Over 50 B.C. craft breweries represented at 20 events over nine-day festival
Victorians were able to quench their thirst with the return of the annual Victoria Beer Week, now in its seventh year. This year’s festival put on 20 events over the span of nine days and gave beer lovers the chance to learn about Victoria’s vibrant craft brew scene as well as to try new beers from over 50 different breweries from across B.C.
“The whole point of Victoria Beer Week from the get-go, and we founded this seven years ago, was to facilitate education surrounding craft beer,” Executive Director of Victoria Beer Society Ryan Malcolm told the Martlet. “These are smaller, more boutique events catered around specific categories and styles of beer and kind’ve growing the knowledge base around that.”
While old staples such as Lift Off!, which opened the event, were still featured, this iteration included several exciting new additions including the Greg Evans Memorial Beer Walk and Publican’s Picks.
Though most of Beer Week proceeded as planned, certain events were cancelled following the provincial government’s ban of gatherings of over 250 people in response to the spread of the COVID-19. A staple event planned to end the festival, Saturday Night Casks, was cancelled, as were Lager Than Life and the Saturday Street Eats brewery tour. Smaller events, such as Party Like it’s 999 and Brewmaster’s Bunch still went ahead.
However, many of the new events did go ahead, giving participants a flavour of Victoria’s beer scene. The Greg Evans Memorial Beer Walk was part of the Victoria Beer School Program which offers events every year geared towards beer education. The walk honours Greg Evans, who was Victoria’s resident beer historian — he wrote his master’s thesis on prohibition brewing at UVic in the 1980s, during the outset of the craft brew movement.
“Greg was a really important part of the beer community here for a long time,” said Beer Director Joe Wiebe. “He was a great resource … he gave a lecture on beer every year that was always really entertaining.”
Following Evans’s passing in 2018, the Victoria Beer Society wanted to find a way to honour his legacy and commitment to the history of Victoria’s beer scene.
“We asked [John] Adams, a local tour guide [who owns] the company that does the ghostly walk tours,” said Wiebe, “and he’s putting together this special historical walking tour around downtown.”
The Greg Evans Memorial Beer Walk took beer-lovers through downtown and explained the history of beer in Victoria, showed participants different locations of old bars and taverns, and described what life was like prior to prohibition. Much of the information was drawn from Evans’s own research.
Publican’s Picks, meanwhile, celebrated Victoria’s longest operating brewpub, Spinnakers Brewpub, and its longtime owner Paul Hadfield. The event combined a beer-paired dinner with documentaries showing the early days of the microbrewing movement as well as a very young Hadfield who told stories to event guests.
The last new event planned was Lager than Life, which was cancelled in response to COVID-19. The event was planned to showcase 26 different lagers from 16 different B.C. breweries. Both Malcolm and Wiebe were glad to see a surge in the popularity of lagers, which are often maligned and underappreciated due to their misrepresentation by the big brands.
“A lot of craft beer drinkers think lagers aren’t very good because they associate them with the international beers like Budweiser and Kokanee and things like that, which don’t have much flavor to them,” Wiebe said.
“When you ask a brewer what they drink at the end of their day … they’ll say they’re drinking a lager, generally. Lagers are underrated and underappreciated, there’s so many amazing flavours that you can get in lager beers.”
Other original events included Party Like it’s 999, which explored ancient styles of beer before the introduction of hops, and Walk on the Wild Side, which explored what flavours can come out of using wild yeasts.
At the end of the day, Victoria Beer Fest is a celebration of the wonderful culture of craft beer that has sprung up in B.C.’s capital.
“It’s not just about Victoria Beer Week, beers, and breweries — it’s celebrating B.C. craft beer culture,” said Wiebe.