There is a wonderful beer festival every year in Victoria, BC, billed as the Great Canadian Beer Festival, even though most of the craft beers there are from British Columbia. Neither of Canada’s larger cities, Toronto or Montreal, has risen to challenge this claim.
For people from the island, this is just a continuation of their immersion in the craft beer revolution. Victoria is loaded with quality craft breweries. A good many folk ferry in from Vancouver and its surrounding cities, too, where many mighty fine beers can be found.
Those of us in the lower 48, in particular, Seattle, take the two-hour, forty-five minute ride up on the Victoria Clipper, with hopes of seeing the occasional pod of orcas en route. If you have never been to Victoria – good – stay away – this is my own personal slice of Heaven and the fewer people who know about it the better. Just kidding. NOT!
Every year on the first weekend in September, for the past 23 years John Rowling and his dedicated crew put on this beer lovers extravaganza. There were 82 breweries pouring a record number 253 beers for the 8,000 people who attended the two-day festival.
There were no “dumpers” this year (beers that were maybe a little too creative for their own good) as Canadian brewers are getting the hang of both what their fans like and what keeps interest in the craft growing. Brewers from the USA did not have booths this year. Instead, the Brewers Association sponsored a tent with 27 beers., including beers from Michigan, and Virginia.
In addition to the great beers is the wonderful scenery. Creative costumes and just plain nice people make going to this festival a highlight for any dedicated Beercationer.
Beer lovers of all ages
The beers at the festival were deee-licious. Some of the more awesome ones were:
- 33 Acres of Sunshine – French style wheat ale. Lightly hopped with Styrian Golding and flavoured with orange peel, coriander seed and anise seed, brings out a fruity, spicy character.
- Hound of Barkerville – Rich and smooth, with European malts lending a sweetness and aroma reminiscent of wildflower honey.
- Rhine Stone Cowboy – Delicate, well matured Kölsch style ale.
- Bomber ESB – Light molasses and grain on the nose with a pinch of dry hopping. Hints of dried fruit with toffee & wafer on the finish.
- Glutenberg Red –The use of roasted chestnuts endows this beer with toasted nuts and caramel hints, and gives it a unique aromatic personality.
- Back Hand of God Stout (Organic) - This award-winning dry stout is extraordinarily smooth and mildly hopped with a distinct coffee/chocolate presence.
- Insurrection Pale Ale (Organic) - Dry hopped with plenty of farm-grown Cascade hops.
- Gael’s Blood Organic Potato Ale - This Irish “immigrant” ale is exceptionally smooth with an earthy malt flavour and body. Plenty of malt, mouthfeel and hoppy bitterness
- White Bark Witbier – Brewed with the addition of freshly ground coriander, curacao and orange peel. Hops are outshone by the wonderful floral aromas.
- Sap Sucker Maple Porter – Made with seven malts including chocolate, black, caramel and crystal. Maple syrup is added post fermentation adding a slight maple smoothness to the finish.
- Brett IPA – At the heart of this distinctive West Coast IPA stands juxtaposition of ripe tropical fruit esters and mild Brett funk. Moderately bitter and gracefully balanced.
- Bean Me Up Espresso Milk Stout – The perfect marriage of espresso coffee and a delicate stout featuring a smooth creamy sweetness from lactose.
- Strawberry Wit – Fresh strawberries are puréed with honey and blended into a Belgian style wheat beer for a refreshing experience.
- Weathervane Vanilla Stout – Real vanilla extract from the highest quality Madagascar vanilla pods, blended seamlessly with the roast and chocolate flavours of the legendary Keeper’s stout.
There were dozens more good brews to try – beers you will only find in Canada – some only at the beer festival (and ciders from Cider Riot). Be sure to watch for this next year in mid-July when tickets go on sale. It sells out within the first couple days.