GCBF 2012 – 20 Years of Great Craft Beer

The Great Canadian Beer Festival, held annually in Victoria, British Columbia, is a showcase for BC craft brewers and adventurous crafties across Canada. The craft revolution is slowly taking hold in the Eastern and Central parts of Canada, but is fully engaged in BC where they make many very interesting and delicious brews.

I love this festival for many reasons – riding the Victoria Clipper up from Seattle being near the top of the list. Victoria is notable for not only gorgeous parks and stunning architecture, but handsome men and beautiful women. It is a photographer’s dream city. It has many breweries and restaurants in easy walking distance from local hotels. My favorite is Swan’s Hotel and Buckerfield’s Brewery aka Swan’s Brewpub. Darcy’s Pub has 20 taps featuring beers from Canada; about half from BC. Granville Island, Canoe and Spinnaker’s breweries/brewpubs are also nearby. There is a wonderful museum of natural history and a bug zoo – no beer there – but fun nonetheless.

After a couple hours of priming the proverbial pump and ingesting a solid base of absorbent materiel – a prep for the event to come – we trekked up the hill to Royal Athletic Park for the festival. For this festival, you needed to have purchased your admission ticket way back on July 21st. Tickets for the Friday and Saturday sessions sell out every year within three days. Once you get inside, you buy a bag of 16 tasting tokens for $20. The nice volunteers there give you a tasting cup (plastic) that holds a 4 oz pour, a great booklet with a list of the brewers, a nice description of the beers they brought, and a map where they are located. This deserves a big shout out to festival director John Rowling and his crew for a very well organized festival.

As with most festivals, you see several different approaches to how best to attack the booths for the 46 different breweries and some 146 different beers.  Most stations are staffed by people from the breweries so you get a lot of good information about how long they have been brewing, what other beers they like to make etc. With 146+ brews to taste, 16 tokens seems a bit on the “too few” side. But caution dear readers – DO NOT go running back to the Token Booth and buy more. At least not yet.

For example, you can do your homework ahead of time and mark the beers you think sound good and then map them in some sort of logical sequence. Or, you can just look for a short line, get in it and pick from the selections they have once you get to the front. Many brewers brought three or four beers in a range of styles, so there was usually always something there that was worth a taste. Some people take detailed notes about the beer. Others enjoy the moment and move on to what’s next.

Brewers and their Brew Crews

As you know I am a fan of the dark side of the beer world.There were many varieties of stouts and porters that could have easily filled my day, and I did have some that were very nice, notably the Oatmeal Stout from St Ambroise/MacCausland and Pike Brewing’s Kilt Lifter. But with the temperatures in the high 80s, a blistering sun, little breeze and shade provided only in the large tented areas, I was looking for something lighter and more refreshing than robust.

I was not disappointed. Lemon Tea Ale, Pepper Lime Lager and Seedspitter Watermelon Wit beers lightened the day. The Lemon Tea Ale came from Mill Street Brewing by way of Toronto, Ontario, the Pepper/Lime from Dead Frog and the Seedspitter from Parallel 49. Driftwood Brewery’s White Bark Wit also was a great treat on a hot day.

In fact, there was little that a beer geek might want that wasn’t there. They had pumpkin ales, saisons, fruit beers (blackberry, apple, peach), vegetable beers (potato, cucumber mint), honey beers, oaked beers, barleywines, a couple coconut porters, and ciders.

My Fellow Bloggers

Other beers I enjoyed were the Holy Smoke from Firehall, Smoke and Mirrors from Coal Harbour, and the Gael’s Blood Potato Ale.

Beers with Funny Names

There were indeed some creative brews available at this festival. Perhaps nearly as creative are the people who name these wild concoctions. Some of my favorite names were:

  • IP ‘Eh
  • Scrumpy
  • Twigs and Berries
  • Attila The Honey
  • Seedspitter Watermelon Wit

Needless to say it was another wonderful day of sampling beers I have never tasted before, and probably will not ever have an opportunity to taste again. Sadly all good things DO come to and end,  We had plenty of tokens left over (which we donated to others in the crowd who were still going strong). The goofy smiles on our faces were clear indications that we were not shortchanged.It was time to catch the Clipper back home.TAXI !!!

Here is a collage from the festival. I think I created five different ones, as well as larger pictures of particularly interesting sights. To see the rest of the pictures, go to my photo pages at http://bobshoemaker.wix.com/photos and click on Beer Festivals.

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Photography and content by Bob Shoemaker (bobshoemaker@hoppytrailsbeernews.com)
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