While many Seattleites consider themselves veritable connoisseurs of the PNW beer world, this title cannot be truly claimed if you haven’t sipped your way across our neighboring city of Victoria. Generally considered the craft brew hub of Canada, BC’s capital city packs a whole lot of brew IQ into a walkable stretch of its bustling downtown core (which also removes the chore of drawing straws to appoint your group’s designated driver). Map out your sampling session with these eight must-visit breweries that are just a hop, skip and jump from the Inner Harbour.

1. Spinnakers

Hop on a cheerful yellow Harbour Taxi to cruise over to Spinnakers and enjoy a unique view of the city’s waterfront along the way. With patio seating overlooking Victoria’s Inner Harbor and a beautifully appointed indoor space (complete with a pool table!), this local haunt is a worthy destination, rain or shine.

Sip on a crisp Blue Bridge Double Pale Ale, (Inside tip: be sure to keep your eye out for the ale’s namesake bridge during your cruise over), or try out their aromatic Fan Tan Abbey, a flavor-packed red ale brewed with orange peel and Chinese five-spice powder. To round out your visit, comb through the extensive, locally-sourced menu and pair your brews with beer-infused items such as the Ale-Braised Pulled Pork Nachos or Beer & Cheese Pot.

Brewer Kala Hadfield states, “I find that Victoria’s brewing scene is unique in it’s diversity of influences and customer bases. For a city of it’s size, Victoria punches above its class in the quality and diversity of its offerings.”

2. Swans Brewery, Pub & Hotel

Centrally located in downtown Victoria on the corner of Wharf St. and Pandora Ave., Swans has been a beloved local watering hole for more than two decades. With its high ceilings, patio seating and old-school pub atmosphere, it’s no surprise that this brewery has stood the test of time. And let’s not forget about the beer! The spot offers a whopping 19 brews on tap with twice-a-day happy hours, which gives you ample time to try out their unique Pitch Black Chamomile Pilsner – a surprisingly light, refreshing brew despite its dark chocolate-y color.

Brewmaster Chris Lukie says of their brewing philosophy,
“We focus on brewing pub-only beers to complement our small selection of heritage brews, because craft beer drinkers desire something new, exciting and intriguing.”

3. Canoe Brewpub

Amble down Store Street and hook a left toward the waterfront for your next stop – Canoe Brewpub. Patio space? Yep. Live music? Oh yea. Crave-worthy brews? You bet. This place checks all the boxes for a must-visit spot to soak up a warm spring afternoon. Be sure to try a pint of their West Coast Pale Ale, which combines Pacific Northwest hops with Canadian pale malt – the perfect marriage of regional ingredients in one effervescent beverage.

Brewmaster Daniel Murphy says of the city’s
brewing scene, “Victoria has the benefit of being somewhat isolated – there’s a sense of self-reliance that goes along with that, and a drive to provide for our community first and foremost.”

4. Phillips Brewing and Malting Co. 

Head north toward Discovery Street to pay a visit to the Phillips Brewing and Malting Co. tasting room. As the only craft brewer to malt their own barley in-house, the folks at Phillips take their dedication to producing phenomenal brews to the next level. Sip on playfully-named beers like their Electric Unicorn White IPA or Dr. Funk Dark Lager. Can’t pick a favorite? Grab one of their variety packs as a souvenir!

5. Vancouver Island Brewing

Pop down the street to Vancouver Island Brewing, which boasts a freshly remodeled tasting room and Canada’s only Gruber growler filler (this means your souvenir beer will stay much fresher for much longer). Take a tour of their eco-friendly brewing facility or simply enjoy a frosty pint of their Victoria Lager.

Marketing Manager Tory Davis says, “Victoria has a historically established pub culture. Many of the of establishments on the Island have been in business for decades, so there’s a sense of community ingrained in drinking at a favourite Island pub.”

