Hops a solid new addition to local pub scene

Dimly lit Hops, located beneath New Westminster SkyTrain, is ideally situated for stumbling home after a pint or few. Once the new movie theatre at Plaza 88 opens for business, it will almost certainly become a convenient spot for pre-movie drinks. But it takes more than just easy access to SkyTrain and a taxi stand to earn a new pub good customers.

Hops on Urbanspoon

Dimly lit Hops, located beneath New Westminster SkyTrain, is ideally situated for stumbling home after a pint or few. Once the new movie theatre at Plaza 88 opens for business, it will almost certainly become a convenient spot for pre-movie drinks. But it takes more than just easy access to SkyTrain and a taxi stand to earn a new pub good customers.

There has been a pub in this location as long as I have been stomping around New West, and I remember more than one rowdy night spent here back in my college years a decade ago. Newly renovated in a similar style to the Terminal Pub or Drink (the latter is owned by the same company), Hops is clearly going after a different demographic than the rougher clientele the former bar served.

The bar at Hops
The bar at Hops

I came in for lunch to scope out the space and sample the menu, finding soft pretzels on the menu (they are a favourite treat of mine, and often don’t live up to expectations), free wifi and a nice selection of local brew on tap. Hops offers a few nice twists on the typical pub experience in New Westminster. I had the pretzels and a cup of chowder, and found both to be very tasty and nicely presented on the plate.

The space is significantly smaller, and includes some higher end decor choices including actual artwork on the walls, designer bar, leather booths, wood accents and upscale lighting. Yet, despite these touches, the space retains some features I associate with a more downmarket pub, such as gambling machines and an economical low-pile carpet flooring in a colour that won’t show stains (instead of a more appealing but less-resilient hardwood look). The service was pleasant, but when I asked for what I thought to be a minor detail (to order only one pretzel instead of the two listed on the menu), it was a non-starter. It is a minor detail, but one that matters to me. I would be more forgiving during the dinner rush, but for lunch when there are maybe five people in the whole place, I expect a waitress to at least ask the kitchen if they can accommodate a custom order.

Pretzels, beer & clam chowder at Hops
Pretzels, beer & clam chowder at Hops

It was all more or less as expected, which puts Hops in a “solid and predictable” category of pub. The menu features mostly comfort foods, including the expected sandwiches, wraps and burgers, but there are a few nice surprises, including a gorgonzola mac & cheese with short ribs that sounded pretty good. In addition to the now ubiquitous walls-of-televisions that unfortunately (to my mind) dominates most pubs, Hops has smaller wall-mounted flatscreens in several of the booths, which I assume could be turned to whatever channel you wanted. There are also a couple of nice nooks for larger group gatherings with larger televisions. Like most pubs, it’s hard to find a seat where you aren’t distracted by screens. Even my favourite local pubs, The Terminal and the Dublin Castle, suffer from television overload from the perspective of someone who comes to a pub to hang out with friends, not TV screens.

I left with mixed feelings about Hops. I will definitely return when the movie theatre opens, and I will probably enjoy my food and brew when I do. But all the televisions are a turnoff for me. And maybe it makes me a pub snob, but I just don’t feel the same way about a pub when I see a dedicated TV screen for Keno and a pull-tab machine. The pub is only two weeks old, so new it’s still listed as “coming soon” on Tag Pubs’ website and at the time I first published this review it didn’t yet have a listing on Urbanspoon. I plan to give it some time to grow on me, and I would recommend trying it out for yourself. Let me know what you think if you do!

Briana Tomkinson

Briana Tomkinson is a Montreal-based writer and original founder of Tenth to the Fraser. She really likes to write letters by hand.

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12 comments

  1. My wife and I went there last Friday, and it's not bad. The beer selection, though, is pretty thin — doubly so for something named "Hops". They've got one of Driftwood Brewery's beers on tap (can't remember if it was the Driftwood Ale or the Farmhand), which is nice; they've got Stanley Park Amber Ale, which is okay; and after that, it's just a handful of strictly middle-of-the-road pale ales and lagers you can get anywhere.

    I talked to our server and suggested that they expand their selection, and even get in a cask or two. She said it was the second time in a week they'd heard that, so hopefully we'll see a greater variety. I'd love nothing more than to see this place bring in some really excellent beers…I'd love to have something closer to home than Saint Augustine's or The Alibi Room!
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    1. They had the Farmhand (it was the one I chose). I liked that they offered the local beers first, and I agree that a larger selection would be nice!

  2. Good to know, 57 Below was soooooooooooooooooooo sketchy!! Hope this place doesn't end up in the same boat.
    Do they have yam fries??
    Also, I heard they have "lingerie night"? Is that true??

    1. I think they had yam fries on the menu, but I'm not totally sure. It was the kind of thing they seemed likely to have! I didn't see anything in there about lingerie night, but if I hear something about it I'll come back and let you know more details!

  3. I'm pretty sure that their prospective clientele (that would be the apartment dwellers above them) are probably not very interested in "lingerie nights"…if this place knows where its business is going to come from, they'll smarten up.

    Are there **any** pubs without giant TV's in New West? Or at least have a corner from which a TV is not visible? …I hate those things. Conversation-killers.
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  4. I'm in agreement about TVs. I don't mind one or two, but when there's one in every corner it ruins the atmosphere. I really like River's Reach, but even there I find there are too many TVs. Problem is that so many pubs are really sports bars in disguise. Again, would love to see restaurants be able to serve drinks only without having to necessarily build a "lounge" section….but that is for another rant 🙂

  5. As a non-sports person, I totally agree about the televisions. I like going to a pub for food, a bit of music in the background and some atmosphere. However, go on game night when there are people crowded around the nearest flat screen and you come to understand why they spend so much on tvs. Lets face facts here: 57 below was a creepy bar. Some by bar design, a lot by location and most by potential clientele. New West is transitioning, which has been a long time coming, but there still are a lot of the loud, rowdy drunks that aren't going to notice that the name of the bar changed. Those people aren't going to be looking for an upscale bar where they can discuss politics and Kafka. Or I could be wrong, and they could all walk up the hill and go to Moonrakers leaving Kafka to be discussed to the hum of a skytrain.

    1. Hi Mike, I read somewhere (and tried to find the link to no success) that it was supposed to be opening in May.

  6. Cheers for the review, Brianna. I was hoping that Hops would not be "57 Below 2", and it sounds like it's not.

    I'm in agreement with you on the TVs thing. Really, there won't ever be a pub in this country with any sort of old-world authenticity as long as TVs are blaring. But, I suppose that's neither here nor there, since many people come to the pub to watch the game, or whatever. It's a revenue generator.
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