British Columbia’s capital city definitely earned the nickname “craft beer capital,” after beer lovers there enjoyed the first annual Victoria Beer Week earlier this month. The nine-day festival of craft beer involved more than 30 BC craft breweries and featured a wide variety of beer-themed events in venues all around the city.
The week launched on Saturday, March 1 with a sold-out Cask Night at the Victoria Public Market that showcased more than 30 cask-conditioned beers, some of which were paired up with food options prepared by the market’s permanent vendors. More than 500 people sampled the beers in this exceptional venue, which earned rave reviews from brewers and ticket buyers alike.
One of the most creative casks was the Moon Under Water Brewpub’s Heartbreak Hef, a bacon-infused Hefeweizen that was served with a dollop of peanut butter to simulate Elvis Presley’s favourite snack: a peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich.
Another popular cask was the Rock Bay Mash Up, a unique collaboration between Driftwood Brewery and Hoyne Brewing, which are located next to each other in Victoria’s Rock Bay industrial neighbourhood. Driftwood and Hoyne each brewed a batch of Baltic Porter and then connected more than 200 feet of hoses to pipe the Hoyne batch over to be merged with Driftwood’s. That beer has also been released in 650-ml bottles by each brewery—it is available in private liquor stores only for a limited time.
The Cask Night was followed by a full day of educational events, including a home brewing workshop run by professional brewer Dean McLeod at Lighthouse Brewing; a draft beer workshop for industry professionals; and two Beer School classes led by Ken Beattie that offered an introduction to craft beer for beginners and an overview of the history of beer.
Monday night had two sold-out events: the Ultimate Beer & Pizza Party at Pizzeria Prima Strada; and the Beer Cocktail Challenge at Little Jumbo. It seems like food-themed events were the most popular—Tuesday night’s Beer, Cheese, and More Beer event at the Garrick’s Head Pub was also complete sold out.
A highlight of the week for many was Wednesday’s Beer Hunter movie night at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel. The evening included beer samples from two of BC’s newest craft breweries, Barkerville Brewing and Bomber Brewing, followed by a screening of the documentary about the final years of the influential and popular beer writer, Michael Jackson.
On Thursday night, I hosted a panel discussion on “The State of the Craft Beer Revolution” that included several prominent BC craft brewers. We discussed the current boom that the craft beer industry is enjoying here, how it got to where it is now, and what the future might hold. The evening also included a fantasy Beer Label Art Show, which featured eight custom, large-scale beer labels designed by local artists.
On Friday night, Spinnakers, Canada’s original brewpub that is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, held a special IPA Tap Takeover with 20 exceptional IPAs from BC’s best craft breweries. It was a chance for beer geeks to sample many different versions of this flagship craft beer style—and the first time that any beer from Valemount, BC‘s new brewery, Three Ranges Brewing, which just opened in December, was served in Victoria.
To celebrate and acknowledge International Women’s Day on Saturday, March 8, Victoria Beer Week screened a documentary about women who work in the craft beer industry called The Love of Beer, followed by a panel discussion that included the Portland-based filmmaker, Alison Grayson, who was in attendance, along with several women who work in the craft beer industry in British Columbia.
Victoria Beer Week finished in fine fashion on Sunday, March 9, with the Brewmaster’s Brunch, a 6-course, beer-paired, long-table feast at the Atrium Building. The exceptional food was prepared the Island Chefs’ Collaborative, which is dedicated to building a local and sustainable food and agriculture system on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
Victoria Beer Week will return next year in early March—sign up for the newsletter on the festival’s website if you want to be kept up to date with upcoming events.