Brewmasters and bomber bottles

Culture Food | Drink Literature

Craft breweries are bursting onto the scene in B.C. Micro-brewers have begun using high-quality and unconventional ingredients to spearhead a revolution against the bland, mass-produced Lucky Lagers and Molson Canadians that dominated liquor store shelves prior to the opening of the province’s first craft brewery.

Today, B.C. has 50 small-scale breweries that are changing the highfalutin idea that wine is the go-to beverage for swilling connoisseurs and hobbyists and that beer is intended for sloshing on the floorboards of redneck dives.

Craft breweries have also ignited passions in beer lovers. Beer author extraordinaire Joe Wiebe took eight days to drive 2 364 kilometres to see the six breweries, three brewpubs, one winery, one hop farm and one craft-beer focused pub previously left unchecked in his travels as a freelance culture writer.

Wiebe has compiled research over many years of scrutinizing beer, both as a hobby and professionally. He has also been known as the “Thirsty Writer” beer blogger since 2006. His work has appeared in publications such as the Northwest Brewing News, the Vancouver Sun, the Globe and Mail, enRoute and BC Business.

His book, Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider’s Guide to B.C. Breweries, maps out craft and micro-breweries across the province. The book not only guides readers through the colourful and often intertwining histories of B.C.’s breweries, but also highlights each brewery’s notable draughts.

Victoria is B.C.’s hub for craft brewing. Its restaurants and pubs show a strong loyalty to local brewers—residents will be familiar with many of the draughts lining the margins of Wiebe’s book. However, the convenience of local brands does not risk quality—Wiebe calls Victoria the province’s craft beer capital and deems the Fat Tug IPA at Victoria’s Driftwood Brewery one of the best beers in B.C. and beyond.

Lesser known than the domination of Phillips Blue Buck Ale are the background stories of the capital`s nine breweries.

John Mitchell, who pioneered the craft beer revolution, using dairy equipment to kickstart Horseshoe Bay brewery in 1982, also helped set up Spinnakers, Canada’s first brewpub in Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

Most of the four brewpubs (Canoe Brewpub, Moon Under Water, Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub and Swans Brewpub) and five craft breweries (Driftwood Brewing, Hoyne Brewing, Lighthouse Brewing, Phillips Brewing and Vancouver Island Brewing) are located downtown, making it easy to plot out a beer tour.

An in-depth look at the IPAs, lagers and stouts that call the West Coast home, this book is accessible for those looking for basic insight, but remains informative for people more deeply immersed in B.C.’s beer scene.

The book separates the breweries by geographical region, encouraging readers to conduct their own Craft Beer Odyssey.

Wiebe’s guide is comprehensive, offering a glossary of terms, lists of award-winners and hophead favourites, suggested beer festivals and blogs, as well as a few pages at the back for the reader to jot down their own tasting notes.

He includes excerpts such as one that investigates the scarcity of brewpubs in Vancouver due to archaic tied-house laws, which disallow pubs to sell beer that has been brewed in the same building. Some of these laws have recently been reformed to better facilitate B.C.’s burgeoning micro-brewing scene.

Wiebe captures the growing infatuation with craft beers across the province, at a time when brewers are multiplying at an accelerated rate. Eleven more breweries are expected to open by the end of 2013, and while most are situated in Vancouver, there are plans for Spinnakers to expand its production facility. Further, Victoria’s annual Great Beer Festival has grown from its small beginnings in 1993 to host 55 Canadian and American breweries and over 8 000 craft beer enthusiasts, at Royal Athletic Park Sept. 6 to 7, 2013.

Wiebe’s remarkable ability to dissect the flavours and nuances of the some 150 craft beers reviewed in Craft Beer Revolution certainly fuels excitement around the expansion of B.C.’s craft brewing scene.


Beer History

1982 —B.C.’s first brewery opens in Horseshoe Bay, brewing beer for the Troller Pub

1984 —Spinnakers, Canada’s first true brewpub, opens in Victoria

1984 —Vancouver Island Brewery opens, then named Island Pacific Brewing

1989 —Swans Brewpub/Buckerfields Brewery opens

1993 —Victoria hosts its first annual Great Canadian Beer Festival

1996 —Canoe Brewpub opens

1998 —Gulf Islands Brewery opens and is later rebranded as Salt Spring Island Ales in 2011

1998 —Lighthouse Brewing opens

2001 —Phillips Brewing opens

2011 —Hoyne Brewing and Moon Under Water Brew Pub open


Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider’s Guide to B.C. Breweries
By Joe Wiebe
Douglas & McIntyre (Vancouver)
May 2013