Victoria has no shortage of liquor stores. We have only slightly fewer than we have marijuana dispensaries and taco joints. I’m kidding, though the dispensaries are getting up there.
While it’s easy enough to find a liquor store, it’s not always that easy to find a good one. Some specialize in wines and spirits, some just carry a line-up of generic beers, and some are just way overpriced.
If you’ve grown tired of the limited selection of craft brews carried by your local BC Liquor Store, then this list might help you out.
Oh, one quick note before we get into things, if you are looking for beers from Phillips, Driftwood, Hoyne, Swans, Spinnakers, Category 12, Four Mile, or Twa Dogs then don’t forget that each brewery has it’s own shop where you can buy the beers at less than retail and also fill up growlers.
#1 Cook Street Liquor – Cook Street Village
A hidden gem, tucked away in the parking lot behind Pizzeria Prima Strada and Serious Coffee, Cook Street Liquor is a deceptive tiny store that is like the TARDIS of craft beer. The selection of beers available in this place is mind-boggling. As well as local craft beers, they have a huge selection of brews from the East Coast, the U.S., Belgium and more. If you’ve ever been to The Drake and tried an amazing beer that you’ve never seen in stores, then it’s more than likely that Cook Street has it in stock.
The one caveat is that their prices tend to run a little on the expensive side. Mostly this is due to the fact that they are importing these rare beers and then the price has to be converted into Canadian. They also have higher overheads than the chain stores, so there’s that to keep in mind. That being said, I’ve found a couple of random things here at much lower prices than other places, so you might get lucky.
Cook Street also operates an amazing “beer mail” program that allows people in more remote parts of BC to get a curated selection of craft beers shipped right to their door, with a selection that changes every fortnight.
Something I really love about the store is that they list all of the beers they have in stock on their website, with a special section for new arrivals, and also keep a blog with tasting notes for said new products. These guys really love their craft beer!
#2 Cascadia Liquor Store – Six locations
Cascadia Liquor appeared on the scene just a couple of years ago with only the one store in Quadra Village. Since then they have opened locations at Uptown, Colwood, Langford, Courtney and most recently Eagle Creek. They have exploded in popularity and it’s easy to see why: they have a wide selection of craft beers available, both local and non-local, and their prices are fantastic.
While the original store at Quadra is still great, the one at Uptown is gigantic and has a whole wall dedicated to craft beer, as well as a large chiller section. I work directly above the store, so this can prove dangerous when I’ve had a hard day at work.
They host lots of different tasting events and masterclasses and also have a loyalty program that affords members various benefits like 5% off four bombers, no chill charge, first chance buys, and more.
#3 Vessel Liquor Store – Oak Bay
Vessel is a newer liquor store located on the crossroads of Oak Bay and Fort. Their mission statement is to support authentic wine, spirits and ales, as well as the people who make them.
They have pretty huge wall of bombers that almost rivals the Uptown Cascadia and they have a few rare barrel-aged beers and lambics in stock. Their prices veer towards the high side, but this is Oak Bay, don’t you know!
The store hosts regular seminars and tastings on wine, spirits and beers, including a monthly workshop hosted by Thirsty Writer Joe Wiebe. I would highly recommend checking these out.
I’d never thought to investigate the Spinnaker’s liquor store till recently, just assuming it would mostly sell mostly Spinnakers products, but I’ve recently started visiting the West Vic one by Save-On foods and have been pleasantly surprised.
Their prices are great (on a par with Cascadia) and they have a pretty good selection of stuff that you don’t find elsewhere. I’ve picked up many rare beers from North Coast, Gigantic, and Deschutes here. They also stock lots of products you can’t find elsewhere from Van breweries like Strange Fellows, Hearthstone, Four Winds, and Howe Sound.
#5 Liquor Planet – Langford
This place is like a warehouse full of booze. They have a really good selection of beer, and claim to have the largest cold beer fridge in town, but they don’t have too much on the exotic side. Their prices are super-low and their advertising is hilarious. It’s located right next to Axe & Barrel, so you can get a delicious pint and then get some booze to take home.
Honorable mention: Liquor Plus.
Liquor Plus sponsors several local beer events, but they don’t tend to be on my go-to list. Occasionally you can find some really gems here, though. There is one that has several cases of Old Cellar Dwellar in the basement that they bring out every Christmas. I’m not going to tell you which, because I want it all for myself!