Cheers to Beer

At the 10th annual Victoria Beer Week, raise a pint to the city’s history of local craft brewing. 

Cheers to Beer - YAM Mar/Apr 2024
Beer lovers gather to sample new tastes at Victoria Beer Week.

By Liam Razzell

For the last four decades, Victoria and craft beer have gone hand in hand. Spinnakers, Canada’s original brew pub, drew its first pint here in 1984; that same year, one of the country’s first craft breweries, Vancouver Island Brewing, opened its doors nearby. Ever since, Victoria has been a haven for barley-and-hops enthusiasts. 

It’s this legacy that the beer-swilling extravaganza known as the 10th annual Victoria Beer Week celebrates from March 1 to 9.

Joe Wiebe is the festival’s “beer director” and co-founder of the Victoria Beer Society, the non-profit that organizes Victoria Beer Week. YAM sat down with him recently to discuss all things beer, and what we are drinking now.

In general, Wiebe says, since Victoria Beer Week began hosting events a decade ago, our appetite for cask-conditioned beers has waned, while hazy IPAs and traditional styles have risen in popularity.

Making beer in smaller-scale casks allows breweries to showcase playful, experimental and interesting brews. But Wiebe says consumers have lost interest in cask beers because of the diversity of beer on the market today. “There is simply so much variety in the beer landscape now,” he says. “Maybe consumers don’t have as much of a need to seek out [variety] in a cask event as they used to.”

That variety has led enthusiasts to discover new styles of beer, which in turn has influenced trends. As people get interested in niche beers like milk-chocolate stouts or intricately flavoured sours, Wiebe says, they also develop a better understanding of, and an interest in, more traditional styles. “As you learn more about beer, you start learning more about the origins of these craft beer experiments,” he adds. That’s why classic beers like German- and Czech-style lagers are more popular now than they were a decade ago.

Also popular: hazy IPA, the rebellious cousin to traditional India Pale Ale. Strong, hoppy and often bitter, IPAs were first produced in England in the 1700s and have always been popular here in Victoria. But this beer isn’t to everyone’s taste. The hazy IPA, on the other hand, is usually less bitter and more fruity. “[Hazy IPAs] brought a whole new group of people to beer that previously didn’t get it,” says Wiebe. “[These people] didn’t like classic IPAs, they didn’t like lagers, but hazy IPAs really caught their attention.” The style has only grown in popularity over the last decade. 

Whatever style of beer you prefer — or have yet to discover — it is sure to be on tap at Victoria Beer Week, which features beer launches, food pairings, cask nights, tastings and much more, many events held at the city’s best breweries themselves. As Wiebe notes, “We’ve helped educate people and we’ve given people the opportunity to taste different things.” For more info, visit victoriabeersociety.com. 

5 to Try

If you’re tired of drinking the same style or brand of beer, try something new from this list of local brews.

Cheers to Beer - YAM Mar/Apr 2024
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Sour

Want to give mouth-puckering beers a try? Look no further than Moon Under Water’s Moon Juice Raspberry Sour, a vibrant sour ale made using B.C.-grown raspberries. Though sours can be quite acidic; this one is a well-balanced version and a great place to start.

Lager 

Craving a light, icy beer that will teleport you to those summer days you spent hanging at the beach? Whistle Buoy’s Ice Cold Lager is for you. What the brewery calls a “summer crusher,” this lager is crisp, light and refreshing.

Stout 

Looking for a hearty, fireside beer? Head to Category 12 for a can — or six — of its Tiramisu Pastry Stout.
With its coffee, cinnamon and vanilla notes, this beer is a decadent dessert in a can.

Pilsner 

Miss those light, crisp beers you tasted while on vacation in Europe? Hoyne has you covered. Its new pilsner is a balanced, subtle take on the Eastern European classic with a mild hoppy flavour.

Zero proof 

Want to imbibe buzz-free? Grab a six-pack of Phillips Brewing’s iOTA Hazy IPA. This juicy, smooth, non-alcoholic beer has a beautiful haze and is bursting with refreshing fruit and citrus notes.