Co-owner Yari Nielsen, left, and head brewer John Adair of Sooke Brewing celebrate the flegling brewery’s various honours at the BC Beer Awards, including the rookie of the year award. Charles Zuckermann Photography

Taprooms trending for Victoria area craft brewers

Monday beer columnist Matt Poirier looks back and ahead at breweries making a difference

2018 was an amazing year for the local beer scene and 2019 is shaping up to be just as exciting. As we all enjoy and recover from the holidays, it’s nice to remind ourselves of what made the headlines.

Mathieu Poirier, Monday Magazine beer columnist

Locally, two new breweries opened, with North Saanich’s Howl Brewing back in June, and Île Sauvage Brewing in Rock Bay back in November. In 2019, we can possibly expect at least two more, with both the Hudson Taphouse and Grill slated for the corner of Blanshard and Caledonia, and Merridale’s operations in Vic West’s Dockside Green showing some movement. There’s also the Herald St. Brew Works making some progress, but that will likely be something to look forward a little further down the road.

2018 also seems to have been the “Year of the Taproom.” Phillips, Category 12, Moon Under Water and Lighthouse all added or expanded their lounge operations, creating some amazing spaces to enjoy their products straight from the source. Brewery lounges have really become the norm, so expect this trend to continue with any new brewery openings in the future.

It was also a year full of successes, especially for Sooke breweries, where national and provincial brewing awards have taken up a lot of shelf space. Sooke Brewing took home Rookie of the Year as one of their five wins at the BC Beer Awards, and Sooke Oceanside took home three, including golds for their amazing Bear Beach Baltic Porter and Renfrew Red Ale. Those wins came only a few months after each brewery also brought home hardware from the Canadian Brewing Awards in Halifax.

Finally, what was possibly the biggest news of 2018, the board of the Great Canadian Beer Festival chose to retire and pass on the torch after 26 years. The group behind Victoria Beer Week has taken over, and based on early discussions, the second weekend in September already looks like it’s taking on a new level of energy and excitement.

If you’re already starting to plan early 2019 in your calendar, tickets for a couple events have already gone on sale. The Island Beer & Spirits Festival at the Strathcona Hotel will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on Feb. 17 and tickets are available at the hotel. Victoria Beer Week returns for its sixth year, March 1-9 and tickets are available through Ticket Rocket.

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Representatives from Sooke Oceanside proudly show off their young brewery’s trophies from the 2018 BC Beer Awards. Charles Zuckermann Photography

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