Victoria Beer Week 2015 Coverage



Grab a brew and relax


Photo: Victoria Beer Week


updated each day with new events

Opening Cask Night – March 7thAdam Cantor

Tap Takeover at Spinnakers – March 8thAdam Cantor

Bikes & BeersJonathan Johnson

Beer, Pizza, More Beer – March 9thChristian Tisdale

Slow Beer Club – March 9thChristian Tisdale

Beer, Cheese, More Beer – March 10thSol Kauffman

Craft Beer Thunderdome – March 11thSol Kauffman

CRAFT Beer Film Screening – March 13thKaitlyn Rosenburg

The Craft Brewer’s Town Hall – March 13thAdam Cantor

Cooking With Beer – March 14thKaitlyn Rosenburg

The Definitive Brewery Crawl: Night 3 – March 14thAdam Cantor

Closing Cask Night – March 14thSol Kauffman

The Brewmaster’s Brunch – March 15thJonathan Johnson

The Brewmaster’s Brunch

March 15th – Jonathan Johnson

After an “enthusiastic” and well-spent evening at the VBW Closing Cask Night , the prospect of drinking yet more beer on a Sunday morning seemed a bit daunting. By no means have I marathoned VBW2015, but it was nonetheless a “beery” week for me. Upon waking up on a rainy Sunday morning and with memories of after-party fried-chicken and crème brulee stouts, I’ll admit to a degree of hesitation first Sunday morn. Still, there was brunch to be had. So, donning an umbrella and a “just-got-out-of-bed-at-11:05am-grin,” I set off for the 2015 Victoria Beer Week finale: The Brewmaster’s Brunch.


I was initially worried that the atrium would be too cavernous for something like this. After entering the space, however, those concerns were quickly alleviated: the organizers and volunteers did a masterful job of making the Atrium feel bright, welcoming, and intimate. The first course of the day was served immediately, and was a good one: an interpretation of the classic coffee and doughnuts combo found us sampling pitch-perfect doughnut holes from Origin Bakery along with the classic Hoyne Espresso Stout. The doughnuts were about perfect — crispy with just barely doughy innards — and the sweetness of the espresso stout worked well as a pairing.

Next up was a spring green salad courtesy of AJ’s Organic Café. Designed as an “antioxidant” course after a week of, well, oxidants (I guess), the salad was a much needed refreshing and light offering for the early afternoon. With peppery poppy seed dressing, papaya, avocado, and a smidgen of red onion, the salad nicely paired with the citrusy and floral tones of the Lighthouse Shipwreck IPA. A nice bit of nutritious refreshment after a week of hard-livin’.


The third course was an especially good one: an Alder Smoked Salmon from Chef Brad Holmes of the recently opened OLO. With a biscuity brioche, egg yolk, a buttermilk potato puree, and wild nodding onion, this one was a winner. The egg yolk and potato puree were wonderfully rich, while the paired beer — the Gladstone Brewing Belgium Single — did a fine job of tempering the just a bit too salty smoked salmon.

Next up was the West Coast Beans & Toast from Chef Ali Ryan of Spinnakers Brewpub. Paired with the Spinnakers Reve de Londres Belgium Porter, the locally sourced beans were indeed very flavorful, although the Sloping Hill Farm pork belly got a little lost against the beans. The beer bread toast was good and buttery, and paired well with the smokiness of the beans themselves.

A Scotch Tamale (effectively, a scotch egg embedded in tamale dough) paired with Category 12’s Unsanctioned Saison composed the fifth course. A spicy shell of Parry Bay mutton chorizo housed a rich quail egg, which blended nicely with the tamale dough. The carbonation and pepperiness of the saison amplified the spiciness of the tamale itself, which worked for me — I like me some spice.

Last but not least was the dessert course: Chocolate Pretzels prepared by the Westin Bear Mountain paired with Vancouver Island Brewery’s Herman’s Dark Lager. This was on the sweet side: the chocolate pate (very rich and smooth) along with the also sweet Herman’s Dark Lager was a little extreme for my sweet tooth, (admittedly, isn’t the most developed). With that said, the lager meringue was light, refreshing, and full of flavor — very nice.

