No beer lover’s trip to Victoria is complete without a pilgrimage to the cradle of British Columbia’s craft beer revolution, Spinnakers. When Spinnakers opened in 1984, it was Canada’s first brewpub, and only the second microbrewery to open in BC following the Horseshoe Bay Brewery, which opened in 1982.
There is a direct connection between Horseshoe Bay and Spinnakers in the person of John Mitchell, who had a hand in opening both. After building the brewery in Horseshoe Bay with Frank Appleton, another BC craft beer pioneer, Mitchell teamed up with a young architect named Paul Hadfield to create Spinnakers at what was then an undesirable location in Vic West on the north shore of the Inner Harbour.
While beer was, of course, the top priority at Spinnakers from the start, Mitchell also believed that good food was integral to the brewpub’s success. That concept only grew after his departure: under Hadfield’s leadership in the early 1990s, Spinnakers became one of the early leaders of the nascent local/slow food movement, connecting with local farms and producers to source fresh ingredients for its chefs. The brewpub rebranded as Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub on its 20th anniversary, and this strong connection to local food continues to be a priority today.
In recent years, Spinnakers has branched out in a variety of ways. In addition to growler fills and bottle sales, its Provisions store offers fresh baked goods, artisan chocolates, malt vinegars and bottled mineral water, all produced on site, as well as locally produced cheeses and teas.
Last year, the brewpub added “cidery” to its list of titles, producing apple and pear ciders as well as special blends, such as its Festive Saison, which merged the Dragonfly Rye Saison with House Blend Apple Cider for a delicious result. It also opened Spinnakers On the Fly post-security at the Victoria International Airport, featuring food, craft beer and cider, and locally produced wine and spirits.
If all this makes you think you might never want to leave, no problem: Spinnakers offers accommodation options in some nearby heritage guest homes. Downtown Victoria is only a 15-minute stroll away, or jump on the Victoria Harbour Ferry for a water-borne tour of the picturesque city.
Spinnakers has never forgotten the original point: craft beer. The Taproom upstairs has a comfortable and charming pub-like feel, with incredible harbour views. Cask-conditioned beers are tapped daily during the week, and the brewers are always experimenting with new and interesting styles to put on tap alongside some of John Mitchell’s original brews.
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