Saturday night, after dinner at Canoe and then finding Moon Under Water closed, I headed to Swans Brewpub (or Swans Brewery, or Swans Buckerfields Brewery — probably easiest if I just stick with “Swans”) where a rock ‘n roll cover band blasted out the tunes to a packed house of 50- and 60-somethings dancing and having a good time.  I actually considered staying and doing a tasting before coming to my senses and calling it a night.  So instead I returned Sunday right after brunch at Spinnakers and had a light lunch and the sampler tray.  Disaster nearly struck as I rattled off which beers I wanted to try when the waitress misheard “Riley’s” and instead included their Raspberry Ale, which, after three other raspberry beers over the past several days, I really did not want.  She was apologetic about it, brought me the Riley’s, and let me keep the Raspberry.  Yay.

Swans had an Old Victoria feel to it — the furnishings were pretty dated, the food I ordered (hummus plate) was okay but not very interesting, and most of the patrons looked 20 years older than me.  A brewpub my parents would go to, if they went to brewpubs.  But then two college kids sat down at a nearby table.  One waxed on about how in five or ten years, he thought it was possible that British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, and Baja would secede from their respective countries and form the nation of Cascadia, with an economy based on art and beer.  Ah, youth.


“Cygnets” (sorry, I couldn’t resist) at Swans Brewpub — Victoria, BC

    Rob’s Picks

  • Appleton Brown – 5% – A bit sweet with caramel flavor and not particularly fizzy. Very subtle apple notes, and a touch watery. But quite drinkable.
  • Extra IPA – 6.8% – Floral aroma. Good floral hoppy bite with some caramel malty balance. Pretty light on the tongue.
  • Riley’s Scotch Ale – 8% -Strong caramel and alcohol flavors. Nice malty body. This will knock you on your ass.
    The Rest

  • Smooth Sailing Honey Ale – 5% – Not as sweet as I expected. Floral and bitter, with subtle honey notes and a touch watery.
  • Pandora Pale Ale – 4.5% – Malty, kind of floral. Fairly big body but nothing too remarkable. Goes down easy, but with some lingering bitterness.
  • Raspberry Ale – 7% – Strong raspberry aroma. Strong raspberry flavor, too, with an alcohol edge to it. No breadiness, thankfully. Best (and tartest) raspberry beer of the trip, but still not a fave.
  • Oatmeal Stout – 5.4% – Pretty light stout and a bit watery. Some coffee and chocolate flavors to a bitter finish.

There were no logo glasses for sale, but the waitress suggested I try the adjoining Swans Liquor Store because sometimes they had promo glassware available.  They didn’t have any, either, but the puzzled blank stare I got from the cashier when I asked about it made it worth the effort.


Sunday in Victoria turned out to be much more relaxed than I expected.  Woke up somewhat early, so I ambled around downtown until I found a decent-looking cafe (with free wi-fi) for a caffeine pick-me-up.   Back at the hostel, I leisurely packed my panniers before deciding it was finally time for the mellow bike ride to Spinnakers Brewpub.  It’s a somewhat upscale place, which is why I scheduled it for a late brunch — dinner was a little too pricey for my not-quite-employed budget.  They had eight brews on tap, and the first flight I selected (pictured below) was quite nice, so I doubled down and ordered a second to try them all.

little spinnakers

Liquid brunch at Spinnakers — Victoria, BC

    Rob’s Picks

  • Cascadia Dark Ale – 6.5% – Smooth and creamy, with good roasty malt and coffee flavors. Not the usual dry CDA — pretty cool.
  • North West Ale – 5.5% – Floral and citrus aroma. Good floral and citrus hop flavor mix, with great malt balance. Really smooth, creamy, and drinkable. Lingering bitterness.
  • IPA – 7.1% – Light citrus and floral aroma. Lighter maltiness than NWA, similar hop flavor mix but muted by more bitterness. Also really smooth and creamy.
  • Tsarist Imperial Stout – 7.75% – Coffee and alcohol aroma. Interesting. Creamy, with coffee and alcohol flavors. Pretty smooth but makes you think.
  • ESB – 5.2% – Strong caramel start to a bit of a bitter finish. Nothing too interesting, but very drinkable. Subtle floral notes.
    The Rest

