Craft Beer Capital
Victoria is the Craft Beer Capital of Canada. There, I said it.
Other cities may try to lay claim to being Canada’s craft beer capital, but they are wrong, and we’re right, and here’s why.
Most Breweries Per Capita of Any Major City in Canada
With a population of just over 90,000 and home to 11 craft breweries and brewpubs (and a 12th on the way), Victoria has more craft breweries per capita than any major city in Canada. Most importantly, craft beer is part of the cultural fabric of the city, and is a big part of what makes Victoria, Victoria.
“Like some international beer destinations I’ve visited—say, Germany or Belgium—it just feels like good beer is part of life here,” says resident beer expert Joe Wiebe, author of Craft Beer Revolution. “There just isn’t any other city in Canada that matches Victoria in terms of quality, creativity, originality and variety of beer experiences.”
Wiebe moved to Victoria in 1991 from Ontario and says even then craft beer was a big part of Victorian life—and it’s only gotten bigger.
“I think Victoria is unique because it offers so many different ways to experience craft beer,” he explains. “There are historical themes like Spinnakers being Canada’s original brewpub and Sean Hoyne’s journey from Swans through Canoe to his own operation; the legend of Matt Phillips starting off with a bunch of maxed-out credit cards and growing his one-man operation into an empire; Fat Tug (enough said!); and the exciting freshness of recent additions to the scene like Herald Street, Whistle Buoy and Île Sauvage. And the through-line to all those stories is delicious craft beer!”
Canada’s Oldest Brewpub: Spinnakers
When Paul Hadfield, Ray Ginever and John Mitchell opened Spinnakers in 1984, it was the first pub in Canada to brew its own beer on premises. Mitchell’s tireless work to modernize liquor regulations to allow craft breweries to exist set the stage for the craft beer revolution across the province and the country. As a result, Spinnakers’ business model became hugely influential, with brewpubs across the continent taking their inspiration from the picturesque pub overlooking Lime Bay. Today, Spinnakers continues to innovate while never forgetting its roots, offering a wide selection of delicious barrel-aged sours, hazy IPAs, cider and spirits alongside classics like cask-conditioned Mitchell’s ESB — which has been brewed there since the brewpub opened.
Canada’s Oldest Independently-Owned Craft Brewery: Vancouver Island Brewing
Also in 1984, Island Pacific Brewing first began operating in Saanich. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, that’s because Island Pacific wisely rebranded as Vancouver Island Brewing in 1996 when it moved to its current location at Government and Bay. In terms of Canadian production craft breweries, only Vancouver’s Granville Island Brewing has been around longer. But after Granville Island’s sale to global beverage juggernaut Molson Coors in 2009, VIB became the oldest independently-owned craft brewery in the country.
Canada’s Longest Running Beer Festival: Great Canadian Beer Festival
In 1993, more than 2,000 people took a break from watching Home Improvement and listening to Enter The Wu-Tang to attend the very first Great Canadian Beer Festival, held at the Victoria Convention Centre. The festival has steadily grown over the years, much like the craft beer scene it has served to represent and inspire. GCBF returns this year to Royal Athletic Park on Sept. 9 and 10 with close to 100 breweries from across the country. More than 9,000 people are expected to attend this year, so make sure to check out VictoriaBeerSociety.com for event info and updates. See you there!
There you have it, folks! Totally objective, unbiased, incontrovertible proof that Victoria is Canada’s Craft Beer Capital. And if anyone says otherwise, they’re wrong!