There’s only one event in Victoria where you can see Santa pouring lager, take in some rockin’ Christmas classics, and sample the best locally-sourced craft beers the city has to offer. With the help of a friend, I decided to start off the holiday season right at the Christmas Craft Beer Show.
Even from outside the arena, there was a flurry of festive energy from the bundled-up masses who were lined up down the street. At the door, we were greeted with a glass, a foldable guide, and a free drink token.
We felt slightly underdressed for the occasion as we walked through the bustling crowd of jolly beer enthusiasts showing their holiday spirit through their hats, shoes, and sweaters — with some even clad head to toe in Christmas cheer.
Event organizers had decked out the halls of the Save On Foods Memorial Centre: there was miles of tinsel, approximately 40 billion Christmas lights strung overhead, and a giant inflatable snowman. With our pockets full of drink tokens, we were ready to find our first drink.
PORTER ALBERNI + LATE BLOOMER
Twin City Brewing, Port Alberni, B.C.
Our first stop was at Twin City Brewing — a decision that definitely paid off later in the evening, as this booth was by far one of the most packed. I can safely say that the hype was well-deserved, however, since these drinks were some of our favorites of the night. We tried the Porter Alberni, a smooth stout reminiscent of Hoyne’s Dark Matter, and the Late Bloomer, a sour but fruity beer that won “Best in Show” at the 2017 British Columbia Beer Awards.
CANDY CANE DUNKEL + ORANJE MAAN
Moon, Victoria, B.C.
Next up, we decided to get in the Christmas spirit a bit more by stopping by Moon to try their candy cane-flavoured beer. The minty taste of the Candy Cane Dunkel was distinct but not overpowering — definitely a beer worth gifting, particularly if you wanted to bring your A game to Secret Santa this year. On the sour side, the Oranje Maan tasted like a bittersweet creamsicle soda. Moon also had a display of free dog treats made from their brewery’s leftover grains, which made us wish we had a four-legged friend friend to bring some home to.
BLACK FOREST CHERRY STOUT + BEETS BY STEVE
Old Abbey Ales, Armstrong, B.C.
As we sipped our drinks, local band SuperSauce took to the stage with some classic covers and Christmas songs. Members of the crowd couldn’t help but dance along, some even taking the opportunity to show off their fabulous Christmas sweaters as well as their dance moves. Feeling a little adventurous, we decided to sample the tart and earthy beers on offer at Old Abbey Ales.
At this point, I was seriously craving something greasy, carb-filled, and covered in cheese. The concession stand, which was offering a select list of snacks just for this event, certainly came through. Deep fried jalapenos, buffalo chicken, chicken fingers, fries — for every classic bar food craving you could have, the Christmas Craft Beer Show organizers had come prepared. After topping our dinner off with some tater tot poutine, we were ready to get back to the main event.
CHAI BROWN ALE + FRAMBOISE RASPBERRY SOUR
Spinnakers Brew Pub, Victoria, B.C.
We couldn’t wait to get back in the action after sampling the delicious snacks, and came back to discover that the crowd had nearly doubled in the time we’d been away. Looking to start back up strong, we beelined to Spinnaker’s. I had the Chai Brown Ale, which didn’t disappoint — it was sweet but smooth, like a boozy chai latte.
KIWAMI PLUM SOUR
Fuggles and Warlock, Victoria, B.C.
Our final stop of the night was at Fuggles and Warlock, where we both had to taste the Kiwami Plum Sour. For people who aren’t used to sour beers, this drink is perfect: the plum flavor is subtle but sweet, and mixes with the sour twist in a way that shows its presence without being overpowering. While finishing our last drinks of the night, we made sure to stop at Swan’s and say hi to Santa, who had come to the Christmas Craft Beer Show to pour a few beers and join in the merriment. We couldn’t blame him for wanting to drop by — after all, what better way is there to start off the holiday season than friends, food, and a few festive drinks?