Events
- Best Christmas Activities
- Shows & Entertainment
- Vancouver Christmas Concerts