Howl Brewing in North Saanich is tiny but packs a punch with its small-batch beer offerings. Photo by Mathieu Poirier

WHAT’S ON TAP: Howl Brewing joins the pack of local craft beer operations

Monday beer columnist Matt Poirier checks out a new microbrewer in North Saanich

Everybody who homebrews jokes around that one day they’ll open a brewery. The difference is that some people actually do it.

Monday Magazine beer columnist Mathieu Poirier

Dan van Netten, the driving force behind Howl Brewing, is one of them. Outside of Sooke, this is the first brewery to open in the Capital Region in nearly two years, and brings the total number of operations south of the Malahat to 17, for now.

Located at 1780 Mills Rd. in North Saanich alongside The Fickle Fig Market, the nano-brewery is tucked in a 340-square-foot space that was once a gravel-floored pergola with a metal roof. The 300-litre brewhouse is smaller than some kitchens, yet contains everything he needs to make small batch beers that are light, refreshing and have ties to the community. There is even a small space inside for a tasting bar and growler filling station.

There is a clear desire to make sure there is a local influence, not only with names like Land’s End IPA and Deep Cove Pale Ale, but also with ingredients sourced from local merchants like Michell’s Farm Market. Dan has cultivated some of his own barley on locally rented land, and intends to use it in future recipes. He’s also planted a few hundred hop plants in various locations that he hopes to harvest for use in his beers as well.

One thing he chose to do – bucking the trend in the industry – was to keep things under wraps until the doors were open. With the exception of a few close family and friends, nobody knew about a project that was in the works for over a year. With questions surrounding ALR land use for brewing for bigger operations like Persephone Brewing in Gibsons and Crannog Ales in Sorrento, Dan felt he was better off keeping it close to his chest until those issues had been resolved.

He’s also had advice and support from some of the more influential local characters in the industry, which reinforces the competitive, yet collaborative nature of craft beer.

At the time of this writing, Howl had three beers available, the nicely balanced Deep Cove Pale Ale (5.0% ABV, 30 IBU), Dan’s self-described aromatic Land’s End IPA (6.0% ABV, 58 IBU), and the bright and fruity Strawberry Wheat Ale (6.0% ABV, 20 IBU).

Because of the small batch size, the variety will likely change relatively quickly, so if you hear about one you’d really like, don’t delay. Growler fills are $12, plus $6 for the bottle if necessary. The brewery is open Wednesday and Thursday 11am-2pm, Friday 11am-6pm, Saturday 11am-4pm and Sunday 11am-3pm.

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