Beer, Christmas sweaters, music, food, and merriment – just a few quick words to sum up the incredible experience of my very first Christmas Craft Beer Show!
The advent of finals season had me in the grips of an unshakable funk, until my boss suggested I take a night off and check out the event everyone was buzzing about. So I texted my boyfriend and on December 1st, we were in line at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre along with an enthusiastic throng of tinsel-clad beer lovers. As we inched our way in, the friendly staff handed us a helpful Brewery Guide each and a shot glass on a lanyard to match: we were READY!
The first thing we noticed was the distinct smell of delicious, greasy bar food wafting over towards us from the concessions stand – but more on that later. First, we decided to take our drink tokens and follow the masses into the arena. Although we were there relatively early, the massive indoor stadium was already packed full of vendors, visitors, staff, seating, and a large stage smack dab in the centre of it all. There was a palpable energy in the air, combined with the festive atmosphere of lights and laughter all around us – it was time for us to join the party!
GRATITUDE WINTER ALE
Located right by the front entrance, Hoyne’s booth seemed to be attracting quite a large crowd, so we decided to try one of their bestsellers first. From the makers of my personal favourite beer (Dark Matter) comes the Gratitude Winter – a malty, rich ale with a delightful mix of fruity and spicy flavour. It was the perfect way to start our craft beer experience and warm us up after traversing the cold, drizzly streets of Victoria.
Soon after, we ran into some friends from school – surprise surprise, university students at a craft beer show, right? – and they highly recommended we go over to the Sooke Brewing Company booth. So we paid the lovely plaid-clad women behind the counter a visit and they insisted we try out their citrus IPA. No craft beer tasting is complete without at least one IPA, so we gave it a shot (literally)…and it was every bit as delicious as promised! We left their table with smiles, selfies, and a refreshing, yet zesty aftertaste.
All this walking, talking, and drinking was giving me flashbacks of that mouthwatering smell wafting over from the concessions stand, so that’s where we headed to for our next stop. Besides the regular game-day fare, the wonderful organizers of the Christmas Craft Beer Show had set aside a special menu full of delectable bar foods for the event – so of course, we had to try a bit of everything! It’s impossible to pick favourites when it comes to bar food, but it’s been days since the event and I still have dreams about those salty, crunchy pretzel bites, that juicy bratwurst, and the donut holes with that delectable, creamy dark chocolate dip.
CANDY CANE DUNKEL
The Christmas spirit seemed to have quadrupled by the time we got back to the main event – everywhere you turned, there were reindeer antlers and fairy lights – so I was inclined to wash down my meal with a holiday-themed drink. Moon Brewery & Pub had just what I wanted: their Candy Cane Dunkel had just the right amount of peppermint (so it wasn’t overpowering) to complement the beer.
FAN TAN ABBEY
The last drink that really stood out for us was definitely Spinnakers’ Fan Tan Abbey. Named after Victoria’s famous Fan Tan Alley, this spiced Belgian ale brought longings of a lazy evening by the crackling fireside to mind. A few easy sips brought the zesty orange flavour to the tip of my tongue, and the ale left a curiously rice-y aftertaste, which was nevertheless quite enjoyable.
TIME TO DANCE!
Once everyone was well and truly tipsy, local dance party band SuperSauce took to the stage, and who couldn’t help but move to their tunes! The night ended with a bang, as the arena was filled with flushed, happy faces, sounds of laughter, and some good old infectious Christmas cheer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brishti Basu is a Staff Writer at Victoria Buzz.