Highlights of Victoria Beer Week 2017

Now the dust has settled and my hazy memories are starting to clarify, I thought it would be a good idea to collect my thoughts on Victoria Beer Week 2017. In my opinion, this was the best year yet, with a wide variety of events to satisfy everyone from the most casual beer enthusiast to hardcore beer nerds like myself.

I attended six of the official events, six unofficial events, and the VIP closing party. According to Untappd, I managed to log 130 unique beers, so… great success on that front!

20170305_013944I think that the standout event this year, and arguably the new tent-pole event of the whole week was All about the Wood, which is a festival of barrel-aged beers held at the old Roundhouse train yard. There were so many spectacular beers on offer that I thought I’d gone to Valhalla. Strange Fellows were serving all of their 2015–2016 Fellowship beers, Gladstone had their Black Braggot, Powell had their 4th Anniversary Brett barley wine, Driftwood had Singularity, Four Winds had their Mona, and so many more! I really hope they do this event every year. Kudos to Joe Wiebe for coming up with this one.

From a beer nerd’s perspective, this year’s Drink in the Story was just wonderful. This year’s speakers were Ian Hill of Strange Fellows Brewing, Gary Lohin of Central City Brewers + Distillers, and Matt Phillips of Phillips Brewing. Through the course of the evening each speaker discussed the history of craft brewing in BC and how they got started in the industry. It was incredibly interesting to see how these three very different brewers got where they are today. During the three talks, each brewer’s favourite beer was poured, which was a real treat.

I also bumped into Ian Hill and Gary Lohin at The Drake with Joe Wiebe later in the night and got to have a good chat. Joe also introduced me to Matt Phillips after the talk. I might have had a fanboy moment!

20170305_131549Continuing the beer nerd theme, the Homebrewing Workshop at Category 12 was a lot of fun. We got to spend the better part of a day watching founder and head brewer Michael Kuzyk brew up a batch on his pilot system, while BrewVic president Rob Reynold made a Brew-in-a-Bag batch.

From a personal achievement standpoint, The Ultimate Craft Beer Quiz was a very cool night. I was asked at the last minute to join the CAMRA team with my friend and fellow blogger Mathieu Poirier… and we won! We defeated three teams from Phillips, brewers from Lighthouse and 4 Mile, the VBW team, and Joe Wiebe himself!

For lovers of sour beer, Pucker Up was a dream come true, with 12 different breweries serving up 14 different wild and sour ales. Fuggles & Warlock were the stars of the show—they put on two incredible fruity sour casks that sold out in about an hour, because people were lining up down the hall for them!

Sadly, I missed out on the first cask night, but from what I hear Cask Night #2 was the better of the two. It’s not hard to believe, because there were some absolutely wonderful casks on offer. My favorites were the Brett barley wine from Bomber, the Woolly Bugger on oak from Howe Sound, and the date & rum porter from Twa Dogs.

20170311_132946I was volunteering at the CAMRA table at this year’s Craft Beer Lift Off, but thankfully still got a chance to try all of the beers. This year had a great mix of old and new breweries, from luminaries like Swans and Spinnakers to newer breweries like Yellow Dog and Twin Sails. This year’s pop-up store was run by the James Bay Spinnakers Liquor and was far better than previous years.

Along with the official events, there were also several other beer events around town this year. The Drake held a pre-opening night event called The Magnificent Six, in honour of the big six Vancouver breweries that have supported them over the years—all of their taps were dedicated to beers from Vancouver that aren’t readily available here, plus Steel & Oak and Moody Ales made them a special Froot Loop pale ale! They also held a Left Hand Brewing tap takeover and the annual Péché Day celebration of Dieu du Ciel’s Péché Mortel.

Smith’s Pub also hosted the Island launch party for Parallel 49’s Brews Brothers volume 3, their annual Tofino Brewing tap takeover, and a Kooteney’s tap takeover, featuring beers from Fernie Brewing and Torchlight Brewing.

The week closed with a VIP and volunteer party at the Victoria public market, where everyone reflected on the busy week and drank what was leftover from all of the events.

All-in-all it was a fantastic, if not exhausting, week and I cannot wait for next year. Congratulations to everyone involved with organizing this year’s events and all of the many volunteers who gave their time to make sure everything ran smoothly.