When it comes to voting for the BC Ale Trail’s Best Brewery Experience award, craft beer enthusiasts are spoiled for choice around the province — and Vancouver Island is no exception.
From Victoria down south up north to Port McNeill and across to Tofino on the west coast, a diverse range of breweries is sprinkled throughout the Island, all producing artisanal beers. Some are ultra-local, serving their own communities, which means you have to visit them in person if you want to taste their beers, while others have expanded to distribute throughout BC and even beyond its borders.
Beer lovers have the opportunity to experience an amazing beer scene while exploring the various regions of the Island and all they have to offer — whether it’s agricultural splendour in the warm Cowichan Valley, ruggedly wild beauty on the west coast, sheltered beaches that stretch for miles along the east coast, or urban pleasures in Victoria, Nanaimo and Courtenay-Comox.
No visit to the Island is complete without a stop in Victoria, home of Spinnakers Brewpub, which kicked off Canada’s microbrewing movement back in 1984 and is still going strong today. There are another 15 breweries in Greater Victoria, including BC’s most successful craft brewery, Phillips Brewing & Distilling, and some of the province’s newest and freshest operations, Whistle Buoy Brewing and Herald Street Craft Works.
Heading north up the Island Highway from Victoria, the spectacular vistas of the Malahat Summit give way to the rural agricultural splendour of the Cowichan Valley. Its maritime Mediterranean climate achieves the warmest year-round temperature anywhere in Canada. Farm markets, wineries and cideries abound — and so do breweries. Duncan has three breweries to visit and nearby Chemainus is home to one of its own.
Nanaimo’s five local breweries provide a diverse and delicious opportunity for a tasting tour while you search for the tastiest Nanaimo Bar. Not far up the highway are the beautiful beaches of Parksville and Qualicum Beach, home to Mount Arrowsmith Brewing and LoveShack Libations.
From there, head west across the Island to Port Alberni, a tiny brewing mecca with three breweries of its own, including last year’s Best Brewery Experience Award winner, Twin City Brewing. The wild west coast of Vancouver Island is home to Ucluelet Brewing and Tofino Brewing.
The Comox Valley has it all: farms and farmer’s markets, wilderness hiking, camping and climbing, fantastic skiing and mountain biking, urban shopping and dining, and of course, delicious craft beer. There are five local breweries in the area, including another previous winner, Land & Sea Brewing in Comox. Continue north to Campbell River, home of Beachfire Brewing, and then on to Port McNeill, where the recently opened Devil’s Bath Brewing is the northernmost brewery on the Island.
Visit the BC Ale Trail to learn more about what Vancouver Island has to offer.
To vote for the brewery you think should win this year’s award, visit the WestCoastTraveller.com and look for Craft Beer Enthusiasts under Contests.