I only attended three events in total at this year’s VBW. Still, the deft organization and diverse experiences offered by each event points to just how carefully considered and put together this crazy event really is. One really has to hand it to the volunteers and organizers for not only making this event happen, but also for making it so streamlined, organized, and successful. I’ll admit — I’m a little beered-out right now, but the buzz from seeing so many facets of the Victoria and BC beer, food, and cultural community come together to make something like this happen will linger for more than a little while.

Closing Cask Night

March 14th – Sol Kauffman

Beer week coming to a close is melancholy, but considering its effect on my productivity it’s probably for the best. The closing cask night was a neat encapsulation of the week; plenty of excited, thirsty people standing in a big room and doing their best to drain the 25-odd casks.

Patrons were granted a healthy eight 4oz samples or two pints worth of brew, and it might be a minor thing, but I have to give credit to VBW and their ranks of volunteers for making it so easy to buy extra food and beer tickets. The Square register setup worked flawlessly and made it almost too easy to funnel your income into additional sustenance. As always the volunteers all week were enthusiastic and surprisingly knowledgeable about the beers that many of them had never seen before each event.


In contrast to the Thunderdome, many of the brews on offer were on the hoppier side, which I think shows the difference between what consumers might be clamouring for versus what brewers most enjoy experimenting with. If you’ve been listening to me ramble on since last summer, you’ll remember that I’m not the world’s #1 IPA devotee so keep that in mind as you peruse my selections.

With summer on my mind I naturally gravitated to Moody Ales’ Raspbeery Blond Ale, not least because it had a pun in the name and they had enormous “Crowlers” on their table. Unlike many other berry beers, this one focused much less on the sweetness than on the earthy, seedy body of the fruit, which I loved. Right across from them was Dead Frog’s Belgian Mist, unfiltered wheat ale with hints of grapefruit zest and coriander. I am a total sucker for unfiltered wheats like these, especially ones with so much banana on the nose.


I also really liked Green Leaf’s Belgian, Les Saisoniers; a bottle-conditioned and unpasteurized beer made in North Van, it had a really nice honey apricot flavour and was being enthusiastically recommended by David Murney of Hops & Vine consulting. Bomber’s Winter Tropics Stout was a confounding and delicious departure from typical porters with a hint of citrus and fruit, and I also found the Stanley Park Rum-Soaked Oak Chip Porter interesting with its thick, viscous feel and smokiness combined with vanilla rum. Townsite’s Zwarte Witbier also stood out for being a bold experiment, smelling almost like soap and tingling on the tongue with a roasted orange peel flavour.

Cask nights are always a chance to try things your local brewers are excited to explore, and can often be a hint at what to expect for next years’ seasonals. Though the closing night might’ve been a little less intimate than the rest of the week, it was certainly a highlight and something to look forward to at next year’s event. Thanks to all our readers for keeping up with us as we shambled through this week’s coverage, and don’t forget to check back in 2016 so you know which tickets will be hot. Keep those steins high!

The Definitive Brewery Crawl: Night 3

March 14th – Adam Cantor

Who in the world wears tapered purple pants with top siders, no socks, and ray bans? Someone who goes on the brewery crawl during Victoria Beer Week, that’s who. I spent much of the sprawling tour trying to get photos of his unusual fashion style…because the world needed to know. There needed to be signs hung up at the entrances of fertility clinics so that this person could be stopped from breeding. I’m just kidding, he was great.

For the brewery tour, which saw us drinking from the taps of six different breweries, we were carted around in a limo bus. It had leather seats, and hip hop music, and lasers. Most of the people on the bus appeared to be drunk after the first stop. We drank an awful lot of beer and it would be easy to say that the atmosphere got increasingly jovial and boisterous as the tour went on. I have a high tolerance, though, and I did not get drunk. I am writing this article like a drunk person because I am trying to create a persona appropriate to the excesses of beer week. However, it is just that: a persona.


We went to Lighthouse, Vancouver Island, Phillips, and then an odd warehouse that had taps from Fernie, Bomber, and Gladstone all contained within. The last of theses was an opportunity for some up island brewers to get exposure. We also ate a bunch of free macaroni. This brewery crawl was utterly ridiculous. It was amazing. Seeing the inside of breweries is a lot of fun. I’ve been fascinated by the idea of falling into a giant vat since I watched Strange Brew as a child. The beer organ at Phillips is a real spectacle.

