Beer enthusiast Jon C. Stott visited more than 35 craft breweries to research his book on Vancouver Island's beer scene.
Your Guide to the Breweries of Vancouver Island
Jon C. Stott (TouchWood Editions)
$25 | 288 pages
For those who have been around long enough to recall when exotic illegal weed was easier to come by than a good tasting beer in B.C., Jon C. Stott’s book about the exploding brewing culture on Vancouver Island will bring a smile to your face.
The province was one of the places where what was then known as microbrewing took off long before becoming commonplace.
Many took the ferry over to Victoria just to spend a weekend hitting Spinnaker’s and Swans to sample all the wonderful suds being poured.
That was in the mid-1980s, only shortly after John Mitchell and Frank Appleton had founded Horseshoe Bay Brewing, Canada’s first craft brewery. Today it’s hard to keep track of how many new breweries are opening.
Author Jon C. Stott opens his book with a look back at the days when having a drink was an altogether unpleasant process involving by-the-glass servings, gender divided seating and entrances, and no food services.
The map in the opening chapter lists 10 breweries within walking distance of one another in Victoria. The author throws in interesting historical asides about everything from floor to ceiling windows to hop-smuggling astronauts. It’s good reading, and Stott manages to get in tasting notes, too.
As you work your way through an endless array of old and newly-minted beer styles, the author introduces you to the folks behind the brews. A surprising number of brewery owners began as home brewers who developed their skills and began large-scale production. Some, too, moved into even larger scale production, like Matt Phillips of Phillips Brewing, one of Western Canada’s largest Canadian-owned and operated breweries.
Nice work if you can get it, and a lot more people all over the Island are getting it.
While the concentration of business is around Victoria and the south, brewing culture is creeping up the east coast of the Island as well. Nanaimo has an ever-increasing number of establishments, such as the excellent Longwood Brewery and Brew Pub, and the popular vacation destinations of Tofino and have well-received breweries, too. Ucluelet is one of the ones coming soon that makes it into the book as well.
What is particularly pleasing to travellers is how everywhere from Cumberland to Comox and beyond are catching up with new places producing libations that sound like they might be worth a road trip. Stott had to add additional names to his book right at the end to reflect the number of new businesses pouring their products.
Island Craft is not a guide book with tasting notes. It’s a memoir of beer as a window to the past and present, with the author taking you on an adventure that just happens to include some really delicious pit stops.
Author of more than 20 books, Stott is an easygoing writer with a strong connection to his hometown of Victoria. His book is the kind of read that pairs particularly well with a pint (or three).
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