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What: Following a beer tradition that dates back to the 1840s, Victoria’s compact downtown has a disproportionately large number of brewpubs and microbreweries, most of which are within walking distance of one another (hello, pub crawl!). Consider them the antidote to the city’s other drinking tradition: high tea.
Where: Many options here. Of the area brewpubs, we especially loved the gorgeous, waterfront Canoe Brewpub (pictured; 450 Swift St., map), where you might get offered a brief tour of the equipment if you ask nicely. Or head for the bustling Spinnakers Brewpub (308 Catherine St.; map), a large, fun gastropub overlooking the water that’s accessible from downtown via Victoria’s harbor ferry. Right in town, there’s also Swans Hotel & Brewpub (506 Pandora Ave.; map; tours available by appointment), which houses Buckerfields Brewery—not the most atmospheric pub of the bunch, but it offers about 10 of its beers on tap regularly.
If you’re interested in visiting (and sampling from) a brewery, there’s the 25-year-old Vancouver Island Brewing Company, Victoria’s biggest craft brewery (2330 Government St., map; one-hour tours available every Sat at 3pm); the always-inventive Phillips Brewing Co. (2010 Government St., map; call 250-380-1912 to book a tour, Wed-Thurs at 4pm); and the young Driftwood Brewery (102-450 Hillside Ave., map; tours by appointment), which tends to focus on Belgian-style ales with a Northwest twist.
When: See individual brewery information; Canoe is open daily, 11:30am till late.
Order: Local beers at local spots. At the brewpubs, ask about doing a tasting; Canoe offers tastes of each of its excellent beers for CAD$12.50, while Swans offers six for $10.
Good to know: You won’t get the small tasters that are often offered at the individual brewpubs, but at a bar like downtown’s Irish Times Pub (1200 Government St., map) you can try several (pints) of these beers in one place—it usually has about 10 on tap that are brewed within a two-mile radius, including one from a local brewery not mentioned above: Lighthouse Brewing.
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