Vancouver Island Brewery
It’s only fitting that Vancouver Island Brewery comes first, as it lays claim to the title of being the Island’s first craft brewery. From 6-employee/warehouse roots in Central Saanich, to a production team of over 40 in a shiny new brewery, it’s safe to say the company has grown in the last 30-or-so years. In fact, the familiar orca logo can be spotted in more than a few places all over the Island and elsewhere. They strove to create beers that reflect west coast life (“clean, fresh and natural”), which they did with flying colours. From the classic Islander Lager, to Piper’s Pale Ale, and Hermann’s Dark Lager, there are more than a few longstanding favourites. Pop by the brewery for a $10 tour and see the production first hand. Then, you can sip a sample and even keep the mug.
Phillips Brewing and Malting Co.
Driving by the warehouse empire that is now Phillips Brewing and Malting Co. it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always that way. Many years before, a dedicated brewer took to the credit card applications and kicked off a one-man beer production in a windowless apartment. The company’s untraditional beginnings were foreshadowing for what was to come. With eye-catching labels, endless humour and unstoppable creativity, the beers and products that now pour from the brewery are far from just your classic lagers and ales. The iconic, malty Blue Buck is nearly a household necessity in many Vancouver Island fridges, and its runner-up pals aren’t far behind. Better yet, $6 is all it takes to be able to explore the legendary brewery, fit with samples and a souvenir.
Despite lacking a tasting room, snagging a taste of Hoyne is more than an attainable feat. Perhaps its safer to keep the creation of these incredible sips a secret, anyways. With extensive experience in the art of craft beer, and having worked faithfully under one of North America’s first microbrewers, Adam Hoyne was no doubt qualified for the task of creating a namesake brewery. Fairly new compared to its brewing compatriots, Hoyne Brewing is already a staple in most local bars. One beer in particular, Hoyne Dark Matter, has given Guinness a run for its money, replacing it on a few taps. A splash of beer comes with a splash of wit in the form of labels that prep you via colour scale for all the flavours and experiences you can expect. If you like good beer, definitely give Hoyne a shot.
Brewing is a science and it’s one that Category 12 is well versed in. In fact, it’s so dedicated to the science of brewing that their tasting room is known as “the Lab.”
Putting the “micro” back into micro brewing, perhaps more than many of the others on this list, Category 12 sticks to small-batch brewing of about 30 kegs at a time. For fine-tuning and maximizing flavour and quality, this is the tactic that has proven infallible. This also means that if you like something, get at it while it’s there. Using local-only ingredients, and with those signature small batches, at least you know the beer is fresh.
In 2008, the keys to Unit 102-450 Hillside were handed over, and Driftwood Brewery sprang to life. Within a few months, their beer was ready to hit the taps, which it did in a big way. After taking over its neighbouring unit, and then the entire warehouse space, the company has grown and for a great reason; one sip and you’ll see why. These big bottled beers are a delight with classy labels and a number of core flavours backed by tasty seasonals. Perhaps the best known from Driftwood is the Fat Tug IPA, which will have any hop aficionado rejoicing. They don’t do brewery tours (yet), but their shop is open from Monday-Saturday to top up a growler or pick up some bottles.
From day one, Lighthouse Brewing has strived to upkeep that artisanal attitude. The goal was to brew amazing craft beer every day with quality and consistency, which is just what they have done. 1998 marks the first batch of Race Rocks Ale, a steadfast part of their growing brew collection. Bottles, boxes and cans are available in a multitude of new brews, all created with the same skill and passion of that first small batch. The nautical theme is merely the cherry on top of the perfection contained inside. Although taking a peek at the bounty isn’t an option, you can always swing by the brewery to fill up a growler.
Spinnakers might just be the most extensive of all the breweries in terms of brewing and serving craft beer. Not only have they crafted their own artisan beers since 1984, they have a daily cask special, as well as a rotating Guest Tap. Besides just beer, there are barrels and sours, as well as ciders and blends. Pretty well all of them can come in cans, bottles or straight from the source, and they’re paired perfectly with food inspired by the flavours of the beers. If you have a hard time making decisions, a coin toss might be in order, as the beer list is loaded with options. Their brew shop is also a great spot to visit: You may just end up taking some extras with you though, as they also make their own chocolate, as well as beer and cider created vinegars, fresh-baked artisan breads and pastries and even beer jelly. Maybe extensive is even an understatement. Oh yeah, there’s also a growler filling station.
Unfiltered and created without the use of preservatives and additives, the beers handcrafted at CANOE are more than worthy of a pit stop. Naturally carbonated, the incredibly crisp flavours of the beer reflect the quality of both the brewing and the ingredients. Partnered with a lively restaurant in a stunning location with great food, the atmosphere of CANOE is pretty much unrivaled. Every day features a different beer or special, and there are often seasonal beers on tap worth giving a go. Schedule your beer drinking to coincide with any of the almost nightly live music performances to enhance the experience.
Swans is a pretty well-known hotspot in Victoria, but not only for their beer. The pub is located in one of the city’s iconic heritage homes and is a combination of pub, brewery, liquor store and hotel. A classy logo and straightforward style, beer is not something Swans plays around with. They’ve been producing classic, British-style ales, alongside German and Canadian beers since 1989. Don’t mess with a good thing. Sip your way through a pint or two, or maybe try out a flight and then take your favourites to go. Some options are only available at the pub or by the growler, but there’s a solid selection of bottled goodies at their liquor store, some of which aren’t available on tap.
Moon Under Water
Moon Under Water creates beers inspired by European tradition, but with a Canadian twist. Ambitious in trying out different brew methods, the selection is varied in styles and flavour. There’s definitely a consistency though, and that’s in quality and deliciousness. Six perfected recipes fit with quirky descriptions and backstories give plenty of well-balanced options to test out. They recently added a barrel-aged sour program, so those in favour of the tarter side of things can bait their breath for samples of these patience-inducing brews. Partnering with the brewery is the pub-side of things. The small batch creations sip perfectly alongside a menu of classic pub fare and tasty creative additions.