  • Raspberry Ale – 4.8% – Strong raspberry aroma. Pretty strong raspberry flavor, with breadiness. Unfortunately, doesn’t overcome my hurdle of not liking fruit beers. If only it were a sour!
  • Hefeweizen – 4.2% – Nicely balanced hefe — light banana/clove and lemon flavors, breadiness, with a slight spiciness on the tongue. Pretty smooth, but a touch watery.
  • India Session Ale – 4.5% – Floral aroma. Strong floral hoppiness, light maltiness, lingering bitterness.

On the way out, I stopped by their bottle shop/gift shop and picked up a logo glass, which has the dubious honor of being the most expensive piece of brewery glassware I’ve purchased.  Maybe it will make every beer I pour into it taste like a little pint of heaven.

Canoe Brewpub

After some much-needed washing up at the hostel, I headed out on a short bike ride to Canoe Brewpub for dinner and, of course, a sampling of all their beer.  Their full name is Canoe Brewpub, Restaurant and Marina, but that’s a bit too much of a mouthful for me.  They were pretty busy (it being a sunny, warm evening probably didn’t hurt), but there were a few open stools at the bar for losers like me out on a Saturday night by themselves.  The building was pretty slick, and the crowd was pretty well-heeled — a little more upscale than what I’m used to.  Or maybe I’m just spoiled by how casual Seattle is.  Then a charity event started featuring a local band, and I suddenly wished I’d brought along some earplugs — they played the standard, loud, bar rock.  Made for an easy decision about whether to stick around and have a full pint of something or head to the next place.

Canoe Canoe?

A “fleet” of samplers at Canoe Brewpub — Victoria, BC

    Rob’s Picks

  • Beaver Brown Ale – 5.4% – Good dry brown with some chocolate and coffee flavors.
  • River Rock Bitter – 5.2% – Floral aroma. Big floral hops, malty, and a bit sweet. Very drinkable.
    The Rest

  • Red Canoe Lager – 5.2% – Light and sweet with a touch of floral hops, but not as crisp as I’m used to. Bit of a bitter finish.
  • Siren’s Song Pale Ale – 5% – Hoppy aroma. Somewhat bitter, but balanced by maltiness and breadiness. A bit watery, though.
  • Southern Cross IPA – Made with Australian hops. Very floral, though not as big as the River Rock. Darker in color but lighter in body. A bit maltier, too. Pretty smooth. Floral bitterness lasts a while.

They didn’t have any logo glasses in stock, unfortunately (the bartender even went searching through the store room for several minutes), so I’ll be re-visiting at some point.  Maybe for lunch, though, or disguised in some khakis.

Hoyne Brewing

I could say it was a short bike ride from Vancouver Island Brewery to Hoyne Brewing but most of the Victoria breweries are short bike rides from each other, conveniently enough.  I could also say that the folks working at Hoyne were super friendly and cool, but that pretty much applies to the other Victoria breweries, as well.  Hoyne had the smallest taproom, though, so that’s something that sets them apart from the others, and it made for a fun, cozy tasting.

Taps at Hoyne Brewing

Taps at Hoyne Brewing — Victoria, BC

    Rob’s Picks

  • Hoyner Pilsner – 5.5% – Subtle breadiness, subtle sweetness. Really refreshing and light.
  • Summer Haze Honey Hefe – 5.1% – Honey from Empress Hotel. Subtle sweetness. Not too bready, but more so than the Pils.
  • Dark Matter – 5.3% – Really good Dark Ale.  Nice and dry with coffee flavor. Very crisp, too.
  • Down Easy Pale Ale – 5.2% – Piney aroma. Piney flavor with light malty base. Would be smooth, but piney-ness makes you think. Nice!
  • Devil’s Dream IPA – 6% – Strong piney aroma. Great piney hoppiness, subtle maltiness, and really crisp. Pretty intense.

