British Columbia is a wonderful destination for craft beer lovers. Not only are there close to 200 breweries across the province to try, but the sheer beauty of the province creates an unforgettable experience. But, with so many breweries to choose from it can be a daunting task to create a beer itinerary of your own; the BC Ale Trail can be your guide.
Simply put, The BC Ale Trail is a one-stop resource for everything craft beer in BC. The project provides several self-guided tours highlighting local craft brewery destinations and the super, natural landscapes that surround them. These trails are broken up into regions like the East Kootenays, Sunshine Coast, Northern BC and more. Within each Ale Trail you will find recommended itineraries to explore the respective destination – this includes an array of craft breweries, pubs, restaurants, cafes, outdoor activities, sightseeing, accommodations and more.
I recently had a chance to experience part of the Victoria Ale Trail, and it’s a well curated example of what Victoria brings to the BC craft beer scene.
For those unfamiliar with Victoria’s history of craft beer, it’s one of the pinnacle areas for brewing in the province, if not Canada. Canada’s first brewpub, Spinnakers, opened there in 1984. Swans Brewpub shortly followed in 1989, sparking a rush of breweries opening every few years. Today, over a dozen separate breweries operate in the Greater Victoria area, not to mention the beer focused food scene.
With the help of the BC Ale Trail, we began our tour of Victoria with West Coast Brewery Tours, a convenient way to get around a number of the local breweries without the worry of transportation. They also happen to have a number of solid connections with the brewers, allowing their tours to go behind the scenes where the public never sees. Through the tour we stopped at Driftwood, Lighthouse, Moon Under Water and Phillips; all excellent in their own right, with their own claims to fame.
No tour is complete of course without a little dinner, and of course Swan’s needed to be on the list, considering the impact they’ve made over the years.
Fortunately, having two full days in Victoria meant we would be able to attend the annual Winterbrau festival at Canoe brewpub, a festival that celebrates the big and boozy seasonal styles. now in its eight year, Canoe manages to pack over 20 breweries into their space and they come equipped with the big guns (like Longwood Brewing’s Triple Stout!). We also got a chance to try our hand at a little cocktail making at Little Jumbo, making beer the main focus of our individual cocktail recipes.
Last, but certainly not least, we ended the tour with a dinner at Spinnakers. Not only were they the first to kick off the Victoria beer scene but Spinnakers was also an early proponent of the local food movement and its chef continues to work closely with local farmers and food producers today. I had the privilege to enjoy dinner with Paul Hadfield, the owner and co-founder of Spinnakers and it was an experience that I won’t soon forget. It’s also nice to see the passion has been passed on to his children as well, with his daughter Kala running the brewery, cidery and the new distillery.
That’s a wealth of beer culture to soak in over the course of two days, and only a fraction of what Victoria has to offer. But it’s an example of how the BC Ale Trail can help guide you in the right direction. The nice thing about the respective trails is that beer is only a portion of what’s on offer. Trails offer combinations of hiking, dining, accommodations and attractions to enjoy, giving you a much more complete picture of the areas your visiting and not just the inside of a taproom.
So the next time you’re thinking about planning a trip throughout BC, check out the BC Ale Trail as a starting point for your next adventure.
The above mentioned trip was put together by The BC Ale Trail and Destination Greater Victoria.