While the majority of my fellow classmates gripped loose leaf sheets of exam notes and gulped coffee until the break of dawn, I took a much-desired study break on evening of Friday, December 2nd to attend the inaugural Victoria Christmas Craft Beer Show held at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. Friends close to me suggested that I did anything but drink beer due to my minor wheat intolerance, but I was willing to risk the inevitable gas for a new experience. I have been to events such as Taste B.C. and both the Vancouver International Auto Show and Boat Shows held at B.C. Place in Vancouver, B.C. and in my opinion this ran as smoothly as those events.
Initially, I found out about the show scrolling through Twitter sometime in November, and then my interest peaked further after it was advertised during a Victoria Royals’ game I attended. Judging by the great turnout at this event, I’d say the organizers did a heck of a job with their promotion tactics.
I arrived at 7:00 p.m. and was greeted by a line stretched out the doors and into the streets. The crowd ranged from young and old and many preached holiday cheer by wearing all kinds of Christmas sweaters. The closer I inched towards the front of the line and away from the frigidness the louder the live music within the arena became. A local band by the name of SuperSauce played tunes dating back from the seventies all the way to today’s hit pop songs.
After awkwardly waiting in line by myself, I was eager to settle the nerves with a few tasters. A lovely group of staff members sold me a handful of tokens and I found myself dashing towards the stage. I walked into the main area and was in awe of the number of tents and the congestion of people underneath the jumbotron. I don’t know if it’s because of my hockey background, but there was a sense of novelty that came with consuming alcohol at ice level. Very few situations allow the general public to enter this territory and if one does it is usually because they’ve been chosen to participate in intermission activities at a local hockey game.
After a few initial samples, I found myself slithering around the lavish crowd eavesdropping on conversations that for the most part pertained to a mysterious Absinthe infused beer (a brief review of this later on!). At first, individuals kept to themselves and created blobs of cliques but as the night progressed people branched out and bogeyed down with strangers on the dance floor. It was an occasion where pushing your way through mounds of bodies was fun because of the mystery of what beer tent lied beyond.
Below are brief summaries of the boldest and most bizarre beers that I consumed:
OL IRON TOOTH STOUT
Longwood Brewery, Nanaimo, B.C.
This was the second beverage I tasted and trust me when I say that it knocked me out of my boots. Longwood Brewery took their Russian Imperial Stoutnik (7.5% alc. Pale Ale) and infused it with Arbutus Distillery’s Baba Yaga absinthe to create the Ol’ Iron Tooth Stout which stood at a solid 13% alcohol level. Initially, there was a strong and full bodied taste of the Stoutnik but shortly after the Baba Yaga Absinthe came into play and it pulled the rug right from under my feet. A truly unique beer that left me with an everlasting experience and a few less brain cells.
Fernie Brewing Company, Fernie, B.C.
In a show that was dominated by Island breweries, it was nice to see establishments such as Fernie Brewing Company making the trek down to Victoria. Because the market for craft breweries in B.C. is becoming extremely saturated I think it’s imperative that each establishment has at least one beer that’s unique to their individual brand. Fernie did exactly this with their Maple Sucker Ale as it was both innovative and memorable. At first, a refreshing lager that very well could have stood on its own but within seconds I was blindsided with a sweet yet subtle maple flavour.
CHIKA CHIKA BANG BANG LIME PEPPER LAGER
Stanley Park Brewing Company, Vancouver, B.C.
This was definitely a bizarre beer but in a good way as I had never tasted anything remotely like this. At first, there was a powerful lime and pepper flavour but it slowly faded into a smooth and moderately hoppy lager. I immediately thought of Buckley’s Cough Syrup which may not sound like a real deal breaker for many, but the beer took after its earthy qualities as if it was concentrated from ginger and mint roots. I don’t know if I will be purchasing a case of this beer in the future but it left an admirable impression.
TANGERINE DREAM ALE
4 Mile Brewery, Victoria, B.C.
Orange Crush meets beer. I’m really not one for fruity beers as they seem to be an alcoholic beverage that can’t decide if they’d rather be a beer or a cider but the Tangerine Dream Ale from 4 Mile Brewery opened my eyes. Before I even wrapped my lips around the taster cup the pungent aroma of tangerine, tactically infiltrated my nostrils. The initial orange flavour was delicate, yet powerful enough to accentuate the creamy lager in which it is combined with. I would definitely purchase this in the future and I hope to see more from 4 Mile Brewery.
Spinnakers Brew Pub, Victoria, B.C.
Imagine the sensual taste of a Chai tea latte in the form of a beer; ta-da I present to you: the Saison Faire. Even though it was served to me cold, it went down like a hot cup of cider. Spinnakers complimented this seasonal beer with a lavish setup at their tent which included strings of Christmas lights and oodles of ornaments. Some breweries brought a few decorations and were wearing Christmas sweaters but Spinnaker’s set the tone with their simple yet effective booth. I would purchase a tall bottle of their Saison Faire in the future especially if I was looking for a gift to bring to a holiday party.
Along with the endless supply of beer, the organizers for the Christmas Craft Beer Show created a special concession menu unique to the show. These items included:
- Peppercorn Short Ribs
- Deep Fried Pretzels with Hot Cheese Sauce
- Bratwurst with Sautéed Onions
I tangoed with all three items and the unanimous winner was the deep fried pretzels with hot cheese sauce. They were voluptuous golden nuggets sent from heaven covered in a generous amount of salt and browned to perfection. This was the perfect snack to accompany a night filled with beer consumption. Because I am one who prefers a moderate to light lager, I chowed down on all of these snacks with the help of Phillips Brewery Blue Buck Lager. It was the perfect combination that further enhanced the salty goodness from each snack.
From the live music to the booming atmosphere and the large variety of beers, I will definitely be returning to the Christmas Craft Beer Show next year and I urge others to attend if they are looking for a release during the stressful holidays.
I can’t wait to see what the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre does for next year’s event!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Spencer Thompson is currently studying Creative Writing and Business at the University of Victoria.
You can follow Spencer on LinkedIn.