With its concentration of breweries and easy walk-ability, Victoria screamed out for an Urban Beer Hike. I even had one envisioned in my head, a circular route that hit all the new breweries plus some old favorites in the British Columbia capital. But, prior to our trip, I was too immersed in working on promoting Merideth’s book to get one properly organized and planned. Our one full day in Victoria morphed into more of an Urban Beer Wander.
In contrast to the previous day, the weather on Saturday in Victoria was a bit more encouraging for a walk. Clouds were breaking up mid morning as Merideth and I left Spinnakers, our brewery-hotel, for the short walk to the Inner Harbor. By the time we reached the center of town, both Merideth and I had our fleeces off.
After doing a Clark Griswold on the downtown tourist sights, Merideth and I headed up Government Street to the industrial part of town. The blocks around Government and Bay Streets have become Victoria’s ‘brewery gulch’, the location for most of the new breweries in town.
Our first beer stop was Vancouver Island Brewing. To illustrate my distracted state prior to our trip, I had the island’s oldest craft brewery on our target list despite having already visited the brewery on our last visit to Victoria in 2001. Even though we’d already been there, nothing looked familiar to me or Merideth. I certainly hope a remodel was the explanation.
In the end, a few beer samples can’t hurt, even if the brewery was already on The List. Hermann’s Dark and the seasonal Hefeweizen Beachcomber Summer Ale were pleasant starts to the beer portion of the day.
We continued walking up Government and hung a left on Bay to reach our second destination, Moon Under Water, a brewery that did count on The List. The name comes from a George Orwell essay of the same title where he describes Moon Under Water, his fictitious ideal pub.
Not quite sure of how many more stops there would be on the day, Merideth and I only split the six beer sampler. In a rare moment, we agreed on the our favorites of the lot, Moonlight Blonde, Lunar Pale Ale and the seasonal Stout. The overall star for me was the 4.2% ABV Blonde ale. Made with a bit of wheat and hopped with Saaz, the brew had a really nice bite to accompany its light body.
From Moon Under Water, it was only a short walk around the corner to Hoyne Brewing on Bridge St. To illustrate that this neighborhood is brewery gulch, Driftwood Brewing was located next door. But unfortunately, it is not currently open to the public.
Located in a blue-roofed industrial building on the corner, Hoyne has been only open since December. For being such a newcomer, they have already developed quite a following as evidenced by the steady stream of customers coming it to fill growlers.
We sampled five beers, all quite nice especially given the youth of the brewery. Starting on the lighter end with Summer Haze Honey Hefe and Hoyner Pilsner, we moved on to Merideth’s favorite, Dark Matter. Technically classified a Brown Ale, Dark Matter had a wonderful nutty and roast character. Moving on to my end of the spectrum, we finished with Down Easy Pale Ale and Devil’s Dream IPA. Both were excellent, though I preferred the Pale Ale.
Returning back the way we came, Merideth and I headed back down Government Street to our third and last new brewery of the day, Phillips Brewing. Just like Hoyne, but even more so, Phillips enjoyed a very steady stream of growler-fill customers. We grabbed a corner of the tasting bar, trying to stay out of the way, while we worked our way through the Phillips lineup.
We sampled numerous brews beginning with the light-bodied Phoenix Gold. An early highlight was Service 1904 Scotch Ale, a 5% ABV stone-fired beer with a flavorful caramel malt profile. Hop Circle IPA not only was a great hop-pun, but a well-crafted hopbomb. Longboat Chocolate Porter was a favorite of both Merideth and I. It’s deep chocolate flavor cried out for a big bowl of vanilla ice cream.
Once back in the center part of Victoria, we headed to Canoe Brewpub. Though we had been there before, Merideth and I had visions of playing scrabble in the sunshine overlooking the water on the brewpub’s patio. Grabbing the only available outside table, Merideth and I dove into the six beer sample tray.
Then the weather turned for the worse. The wind picked up, dark clouds rolled in and the sunshine was gone. The wind was so strong it even picked up an open umbrella from the table next to us and hurled it over the glass wall onto a walkway. By the time we decided to pack it in, the rain had started to fall.
Trying to wait out the rain, Merideth and I next went to Garrick’s Head Pub in Bastion Square. A Victoria fixture since 1867, Garrick’s Head came recommended by several people for being a good place to find local craft beer. I took the opportunity to try Driftwood Brewing Fat Tug IPA. At 7% ABV and 80 IBU, it was very West Coast style and one of my favorite beers I drank in Victoria. It definitely made we wish they had a tasting room to try the rest of their offerings.
As Merideth and I enjoyed our beers at Garrick’s Head, we examined every entering customer to see how wet their jackets were. With a 20-minute walk back to Spinnakers still ahead, we were hoping to minimize how wet we got. Finishing our pints, we decided the rain had sufficiently let up. It was a pleasant, if breezy, walk back to Spinnakers.
After two visits to the British Columbia capital, Spinnakers, for us, remains the cream of the crop of the Victoria beer scene.The beer was world-class and the farm to table food quite delicious.
Though I was wanting the long-gone cask Cascadia Ale that I had enjoyed the previous day, Spinnakers India Session Ale was the perfect choice after a day of drinking beer. We finished our Urban Beer Wander with a nice dinner, our evening culminating with a Chocolate Truffle and Beer Pairing. It’s one of the perks of staying in their hotel.
Our day in Victoria wasn’t that organized, but despite that, we discovered again that it’s a great beer town. Next visit, I will be better prepared with a properly planned Urban Beer Hike.