I lived in Victoria about 10 years ago, which is where I first started getting into craft beer. My then-boyfriend worked in the industry, and one weekend he took me to this beer festival, something I had never heard of or experienced before. It blew my mind. All the different breweries, all the different kinds of beer. It made a strong impression on me. This was just before the craft beer explosion, and I think that there were likely lots of people who got their start in seeking flavourful beer after being exposed to it here. I think I must have went a good 3 or 4 years in a row before I moved back to the Okanagan. I’d always intended on going back, but for one reason or another it just never seemed to happen.
The golden sunset of 2008.
Clearly I haven’t had enough to drink – from 2009
The Dancing Beavers With Bagpipes of 2010
This year I was determined to make it to the Great Canadian Beer Festival, despite not having any vacation days left. Although I’ve always enjoyed Friday night better as it’s a bit quieter, Scott and I had to go with Saturday tickets because of pesky work getting in the way. We drove out from Summerland Friday night, got to Surrey in time to have a quick pint then off to bed, woke up super Saturday early to catch the 8:00am ferry over… only to find out that it was cancelled and we would be on the 9:00 instead.
Hardly any line ups at the beginning… except in the distance there is a massive line at Fuggles and Warlock which remained the entire day.
This put a cramp in our plans, as we’d planned on having time to drop off our bags at a friend’s house, but now had to transit direct to the festival. We arrived at 12:10, shortly after the gates opened which was great as the line up to get in moved pretty fast. Fortunately they did have a bag check at the festival so we didn’t have to carry our bags with us all day.For some reason I’ve never had anything but sunshine at the GCBF… I don’t know if I’ve just been lucky or if it’s the festival itself is lucky.
Almost every festival I go to, the morning after I leaf through the program only to realize that my aimless drinking the night before led me to miss some real gems. This year I wanted to make the most of my 5 hours in paradise, so after quenching my thirst I sat down in the shade to plan my attack. I had identified 77 beers I wanted to try, which despite my best efforts would have been totally impossible. I narrowed that down to about 20 and circled the booths on the map to really get organized.
Starting to get busy!
This worked for about 15 beers or so, all of which were fantastic. Afterwards the heat and crowds started to wear away at my focus, well and maybe the buzz I had going on was doing something to me as well. All of a sudden I realized it was 4:00 and I was out of tokens and still had at least 6 or 7 booths left on my list. I ran to get some extra tokens… but alas… not only were there major line ups at every single booth, the best beers had also already sold out, with some breweries being completely tapped out. We spent the next hour seeking out the shortest lines and had 3 or 4 beers I can’t really remember now.
Aaaaand cue the line ups
We headed over to Smiths Pub afterwards for the tap takeover by Doans and Coal Harbour, who were not present at the festival but still make some pretty fantastic beer. I would like to say more about it, but my memory gets really hazy around this point. I did get to meet up with Dave, of What’s Brewing, and his wife Ivana, and I think we had a nice time but I’m not entirely certain. I did wake up feeling relatively alright, after about a litre of water and an extra strength advil. Then we were back on the ferry and driving home again!
Cheers to Beers!
What I learned from this trip – don’t try to do it in one day. Next year I will book a vacation day so that way I can attend the festival both days and leisurely drink my way through my wish-list. I did get to try some amazing beers – here’s the few that really stood out for me this year:
Brasserie Dunham: Berliner Mango Weisse and Saison Cassis- if you see a beer from this brewery buy it. Everything we tried from them was fabulous
Three Ranges Brewing: Canadian Peso – with cilantro, cumin and jalapenos it’s a taco in a glass, which is good if you like that sort of thing
Strange Fellows: Coup de Foudre Sour – amazing sour brew using traditional methods
Russel Brewing: Grapefruit Punch Bowl – I didn’t do a lot of IPAs (just because there were so many unique beers to try) but this one was perfect for the weather
Four Winds: Mango Habanero Cask – not sure what the base beer was but this was such an interesting blend of spice and sweetness. It was perfectly balanced, as per the usual for this brewery
Wheelhouse Brewing: Scurvy Dog Spruce Ale and Northern Forest Berry Saison – both the spruce and the berries were foraged for the beer. Got a tip from Jeremy of Van Craft Beer to try this and I’m glad he pointed me in this direction. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more from this brewery in the future!
Central City: Sour II Cherry – I wanted to try this for sure, as the bottle is a bit out of my price range. Now that I’ve tried it, however, I may have to pick one up and see how it ages!
Driftwood: Latus Flanders Red – another well executed aged sour
Saltspring: Jalapeno Rasperry Wheat Ale – I really liked the fruit/spice combos of this year… if this is the new trend I’m down!
Yellow Dog: Ginger Lime Gose – I’m used to drinking their hoppy beers so it was nice to try something a little different.
There were many others that were also deserving of a mention… I will have to work on taking better notes next time!