Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
When thinking islands, rare is the person who envisions Canada. Furthermore, it may seem difficult to fathom a trip to the Great White North during wintertime, but Victoria is actually south of the main Washington-British Columbia national border, situated on the south end of Vancouver Island (some 100 kilometers from the city of Vancouver as well as Seattle across the Juan de Fuca Strait) and as such enjoys comparatively temperate weather.
Victoria is arguably home to Canada’s largest and richest brewing scene, with much of the rest of our northerly neighbors still catching up. If you’re traveling with offspring just shy of the U.S. legal drinking age, as my folks did with me many years ago, believe them when they point out the drinking age is 19 (and in three of the 13 provinces it’s 18), so in some ways they’re more advanced.
Victoria began as a British settlement, so it’s no surprise British styles still reign. It currently supports four breweries and an additional four brewpubs, with at least a ninth one on the way (courtesy of the Canoe Club’s departing brewmaster, Sean Hoyne). Huffing it to each of the brewing destinations on the Victoria Ale Trail is only three-and-a half-mile (five-and-a half-kilometer) walk. In other words, at least for the first six stops, the next brewery is sometimes mere meters away, never more than a 10-minute crawl. To explore them all, we tapped local beer blogger Dave Mitchell from BeerOnTheRock.com.
Beginning in the Design District near downtown, Canoe Brewpub and Restaurant (canoebrewpub.com; 450 Swift St.) is housed in a rustic building along the inner harbor’s waterfront. It’s a pleasant place to sip the housemade British-style beers (and one Czech lager). Many of the menu items from brunch to desserts are prepared with the beers and pair well. The eggs benedict comes with Ayrshire bacon and amber ale cheddar cheese; the poutine (a Montreal specialty that Mitchell has more to comment on later) is prepared with a brown ale demi-glace (and duck confit can be added). Still have room? The Brown Ale Chocolate Cake comes with vanilla whipped cream, cherry compote, almond brittle and fleur de sel.