What do craft beer and the Gold Rush of the mid-eighteenth century have in common? Both altered the history of BC’s capital city of Victoria. In the mid-1800s, as would-be millionaires stocked up on supplies in Victoria en route north to seek their fortunes in gold, the population of the future capital surged rapidly. It was there that William Steinberger foresaw his own riches in form of liquid gold —beer. He opened the city’s and BC’s first commercial brewery in 1858. Since that time Victoria has been home to beer production almost continually.
The production of Craft Beer by micro-breweries in the city began in the 1980s with the opening of Spinnakers, the country’s first brew pub. Over the decades Craft Beer blossomed in North America with Victoria being a large part of that growth.
With over a dozen breweries offering fresh on-site brewed beers and numerous pubs serving an assortment of local brews, aficionados can relish in a variety of styles and tastes. Tasting rooms will vary from casual and inviting (Vancouver Island Brewing) to roomy and fun (Phillips Brewing) to large restaurants serving their own and local suds (Spinnakers Brewery & Taproom). Perhaps you want to try a few breweries in a row. That is an easy task. Many are located close to one another, only a short jaunt on foot. Transit is another option as are brewery tours that visit select businesses (note that some brewery and wine tour companies are offering only private tours due to the Covid-19 pandemic). Local barley pop can be enjoyed in various ways. Of course, the traditional glass of draft is always available with a variety of sizes from tasters to sleeves to pints. Want to try a few at a time? Then tasting flights are the way to go, generally a selection of four beers in four-ounce pours. Should you want to enjoy that Oatmeal Stout or tasty Hazy IPA at home, then most breweries sell cans or growlers that will remind you of your time at their establishment.
A do-it yourself “ale trail” in the central area of Victoria may include the following:
- Whistle Buoy Brewing – 560 Johnston St, Unit 63 – Indoor and outdoor spaces for year-round visits, the is small brewery crafts new experimental beers weekly and they’re dog friendly
- The Drake Eatery – 517 Pandora St – A lively and social pub with a large selection of rotating beers from independently owned craft breweries. They also have a fully certified Cicerone on staff
- Herald Street Brew Works – 506 Herald St – Located in a heritage building this newer brewery sells their continually rotating beers on-site only, giving beer drinkers a continual variety of tastes to try
- Phillips Brewing & Malting – 2010 Government St – What started as a single-person operation has grown into one of the biggest craft breweries in BC. Along with enjoying beer in their tasting room you can book a brewery tour to see behind the scenes (pandemic protocols may have this option on hold – please check with the brewery)
- Driftwood Brewery – 836 Viewfield Rd – A small brewery that began with humble beginnings in 2008 has continually grown in demand both on Vancouver Island and the mainland of BC. A quality beer with unique artwork labels, you can can now visit their newly opened bar and patio.
- Vancouver Island Brewing – 2330 Government St – A bit further from the downtown core this brewery was among the Craft Beer pioneers of the 1980s and have won several beer awards
Round out your beer weekend at an accommodation with breweries or pubs nearby or on premise. Spinnaker’s Brewery and Guesthouses offers picturesque cottages onsite with views of the harbour. On the edge of Chinatown is Swans Brewery with their boutique hotel next door, a historic building constructed in 1913. Although not part of a brewery, the Bedford Regency Hotel is housed in a historic building with two pubs that together serve over one hundred imported and craft beers.
What are you waiting for? Head to Victoria to claim your own liquid gold.
Pandemic protocols continue to be in place at time of posting. Please check with official government site for up-to-date information.
Unless otherwise stated, all photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders the World