Lagers are much more time consuming to make than ales. I think this is too bad because there is a real fetish for hoppy ales these days and, to be honest, I’m getting a bit bored of hoppy bears. I know lagers are still associated with the big brewers, but I’m waiting for the taste of the market to shift and for people to start making some truly inspirational lagers. Admittedly, there are a few out there, but by and large the ales are ruling the roost right now.

Cooking With Beer

March 14th – Kaitlyn Rosenburg

After seven days filled with drinking, beer week gave us an event to sink our teeth into. How to cook with beer, hosted by Dan Hayes at the London Chef, provided VBWers the chance to chill out and eat good food. The lunchtime meal featured pairings from Salt Spring Island Ales’ Ryan Malcolm. I’ve visited their brewery and it’s definitely worth a stop in. The beaches of Salt Spring only improve with a drink in hand.


Without making you overly jealous, the three-course meal began with a morning cocktail. Salt Spring’s earl grey IPA (available this June) mixed with a lemon San Pellegrino created the perfect Shandy. This was my favourite. I’m a sucker for soda-based beverages!

For the first course, Hayes prepared a quick onion chutney flavoured with dates, rosemary and Salt Spring golden ale. Spread liberally over fresh crostini and topped with mounds of goat cheese, I reckon this was the crowd pleaser. Paired with an extra special bitter brew, it was difficult to pass up seconds.


We transitioned to beer braised Qualicum clams and Salt Spring Island mussels. An indulgent broth of butter, onion, thyme, cream and Salt Spring heather ale bathed the seafood. While most of us are accustomed to white wine in this dish, Hayes’ recipe proves beer and seafood can make merry.

Dessert and beer could have been a disaster, but the chocolate porter cake with porter whipping cream disproved any skeptics. The cake stays moist with sour cream and a full cup of Salt Spring porter. I’ll be making this one at home.

This event proved why beer week continues to be a success—a local chef and a local brewery working together to create gourmet food.

The Craft Brewer’s Town Hall

March 14th – Adam Cantor

Rocking my original street style; my Eat Magazine tee-shirt, I went over to the Victoria Event centre to catch the Brewers Town Hall. This event was an insider’s delight for the craft brewers of Vancouver and Victoria. Lush beards and plaid abounded. A few choice brews flowed out of the taps, and the stage was occupied by artisanal beer makers talking about their craft.

Much of the conversation revolved around the bureaucratic challenges facing brewers in Vancouver and Victoria. Vancouver is doing alright, but Victoria faces the usual mix of complications. This is a small town sometimes, and things don’t change fast. Zoning and drinking regulations make it difficult, for example, to set up tasting rooms. Still, as one of the stars of the night, Joe Wiebe, pointed out, the number of craft brewers in BC has more than doubled from 40 to 90 in the last two years, so things can’t be all that bad.

beer townhall 1

Wiebe, of course, is the author of Craft Beer Revolution: An Insiders Guide to BC Breweries. He offered up an encyclopedic knowledge of the (recent) history of micro brewing on the Island, from the originators, places like Spinnakers, to the people who have only been in the game a few months (officially) like Category 12.

beer townhall 2

Beyond the zoning questions, there was also much discussion about micro vs. macro brewing, what becomes of small breweries that get bought out by the big fish, and how a craft beer is like pornography. Don’t ask me, they are the ones who were making that analogy. The evening ended with a series of almost incoherent questions from gaggle of drunks at the back of the room. Somehow it seemed fitting to juxtapose the craft aspect of beer making; to juxtapose the discussion of how small enterprises like craft beer are defying the (according to Karl Marx) tendency of capitalism toward the oligarchy, with the salient point that beer is something that can get you rightly smashed…no matter who is brewing it. Still, everybody had a great time.

CRAFT Beer Film Screening

March 13th – Kaitlyn Rosenburg

Okay, I’m out on the reporting trail, excited to add the first female voice to our beer week coverage! Forget cask nights and rambunctious Thunderdome brawls, I’ve got something much better for you… A documentary.

Stay with me.

