Something’s Always Brewing in Rock Bay

The neighbourhood of Rock Bay has been home to many different industries over the years — there was even a popular residential neighbourhood there at one point — but for the past several years, it has been known as Victoria’s Brewery District. Depending on where you draw the border, you can count up to six breweries based there (including Phillips and Vancouver Island), but most Victorians probably reserve that distinction for the four breweries north of Bay Street. Of those, the first to open was Driftwood Brewery back in 2008, closely followed by the Moon Under Water Brewpub and Hoyne Brewing in 2011. Last year, Île Sauvage Brewing joined that original trio in Pizzeria Prima Strada’s old location on Bridge Street.

The reason why all these breweries are located there mainly has to do with zoning: as Victoria’s primary light industrial area, for a long time Rock Bay was one of the only parts of the city where production breweries could base themselves. (Spinnakers, Swans and Canoe, as brewpubs, had different zoning requirements.) More recently, that has changed a bit — two breweries are slated to open in downtown Victoria in the next year: Herald Street Brew Works (near Store Street on Herald) and Whistle Buoy Brewing at the bottom level of Market Square.

Officially part of the Burnside-Gorge neighbourhood, Rock Bay is named for a small bay located at the northeast end of the Upper Harbour that is now almost completely surrounded by industrial development, making it very difficult to visit or even catch a glimpse from the surrounding roads. Originally, the body of water was much larger than it is now, stretching all the way to Government Street and butting into present-day Bay Street, and it was fed by a creek running from swampy marshlands in Fernwood. From the 1920s to the 1950s, its edges were filled in to consolidate the roads and industrial businesses around it, which included a tannery, sawmills, a coal gasification plant, and a propane tank farm.

The Rock Bay Mash Up

Breweries often work together to produce special collaboration beers, but apart from planning the recipes ahead of time, the actual brewing of the beer occurs at one of the breweries with the other brewery just symbolically participating. The exception to that took place in 2014 when Driftwood and Hoyne, which share a parking lot, each brewed a batch of Baltic Porter with the same ingredients except for the yeast — Driftwood used an ale yeast and Hoyne used a lager strain. When the batches were ready, the breweries connected more than 60 metres of hoses together to pipe the Hoyne batch to merge with Driftwood’s in a big tank at Driftwood Brewery. They weren’t sure if there would be enough pressure to push the beer slightly uphill through all that distance from Hoyne to Driftwood, but it worked! The resulting Rock Bay Mash Up Baltic Porter (8% ABV) was released in 650-ml bottles by both breweries.

Since then, the parking lot has been home to a few different beer events, including the original Fresh to Death Fresh Hop Beer Festival we put on back in 2015. You remember that one, right? That was when the leftovers of a hurricane from Hawaii tore through Victoria. Sure, we needed raincoats, but it was still a great time!

Partner Profile: Pacific FC

A local, professional soccer club will kick off its season as part of the brand new Canadian Premier League launching in late April.

The Pacific Football Club will represent Vancouver Island in this seven-club league, which includes teams based in Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Toronto, and Halifax — making it the first true coast-to-coast sports league in Canada.

Pacific FC will play out of the Westhills Stadium in Langford, which is being renovated to expand its capacity from 1,500 to 6,000 with a brand new grandstand that will feature a supporter section and a family zone at the other end. The highway side will be a craft beer section, which should definitely excite local soccer fans and craft beer lovers alike.

Leading the ownership team for Pacific FC is Team President Josh Simpson, who grew up on Vancouver Island. As a youngster, he played in the Juan de Fuca Soccer Association. Later, he played for Canada’s national team, and played professionally in the US and Europe. When the opportunity to help launch the Canadian Premier League arose, the idea of providing future local pros with a Vancouver Island option was too compelling for Simpson to pass up.

As the only pro sports team on the Island, Pacific FC is committed to grassroots and local connections, and will work closely with local soccer associations to provide soccer clinics up and down the Island and encourage kids to follow their soccer dreams.

“We want to recognize all the amazing work that the local soccer clubs and communities are already doing to develop young players and what they have done to elevate soccer in this region,” says Simpson. “Our goal is to give young kids an opportunity to stay in BC and realize their professional dreams here.”

The CPL launches on April 27 in Hamilton with a match between Hamilton and York. Pacific FC’s home opener is scheduled for Sunday, April 28. The season will be divided into two halves, with the winner of the spring season given the opportunity to host the championship match versus the winner of the fall season in mid-October.

As of mid-February, Pacific FC’s roster was not finalized, but it is sure to include a mix of players from British Columbia, the rest of Canada, and abroad. It will be exciting to watch these young men come together as a team to challenge for the first ever Canadian Premier League championship!

Canadian Premier League Teams:

  • Cavalry FC (Spruce Meadows, AB)
  • FC Edmonton (Edmonton, AB)
  • Forge FC (Hamilton ON)
  • HFX Wanderers FC (Halifax, NS)
  • Pacific FC (Victoria BC)
  • Valour FC (Winnipeg MB)
  • York 9 FC (Toronto ON)

Partner Profile: Cascadia Liquor Stores

From its original store in Colwood, which opened in 2007, Cascadia Liquor has grown into one of Vancouver Island’s craft beer champions.

Today, the Cascadia chain includes seven stores — five in Greater Victoria, one in Nanoose Bay, and one in Courtenay — with several more in the works. Island beer lovers already know that Cascadia’s craft beer selection is excellent, with a strong focus on local breweries as well as trendy, exciting breweries from the Mainland and beyond.