6. Moon Under Water

Just up the road, by Victoria’s Upper Harbour, Moon Under Water serves up a selection of brews that combine traditional European brewing techniques with contemporary flavor profiles to create innovative hybrids. One such concoction, the Munich dark lager dubbed “Creepy Uncle Dunkel,” is a fine choice when you factor in its high scores on Beer Advocate.

Sales Manager Andrew Reesor affirms, “Our beers are European inspired, thanks to Brewmaster Clay Potter’s training overseas, but they also have a Canadian twist on them. We like to keep an eye on the industry and see where and what styles it is shifting to, then adapt and put our own spin on it.”

7. Driftwood Brewing Company

Two blocks up the street you’ll find the tucked away tasting room of Driftwood Brewing. If you’ve read a taproom or restaurant draft beer menu in Victoria, chances are you’ve heard of Driftwood’s Fat Tug IPA. This hop-heavy local favorite is just one of Driftwood’s seven year-round brews, which they supplement with limited releases that focus on seasonality.

Gary Lindsay, Driftwood’s Purveyor of Precious Liquids (yes, that’s really his title!), states, “Creativity and quality go hand in hand as inspiration for our beers. The Pacific Northwest’s leading role in the evolution of craft beer has combined with the pioneering spirit that’s evident on Vancouver Island.” 

8. Hoyne Brewing Co.

Head around the corner to Bridge Street to pay a visit to Hoyne Brewing Co. – its entrance suitably marked with a “Fresh Beer Here” sign. With a diverse range of year-round brews, from a crisp Golden Lager to a rich Espresso Stout, alongside rotating seasonal offerings such as the Summer Haze Honey Hefe, you’re bound to find a beer to please your palate. Swing by their cozy tasting room for a flight of tasters, then load up on bottles to go once you’ve narrowed down your favorites.

Sean Hoyne, Hoyne’s owner, brewmaster and namesake, says, “Victoria has been at the forefront of the craft brewing revolution since the 1980’s. We boast a wide array of beer-centric venues, an appreciation for an ever-increasing repertoire of beer styles, and cool people to share those fine beers with!”

If you’re planning a day trip to the city and want to pack in a lot of local flavor, pop into a taproom such as The Drake, Garrick’s Head or Yates Street Taphouse for a one-stop tour of the region’s brews. Or if you’d prefer to sit back and allow someone else to do the planning, you can opt for a guided brewery tour of the area, which also provides a peek behind the scenes at how these malted marvels are created. One thing’s for sure, on a trip to Victoria you won’t leave thirsty. Cheers!

How to Get There:

Photo Credits: 1st photo block: Patio, bar, pool table and Kala Hadfield portrait photos courtesy of Spinnakers. Pints of beer. Credit: Dustan Sept. 2nd photo block: Pub interior and exterior photo courtesy of Swans. Portrait of Chris Lukie. Credit: Matty Schmitz. Enclosed patio. Credit: Dustan Sept. Flight of beer. Credit: Flickr user Albatz. 3rd photo block: All photos courtesy of Canoe Brewpub. 4th photo block: Pilsner pour, tap handles and cases of beer. Credit: Kris Krüg. Blue Buck. Credit: Flickr user Orbital Vancouver. 5th photo block: Growlers, brewing kettle and pint glasses of beer ingredients courtesy of Vancouver Island Brewing. Beer pour. Credit: Dustan Sept. 6th photo block: Exterior shot. Credit: Dustan Sept. Draft list, tulip glass of beer and bottles. Credit: Flickr user Forester401. 7th photo block: Tasting room. Credit: Flickr user Roa. Portrait of Gary Lindsay. Credit: Jamie Goode. Brewery exterior. Credit: Ariane Colenbrander. Fat Tug bottle. Credit: Northwest Beer Guide. Beer truck. Credit: Flickr user Patrick. 8th photo block: Brewery exterior and door mural. Credit: Flickr user Patrick. Tap handles. Credit: Flickr user Round the World Girl. Growlers and pint glasses. Credit: Dustan Sept.

Featured photo: Matthew Henry