A “crafty” way to explore British Columbia
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Craft breweries are a great way to taste your way through the province
By JOANNE ELVES
“I’m not sure how it happened,” said the man sitting next to me with a flight of beer in front of him. “We started out in Port Moddy, sipping an IPA called “Sit and Stay” at some crazy little brewery called Yellow Dog and suddenly here we are, in Golden, B.C. drinking…” he looks down at the cheat cards, “Thread the Needle Witbier.”
His travels didn’t happen overnight, but he certainly is typical of this new trend. Yes, wine tastings are wonderful, but craft beer tasting rooms are the new kids on the beverage block. People are looking for new flavours of locally brewed beer to enjoy after a day on the road, trail or water. Most breweries have long tables to belly up to, that let you meet new people. It’s a wonderful way to make new friends, learn about a community and just slow down.
In B.C., there are craft breweries to whet your whistle at almost every road stop.
Sure you can take a tour at some craft beers, but the best part is stopping for a flight and then walking off with a growler to enjoy at the campfire. Here are our top picks for sourcing local brews.
Hop over to Vancouver Island to taste some hoppy beer
At least a dozen breweries are waiting in Victoria. Take a few days to explore them all while wandering the historic streets and harbour of Victoria. Make sure to add Spinnakers to the list. At only 34 years-old, it’s the oldest brew pub in Canada. Other notables include CANOE where you can sip a frosty one on the harbourfront and Category 12 Brewing, where the head brewer is a science guy with a PhD in microbiology and biochemistry.
Head north to Nanaimo for some chocolate goodness on the Nanaimo Trail, but be sure to stop in at Wolf Brewing and Longwood Brewery to satisfy your savoury tooth. Consider this fair warning if you try the Stoutnik Stout at Longwood. It packs a 7.5% punch.
Continue up island to the Comox Valley, where you'll find the Gladstone Brewing Co. and Forbidden Brewing Co. in Courtenay and brand new to the scene, Comox's Land & Sea Brewing Co. We're a little partial to the Glacier Cream Ale, but on a warm day, better make it a nice chilled glass of Sundance Pale Ale.
Where the hops grow - Frazer Valley and Vancouver
Hops have been growing in the Fraser Valley for over a century so it only make sense there’d be a brewery or two. With a name like Dead Frog Brewery, you won’t be surprised to learn the wacky names of some of its beers, like Nutty Uncle Peanut Butter Stout and Atomic Cherry.
Vancouver has so many to craft breweries to choose from. After a walk around the inlet at Rocky Point in Port Moody on Vancouver’s east side, we discovered Yellow Dog Brewing, Twin Sails Brewing and the Parkside Brewing. Thankfully Vancouver has Uber!
Before we leave the west coast, let's head up the Sunshine Coast to Powell River, home of Townsite Brewing, winner of the 1st Annual BC Ale Trail 2018 Best Brewery Experience Award. We have it on good authority that Belgian-born brewmaster, Cedric Dauchot's barrel-aged Cardena Quad alone is worth the visit.
Kelowna and Vernon pour more than just wine
Let the wine lovers wander the vineyard while you check out the brewpubs in Kelowna and Vernon. Just off the shores of Kelowna is Tree Brewing Beer Institute. It sounds technical but it’s not. Brewing small-batch beers means they create new flavours all the time. North in the valley, check out Marten Brewing in Vernon where tourists and locals both come for the food and the beer. Check out the Lunkhead Lager. Low in alcohol, it’s a perfect match for a beach party.
Powder Highway meets Beer Highway
In winter, the Powder Highway is the link between some of B.C.’s best ski resorts. Use that same map to take you to some of B.C.’s best breweries. Rossland has a nano-brewery called the Rossland Beer Company, Nelson has the Torchlight Brewing Co and the Nelson Brewing Company, Revelstoke is home to Mt. Begbie Brewing Company, Golden has Whitetooth Brewery, Kimberley has the Over Time Beer Works, and Fernie has the aptly named Fernie Brewing Co.
Take your road bike or take a hike to work up an appetite for a pint as you explore along the route. Then, be sure to revisit this route for the winter and take your skis. You won’t be disappointed with the snow or the beer.