Here in Victoria, Cascadia is about to relaunch its flagship Quadra Village store in another building in the same plaza. The new location will be significantly expanded and modernized with wider aisles and a much larger selection for a better shopping experience. The store will have increased chill space, which will allow for more rare and interesting craft beers to be kept cold and ready to grab out of the fridge.

Perhaps most exciting about the new store will be its Tasting Bar. This community space will host a variety of tastings and educational events. There will be weekly tastings including some with a food component, as well as ticketed Master Classes for 15-20 people with proceeds from ticket sales going to a monthly charity partner, such as HeroWork, Power To Be or Surf Rider.

The new Quadra Village store will celebrate its Grand Opening on April 5-7. Visit the store that weekend to enter a contest for a Seattle Food and Beer experience. There will also be special tastings and food pairings, as well as live music on the Saturday.

Cascadia Liquor has also created a new Educational Trainer position, promoting the current Quadra store manager, Ann Brydle, into this role. She will be responsible for training employees throughout the chain, ensuring Cascadia’s focus on quality service.

As a Victoria Beer Society corporate partner, Cascadia Liquor is sponsoring Drink Your Hops & Eat ‘Em Too on Friday, March 8 at the Victoria Public Market. All attendees will receive a unique Beer Notes Book created by Cascadia just for the event. A limited number will also be available at the Quadra store’s Grand Opening.

Cascadia Liquor locations:

  • Colwood
  • Quadra
  • Courtenay
  • Uptown
  • Langford
  • Eagle Creek
  • Nanoose Bay

How To Taste Beer

Beer comes in a wide variety of styles and colours.

Some are big and bold while others are light and breezy; some are richly malty while others burst with citrusy aromas; some are purposefully sour while others might even be slightly salty. In other words, there’s a beer for everyone, and half the fun in tasting craft beer is exploring the incredible range of options at breweries, pubs and tap houses — or during Victoria Beer Week.

The best way to experiment is with a tasting flight of four sampler glasses, which generally adds up to the equivalent of a pint. You can order flights at several breweries in Victoria, as well as at pubs or tap houses like Garrick’s Head or The Drake Eatery, and this way you actually get to taste several different style of beers in one sitting.

Here’s some advice on how to go about tasting beer.

Take a look. What do you see?

Look at the beer. What colour is it? A darker beer might imply flavours of roasted coffee or chocolate, though not always, while a lighter coloured beer might be more bready or grainy. Is it clear or cloudy or something in between? Though many beer styles should pour crystal clear, others like hefeweizens or hazy IPAs are meant to have yeast in suspension so they should be cloudy. A beer’s head is the foamy portion on top. Depending on the style of beer, it might look like meringue or more like a bubble bath.

What does your beer smell like?

Next, swirl the glass a bit and smell the beer. Start at a distance and do a “drive-by” with your nose — in other words, don’t stick your nose in the glass right away. Move the glass closer until the beer is right under your nose, and sniff it gently. What do you smell? Hoppier beers might exhibit aromas of pine, fruit or citrus, while maltier beers might have lighter smells of bread, grain or caramel.

Take a sip and think about what you taste.

Finally, the best part: take a sip and think about what you taste. Malty flavours might come across biscuity, toasty or nutty. Hops can generate bitterness as well as tropical, citrusy flavours. The yeast might give it an extra spicy zing or even a banana/clove-like flavour in the case of German or Belgian wheat beers.

And how does the beer feel in your mouth: is it creamy or crisp; does it finish dry; does it have an enticing aftertaste that makes you want to take another sip?

Chatting about beer.

Think and Talk About It
Brewery tasting rooms are very social places — people love to talk about the beers they’re tasting, compare notes and share opinions. What do you like about the beer? Maybe it’s the big burst of citrusy hops in an IPA or perhaps you really enjoyed the oaky, vanilla character in a barrel-aged beer. Did you find the beer well balanced or too extreme in one aspect? What sort of food can you imagine going well with it? Would you recommend it to someone else?

At first, you might find it difficult to answer some of these questions, but the more you practise — and by practice, I mean drinking beer — the more you ask yourself these questions as you try different beers, the more you will discover about them, and the more you will realize about what types of beer you like best. You might not like West Coast IPAs, but maybe you’re all about sour beers. Light lagers bore you? Well, what about a hearty stout or a sweet and smooth barleywine?

A tasting flight at Coast Mountain Brewing.

Worried You Don’t Know Enough?
Relax. The craft beer community is very welcoming and unpretentious. Sure, there are “beer geeks” out there who know an awful lot about beer and may turn their noses up at certain breweries or beer styles, but generally speaking, most people you’ll meet at a brewery or taphouse or at one of our events will be happy to share what they know or to recommend beers they like. And pretty soon you’ll find yourself recommending your own favourites to folks looking for something new to try.

Photo by Christian Tisdale

Tasting Opportunities During Victoria Beer Week
Virtually all of the events held during VBW are designed as tasting events — we provide you with a sampler glass (yes, a real glass!), a beer menu, and several beer tickets. We work hard to curate a beer list for each event that showcases a wide range of styles and approaches. Roam the room, visit the beer stations and find out more about each beer, and if you and a friend work together, you can even double down if you don’t mind sharing sips of each other’s tasters.

Our Beer School program also includes several classes that might help you refine your tasting skills. Check out the full schedule here. Cheers!