Sunday’s adventure took us further north on Vancouver Island; the first time we’d explored beyond Victoria. And what an adventure it was!
We picked up a rental car at the Victoria Airport and followed the instructions of Canuck Karen, our endearing nickname for our GPS, towards Nanaimo. We dodged packs of bicycles participating in the Tour de Victoria as Karen led us through scenic back roads and graveled private roads. Chris had assumed that our route would be down and around the Saanich Inlet, staying firmly on dry land throughout the journey. However, Karen led us to the ferry crossing where we waited 30 minutes for the ferry and took 25 minutes to cross. Once back on land, it took us under a half-hour to reach the town of Duncan. This quaint town is the home to 80 totem poles created by First Nations artists, as well as Craig St. Brew Pub, our first brewery of the day.
Craig St. felt simultaneously spacious and cozy. The dining room, complete with a fireplace, on the left was separated from the antique bar by a large entry way with a high ceiling. There was also an upstairs deck, but we chose to sit at the bar.
The young staff was friendly and attentive as they brought us our “toolbox” sampler set. The wooden box held five beers (Lager, Hefeweizen, Irish Ale, Pale Ale, and a Porter) plus pretzels, which I thought was a nice touch. The seasonal Hefeweizen was a tad too lemony tasting for me, but the Shawnigan Irish Ale, Arbutus Ale, and Mt. Prevost Porter were all solid and paired well with my Asian Cole Slaw with Prawns and Chris’ Chicken Sandwich.
While at Craig St., we made a few adjustments to our schedule and headed straight for Nanaimo. With just one more brewery to visit before we checked into our B&B, we had plenty of time to look around this harbor city. The weather was warm and intermittently sunny, so we opted to walk along the waterfront starting at Maffeo Sutton Park, a busy, family-oriented place that serves as Nanaimo’s signature park.
By late afternoon we stopped at our second and last brewery of the day, Longwood Brew Pub. Situated in an upscale strip mall, the large silo makes it easy to locate. We walked in on the second floor, which is the restaurant. Downstairs, the pub is equally elegant with its dark wood features and black-clad waitstaff. As usual, we chose to join a handful of others sitting at the bar. As we soon discovered, Longwood is very much a locals place. During the 90 minutes or so that we stayed, there was a steady stream of locals stopping by for a beer. I think we were the only ones the bartender didn’t address by name and a confirmation of the usual drink order.
A friendly lot, we thoroughly enjoyed chatting with our bartender and barmates about everything from the virtues of being bi-lingual and hiking opportunities on Vancouver’s west coast to the beauty of golf at Pebble Beach.
Longwood had several beers to sample, all solid and many brewed with British influence. The Hefeweizen, Irish Ale, and ESB were tasty brews, but my favorite was the Dunkleweizen and unsurprisingly, Chris favored the IPA. Before we left, we purchased a bottle of their Framboise (a refreshing dry brew with just the right amount of raspberry flavor), which we later drank on the deck of our B&B.
Speaking of which, I would be incredibly remiss if I didn’t mention our lodgings for the night–MGM Seashore Bed & Breakfast. With absolutely stunning views, it was quite affordable and our hosts, Marilyn and Glenn McKnight, were very gracious. They even grow hops used by the Longwood Brew Pub.
With their help, we ended a somewhat stressful day that didn’t go to plan by sharing great local craft beer and wonderful conversation all while overlooking the most spectacular view possible.