Well another Great Canadian Beer Festival has came and went and this year saw the participation of craft breweries from the east, the coming out party of some new local breweries, the increase in after-party events and the introduction of some new-to-us American craft beers into the Canadian market.
The GCBF has become a bona fide craft beer destination and it is exciting to see all the breweries, brew pubs and just craft beer culture in general flourishing here in Victoria, which is beginning to rival Vancouver for the mantle of Beervana North.
Now I have been to GCBF when it was too cold and I have been to GCBF when it was too hot but this year the beer gods chose to smile on us geeks and the weather was just right, a little cloudy to start off Friday’s festivities and perhaps a titch soggy but then the sun came out to shine over the remainder of the festival.
As usual there were sell-out crowds and long line-ups but things seemed to move more stream-lined than in years past. There was the traditional smattering of buskers, creatively dressed patrons and music to keep the crowds engaged as well as food tents to keep us all carb-loaded so we could fit in more beer.
For the first time at GCBF I came in early to join the media tour, which was a great way to check out the breweries’ set-ups and to hear from some of the new kids on the block like 33 Acres Brewing Company from Vancouver BC, Sound Brewery from Poulsbo WA and Powell Street Craft Brewery from Vancouver BC from before the flood gates opened (we even got to sneak in a few samples).
Being a bit of a marketing nerd I enjoyed the opportunity to check out everyone’s displays and to see what kind of swag the breweries were offering – never underestimate the drawing power of free beer mats and stick-on tattoos!
As always I was prepped and ready with my beer list highlighting my must-haves and like every year I selected too many for one person to possible consume and like every year I forgot about following my list after about five samples in.
A couple missed opportunities for beers that never arrived, errant brewers and kegs that just refused to be tapped kept an element of spontaneity to my sampling selection.
Nonetheless I did manage to hit up quite a number of booths and here are some of my (and my entourages) beer highlights in no particular order:
Sound Brewing Humulo Nimbus Dbl IPA
Wolf Brewing Rannoch Scotch Ale
33 Acres of Life
Double Trouble Vanilla Bean Espresso Imperial Stout
Powell Street Old Jalopy Pale Ale
Hopworks Urban Brewery Survival Seven Grain Stout (a surprise but welcome appearance)
Whistler Brewing Mint Julep
Of course we tried many beers that in retrospect may have been good or may have been not so good but honestly by the end of a beer festival you are just happy if you can distinguish between flavours.
At the end of the day for those who had not quite got their fill, an added bonus was after-parties hosted by Beerthirst for the launch of New Belgium Brewing in BC and hosted by Copper & Theory for the Upright Brewing and Ninkasi tap take-overs .
Oddly enough for me, the highlight of the festival may have been the opportunity to sample the four stellar Lips of Faith beers from New Belgium at the Irish Times pub.