You walk into a brewpub and it’s like visiting an old friend. The servers are familiar, the ambiance is neighborly and you know the locally made suds are cold. Visitors to Vancouver Island rave about them, but they have long been the discerning drinker’s locale.
Victoria is home to four exceptional brewpubs. Each has a separate decor and serves its own distinct version of golden nectar. Locals have the opportunity to buy beer distilled within miles of their home, a real plus in our greenhouse gas conscious climate. Drinking local beer directly reduces greenhouse gases and operates to mitigate our contribution to climate change.
Paul Hadfield started the bottle rolling in 1984, when he opened Spinnakers, the first brewpub on Vancouver Island. Spinnakers success helped pour the way for three more brewpubs in Victoria, each offering their rendition of the traditional British pub. “We wanted to celebrate being on the Westcoast, not by creating an English pub, but by creating a Westcoast interpretation of what a pub should be,” explains Hadfield.
Each of the four brewpubs has a very distinct ambiance. Swans has a private art collection on its walls. Spinnakers features a homey atmosphere with a stellar harbor view. Hugos has a more club-like environment with an industrial pub motif. The Canoe Club, the most recent addition to the brewpub scene, has airy high ceilings and an outdoor patio. “What we did is refashion the public notion of what a pub was,” says Hadfield. A pub used to conjure up images of a dark smoky area, but our local brewpub publicans have reinvented the more traditional British pub. Locals and visitors agree that Victoria is distilling up winners.
Each brewpub has its own character and distinct menu, but what they have in common is a desire to serve high-quality suds brewed on the premises. The combination of unique interior design, good grub and bubbly brew ensures local clientele and tourists are always eager to occupy their barstools. The ambiance might entice clients in, but the natural beer keeps them coming back for one more round of pints. “We have regulars who won’t even touch a bottle of Blue or Canadian,” explains Simard. Hadfield agrees, “We don’t live in the land of the Silver Bullet and we don’t live in the fantasies of Molson, we got rid of all of that and we are much freer.”
Greenpeace International is currently running a campaign to encourage Budweiser to brew their beer free of genetically modified rice. Lucky Victorians have their choice from barrels and barrels of locally brewed natural beer choices. Many of the local brewpubs offer off-sales for locals looking to cut down on their carbon emissions, support local economy and drink some award-winning natural beer.