And yes, they had logo glasses for sale.  At the rate I was going, I’d soon be biking around with ten or eleven beer glasses in my panniers.  Not ideal.  So instead, I wrapped up the first five as well as I could, carefully stuffed them into my friend’s backpack, and he then ferried them back to Seattle via the Clipper later that afternoon.  I owe him a few beers for that.

Vancouver Island Brewery

After camping at the Sooke Potholes, my friend and I biked back along the Galloping Goose to Victoria, with only one stop to pick fresh blackberries growing right by the trail. The fourth day (for me) of Bike Tour 2012 was beautiful but hot, and we were quite thirsty by the time we reached Vancouver Island Brewery. A tour had started moments before we rolled our bikes into the taproom, but rather than join the group we decided just to do a tasting session. (There was a bit of  a time crunch — we wanted to visit one more brewery, as well as get something to eat, before my friend’s return trip to Seattle on the Clipper.)

Vancouver Island Brewing

Taster at Vancouver Island Brewing — Victoria, BC

    Rob’s Picks

  • Beachcomber Summer Ale – Crisp and bubbly, with banana/clove flavors and good bready finish. Nice balance of flavor.
  • Piper’s Pale Ale – English style pale. Very smooth and creamy. Subtle hoppiness, lingering maltiness. Really solid.
  • Hermann’s Dark Lager – Great dry and coffee-flavored ale. Light body, but solid.
    The Rest

  • Spyhopper Honey Brown – Not so brown. Nice honey sweetness and somewhat malty, but a touch watery. Pretty light.
  • Sea Dog Amber – Malty, slightly sweet. Very smooth and well-balanced, but not too interesting to me.

Full disclosure: I’d been to Vancouver Island Brewery once before, way back in 2003 or so. I showed up a few minutes before they closed for the day, however, and only had enough time to buy a tiny logo taster glass — didn’t even get to try any of their beer. It felt good to get that corrected, finally.

Phillips Brewing

Several days before the bike tour, I did some internet sleuth-work to plan out a schedule of Victoria brewery visits, and Phillips Brewing got the luck of the draw for first.  Fellow beer-biker Jonny took the Clipper from Seattle while I took the Coho from Port Angeles, and, after meeting for brunch at Shine Cafe and taking care of a few pre-ride details, we pedaled on over to their tasting room.  Super nice folks working at Phillips, and they told me about two brewpubs that my brief searching hadn’t found.  This weekend in Victoria would be busier than I thought.  In between the steady stream of customers coming in for growler fills, we managed to taste all the beer they had on tap.

Phillips Brewing

The taproom at Phillips Brewing — Victoria, BC

    Rob’s Picks

  • Phoenix Gold Lager – Bready aroma. Bit of alcohol flavor, a touch sweet, and bright on the tongue. Great summer beer.
  • Slipstream Cream Ale – Not too creamy, but smooth, and also kind of bright. Pretty similar to the Blue Buck but with a bit of creamy flavor.
  • Hop Circle IPA – Big citrus aroma. Good citrusy hoppy flavor, but not too big. Underlying bitterness, and a little bit of maltiness to balance. Pretty drinkable.
  • Longboat Chocolate Porter – Big chocolate aroma. Good dry chocolate flavors, and nicely thick on the tongue. Quite drinkable.
    The Rest

  • Blue Buck Pale Ale – Really smooth, not too aggressive. Kinda malty, with a bit of alcohol flavor. Sort of a bigger bodied lager. Their best selling beer and quite popular in Victoria.
  • Raspberry Wheat – Raspberry aroma. Light raspberry flavor, nicely tart. Somewhat dry, but in a slightly watery way, oddly enough.

Some people like to mix the Raspberry Wheat and the Longboat Chocolate Porter, which in theory I can understand, but when I tried it there, it didn’t click for me. Ah well. Phillips also has plenty of logo glassware and shirts and whatnot for sale, and so of course I had to get a glass. Settled on a smaller one, though, and then biked by the hostel where I’d be staying the next night and stored it and the two Port Angeles logo glasses before we galloped off on the Goose.

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