CRAFT is Craig Noble’s passion project. The filmmaker and brewer at Vancouver-based Postmark Brewing travelled from coast to coast all over North America learning the art of craft beer making. The entire project took three years to complete.


His own beer—separate from the Postmark offering, although brewed in the same facilities—was the Glassbender Farmhouse Ale. While Noble says it’s a work in progress, the crowd drank it passionately. He calls the Farmhouse a food slut… because it pairs so well with all foods. He bottles and labels each batch by hand.

Hosted at the Atrium, the screening was an intimate affair (as intimate as possible for an event dishing out chicken wings and popcorn for snack). Thanks AJ’s Organic Café for the nibbles!

The hour-long documentary covered ample ground. First, the history of craft beer. Everyone in the audience seemed to be experts on the brewing process, but I desperately needed the crash course on turning hops and water into something drinkable. CRAFT makes special mention that lady brewers were integral to the industry’s advancement. I liked that part.



The majority of screen time is dedicated to interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of breweries all over North America, including Portland, San Diego, Montreal, Toronto, Brooklyn and Austin. I think it’s easy for documentaries to manufacture conflict between subjects, but CRAFT didn’t take the bait. Each brewery owner was not only proud of their business, but of every brewing company. No shade thrown here.

Noble caps off CRAFT with his own beer journey, that brought him from the worlds of wine and food to perfecting the Farmhouse recipe in a friend’s backyard.

Craft Beer Thunderdome

March 11th – Sol Kauffman

Now you listen, bronze. The full title of the 1985 film is actually “Beyond Thunderdome”, the lesser-appreciated capstone of the Mad Max trilogy in which the eponymous Mel Gibson is cast out into the desert. Less the blinding sandstorms and baking heat, it was a similar sensation leaving last night’s event for the short shamble home.

Why? Well, if you’ve been to some other beer week events, you’ll know those cute little 4oz glasses, which provide enough sips for a nice impression of each beer. But the Thunderdome is not a place for half-measures. Each patron was granted a full 12oz glass stein upon entry, meaning that tackling the full event required true Rockatansky stamina.

Photo by Christian Tisdale

Photo by Christian Tisdale

The most exciting thing about the Thunderdome’s showcase of new brews was that not only are there plenty of new breweries and beers coming to a head (sorry) but beer drinkers palates have evolved to the point that the Pacific Northwest’s latest concoctions need hardly resemble anything we’ve made here before.

My favorite example of this was the Townsite Brewing Le Chatelier Belgian Pale Ale. Maybe it was the Rage Against The Machine jogging my nostalgia, but I kept jumping between Froot Loops and Honey Nut Cheerios. For a drink so well known for utilizing cereal grains, this was the first time I could really detect my breakfast in a beer, and I loved it. Just don’t try mixing it with milk… I suspect that’d end badly.

In a similar vein, the most meta beverage was Swan’s Master Blaster, a Northwest style Brett Saison. Like Master & Blaster themselves, this beer had the body of a mild hop and the brain of a bright, refreshing Brettanomyces yeast. I also liked the extremely smooth La Maison Grisette from Four Winds. Similar to a saison, this one had Brettanomyces combined with a new type of hop for a yeast-focused flavour, with flaked spelt and rye for a peppery finish.

Photo by Christian Tisdale

Photo by Christian Tisdale

At one point I was nearly involved in a street rumble between my intrepid gang and a bunch of hophead IPA addicts who were lamenting the lack of focus on their favourite ingredient. I can’t say I was complaining. There were a few very interesting IPAs on offer, but none were the hammer-you-over-the-head type. Moon Under Water’s Hip As Funk Farmhouse IPA was another saison/Brett concoction, but it used a heavy hand of apricot-tasting tropical fruit hops to bring the bitterness back, while Steamworks’ White Angel IPA was the creamiest pale I’ve ever tried.

On the other end of the spectrum completely was Category 12’s Transmutation Belgian Specialty Ale, a massive 9.6% brew that was by far the darkest there. Despite its weight, it dazzled the tongue with effervescence and left a blanket of flavour behind.

Look for these new concoctions in stores in the next few months – all of them would make great pairings for George Miller’s Mad Max reboot this May. I AM THE NIGHT RIDER!

