As I write this, I’m returning from a weekend away to judge some of the best beers in the province at Penticton’s Okanagan Fest of Ale. There’s something about having to whittle down a list of nearly 100 unknown beers along with eight beer industry colleagues and friends, not only to come up with the best beer in several styles but also the best beer overall. So the next time you’re arguing with a friend about who picked the better beer, possibly as soon as Victoria Beer Week in May, understand that you’re just doing your part to promote the better beers available.
Travelling out of town for beer had me thinking that I’ve spent time showcasing Sidney, Sooke and downtown, but there’s a part of the Capital Region that has turned the corner recently and deserves a lot of praise.
|The team at Millstream. (Millstream Beverage Company)|
The West Shore has had its triumphs and struggles for some time. When Axe & Barrel opened in 2015 in the old Loghouse Pub, it was a win for craft beer drinkers in the area. Dave Woodward brewed and established a great presence in a tough local market before his 2017 move to Mount Arrowsmith in Parksville and later at Nanoose Bay’s Rusted Rake. Andrew Tessier, formerly from Swan’s, continued the tradition with award-winning beers, lasting until February 2020, when the brewery was forced to close. V2V Black Hops Brewing took over the space for the better part of a year, but facing the uphill battle of starting up as the pandemic ramped up, success wasn’t in the cards and they closed in early 2021.
As much as its history seems soured, there’s only the future to look at, with Millstream Beverage Company taking over the space and opening in December 2021, with brewer Duncan Blackman creating a great lineup of not only beers but seltzers as well. They also have a fun patio out front with cornhole, artificial grass, heaters and more that make for a great environment to enjoy their drinks and ridiculously good pizza almost completely year-round.
You would think a region like that would have trouble supporting another brewery, but it’s already happened. Almost a year to the day of Millstream opening their doors, a trio of friends opened a brewery in Metchosin, Mile Zero Brewing, in one of the old classrooms on Metchosin Road. Their brewer, Dirk Slot, has focused on making small batches, with good quality, classic-styled beers and fun alternatives to pair alongside a selection of delicious food from Urban Forage.
It may be the area that has had its ups and downs in the past, and it may not have the number of breweries you see out in Sooke, on the Peninsula, or downtown, but things are looking up for those communities growing to the brim with people looking for good, local beer.
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