Beer, Cheese, More Beer

March 10th – Sol Kauffman

Did you know that you can buy cheese by weight at the salad bar at the Fairways on Quadra? Or that it’s often stocked with high-end stuff for the same low price?

This is some advanced-level stuff, the kind of degenerate behaviour seen only in the most fiendish of cheese lovers. For those of you who enjoy not just the coagulated milk of livestock but also the fermented grain product known as “beer”, this is one event that brings near-transcendence.

I started with Canoe’s Copper Bock, which offered a unique flavour that didn’t overpower the Natural Pastures cheese it was with. Their delicious Buffalo Brie was served in shockingly generous portions and disappeared within about thirty minutes. I’m extremely excited to try their Garlic & Chive Verdelait after sampling the Black Pepper version.


Both Shane Harwood and Nick McGee of the Whole Beast were there as well, carving slices of year-old dry cured wild boar prosciutto. The slices with a nice piece of fat were especially salty and rich, pairing well with the tasteful calm of Vancouver Island Brewery’s Bohemian Pilsner. The Pils also worked perfectly with the washed rind goat cheese (Romelia) from Salt Spring Island Cheese, which was baked with spicy tomato jam on Fol Epi ciabatta. There was a wraparound line for this, because heating cheese is like strapping jet engines on a Porsche.



In line I overheard someone telling their friend how comfortable they felt leaving their gear lying around in the bar because they were at a “cool beer week event.” I hadn’t even thought about it, Victoria being the city it is, but there was definitely a heightened sense of camaraderie. “Beer people are good people,” he said.

I really enjoyed pairing Swans’ rich, sweet and malty Riley’s Scotch Ale with the slightly-soft Smoked Applewood Cheddar from Chiarelli’s, and Fernie Brewing’s Hot Saw India Brown Ale was an ideal match for my new favourite cheese, Le Chevre Noir, a goat’s milk cheddar served by Ottavio.

Anyway, I ate and drank far more than $30 worth of beer and cheese, and considering the caloric content I can probably now go for several days without sustenance, like a snake. If you’re a cheese loving mutant like myself, don’t miss this thing next year.

Slow Beer Club

March 9th – Christian Tisdale

Beer, Pizza, More Beer

March 9th – Christian Tisdale

Bikes & Beers

March 9th – Jonathan Johnson

This article also appeared in the Victoria Beer Week 2015 Guide.

Midway through a typical rain-soaked, mist-laden Vancouver Island winter bike ride I’m cold, thirsty, miserable, and wet. Mind broken, soul chilled, the sweet, malty caress of a bomber of Hoyne Dark Matter is all that keeps my legs moving. Mercifully, time passes quickly, and I clomp and shiver my way into Cook St. Liquor. Hands shaking, I somehow manage to exchange a soaking wet ten dollar bill for a bottle of the good stuff, and wrangle the precious liquid back to my apartment, drinking it in the shower. It’s delicious, it’s refreshing, it’s starting to give me just a tiny bit of a post-ride buzz, and I couldn’t be happier.


This post-ride ritual is not specific to me — it’s a universal truth that beer pairs well with cycling. Somewhere in history, beer and cycling found one another, and they’ve been inseparable ever since. That relationship is particularly evident here in Victoria: Phillips regularly sponsors the many alleycat races organized by Stuckylife; Driftwood sponsored Stuckylife’s 2014/2015 Semiprestige race series; and Spinnakers supports Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria, going so far as to release a year-round Tour de Victoria Kölsch.

So what’s this bike and beer thing all about, anyway? Cycling has a long-standing relationship with coffee, which is easier to understand, but if a shot of espresso is what gets us out there, malt and hops are what bring us back into the world. After a hot day of riding nothing refreshes like a crisp Pilsner or a tropical IPA, while imperial stouts and sweet porters warm after the coldest of rides. Yes, I realize that this all sounds a bit like a beer commercial, but the union between cycling and beer somehow manages to hit that note of refreshing, sublime impossibility. There’s a feeling of being “out there” when on a bike and that’s exhilarating stuff. Does beer temporarily extend that sensation? Does it bring us back into the world from that higher cycling realm? Or is it just refreshing and delicious and good? It probably doesn’t matter — no matter what you drink, and no matter what you ride, just get out there, and enjoy both.

Here are some favourite post-ride brews from local cyclists:

“The Amnesiac Double IPA is a favourite in winter, but nothing refreshes after a scorching ride like a light, sweet wheat beer.” — Emile de Rosnay, elite road and track cyclist/racer.

“I came across the Four Winds Brett IPA after my first hot summer ride last year — it’s definitely one of my favourite brews.” —Katie Harris, cyclist about town.

“Few things are better than a crisp Pilsner consumed in the shower after a gruelling muddy race or a long cold day in the saddle.” — Parker Bloom, racer and Stuckylifer

Tap Takeover at Spinnakers

March 8th – Adam Cantor

Today it was Tap Takeover, with the BC Craft Brewer’s Guild. The entirety of Spinnaker’s downstairs was an absolute din. 22 breweries, divided into rookie offerings and legacy offerings, poured out samples from their kegs. Your faithful reporter was there, glass in hand, to catch the beers as they coursed from their spigots. While the beers were pouring, chef Ali Ryan and her frenetic kitchen crew were sliding plate after plate of extraordinary, beer themed bar food over the counter. I ate and drank so much that I sincerely thought I needed to lie down at one point.

So many people.

So many people.

There was a lot of wonderful stuff, but some of the standouts for me were as follows: Category 12’s Disruption Black IPA. I have to admit that I’m a fan of the darker, complicated brews. Disruption is a rookie at the event. Vancouver Island Brewery’s Absolute Darkness India Pale Ale is a legacy. I liked it, too.

Not to be too predictable, though, I also appreciated Hoyne’s Helios Dortmunder Golden Lager, and Powell Street Brewing’s Ode to Citra Pale Ale. Truthfully, I didn’t try anything that turned me off. It might have been luck of the draw, but everything was satisfying. I was surprised that I got into the citra ale; usually overly fruity or flowery beers bother me (both on a flavour level, and on a philosophical level)…but this one was tasteful and pleasant.

It was packed.

It was packed.


The Spinnaker’s event was a change from that last night’s event at the Hudson because there were real reps and brewers from the companies pulling the taps. At the Hudson, it was all volunteers who didn’t necessarily know the products they were pouring. Some were knowledge, to be fair, but some did not seem to have done their due diligence. This time it was possible to chat with actual insiders and get the low down on some of their processes. Of course the place was loud as heck, as I was saying, but that added to the fun of the event.

Opening Cask Night

March 7th – Adam Cantor

Twenty-one craft brewers propped up their kegs in the Victoria Public Market, and people lined up around the block to get in. The event was a great way to taste a cross section of the different brews that are being bottled on the island. The room had an Oktoberfest vibe with the suds freely flowing and with plenty of amazing food to go around. I met one fellow from Manitoba who was bothered by the fact that there weren’t any fistfights; I think he was missing the point. The atmosphere was jovial and boisterous. People walked around with their small cups bubbling with frothy foam. What a grand occasion!

cask night at hudson-1

I liked a bunch of beers from among the many I sampled: Canoe’s Chilli Vanilli, an espresso stout with all kinds of personality; Spinnakers’ White Rye-no-sauer-us; Phillips’s Double Dragon (not just because I wasted my whole youth playing that video game); and Tofino’s Spruce Tip, to name but a few. To be honest, my capacity for nuanced judgement eroded as the night wore on and I generally went
for the ones that had bad puns in their names.

I tried, and enjoyed, a few ciders, too. Todd Creek’s Mala Hop was swell; it was dry and not overwhelmingly sweet. I don’t normally drink ciders, but I liked this one. Sutra’s spice encrusted lamb chop was a perfect compliment to the cider.

cask night at hudson-2

The crowd itself seemed to be divided into people wearing brown suede and leather, and people in teal and red—the kayak rain gear one usually sees around Victoria. I have no idea which kinds of people were drinking which kinds of beer—some future academic can surely seek a grant for this. As more research is needed, I will report from Spinnakers tomorrow and let you all know what I have discovered.

Written By:

Colin is the Assistant Editor at EAT. You can contact him via Colin was born in Nova Scotia and spent his first five years there. His mother and father owned an inn and restaurant and Colin spent his time ...

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