Strap in kiddies, because your liver is about to take a beating this weekend. That’s right, the Great Canadian Beer Festival returns to Victoria’s Royal Athletic Park for its 27th annual celebration of the very best Canadian craft beer has to offer this Friday and Saturday (Sept. 6 and 7). There’s close to 100 breweries and cideries taking part, pouring more than 300 beers and ciders, so we’ve done the research (hic) and come up with our list of beers you should probably, definitely check out. Think of it as scavenger hunt, but with delicious beer!
Brasserie Dieu de Ciel! – Péché Mortel (9.5% ABV)
This big bastard of a beer travelled a long way to be at GCBF—all the way from Saint-Jérôme, Quebec, in fact. Infused with espresso, this thick, viscous stout is intensely flavoured and intensely strong. It’s a good thing the taster glass is only four ounces, because this one should definitely be enjoyed in moderation.
Slackwater Brewing – What The Fog?! NEIPA (6.8% ABV)
Slackwater is Penticton’s newest brewery and its spectacular tasting room alone is worth the drive. Former Powell brewer Chris Vandenberg is at the helm and his tropical fruit-forward take on the hazy New England-style IPA has already won a handful of awards, including People’s Choice at Okanagan Fest of Ale earlier this year.
Last Best Brewing – Spelt Saison (6.0% ABV)
Ignore the interprovincial political BS, we British Columbians love our neighbours to the east, especially when they bring beer when they visit! Complex, earthy and effervescent, this mixed fermentation saison features malted spelt and Czech Saaz hops.
Moon Under Water Brewpub – Year VII (11.9% ABV)
The Moon is celebrating seven years of delicious existence with this bonkers mixed fermentation dry-hopped barrel-aged wheat wine that also happens to be the strongest beer pouring at GCBF this week, if you care about that sort of thing (I know I do!). Only available Friday night as part of GCBF’s stellar cask lineup.
Wheelhouse Brewing – Scurvy Dog Spruce Ale (5.3% ABV)
One of the many the great things about GCBF is that all the super cool breweries from totally remote places you’ve never been to have conveniently made the trip to Victoria just to serve you their beer. So do them a solid and show some support. Wheelhouse came all the way from Prince Rupert, which might as well be on the moon, and their spruce tip ale is delicious, with notes of citrus and blueberry.
Crannóg Ales – Back Hand of God Stout (4.8% ABV)
I’m a simple man and I have a simple rule: if I see Back Hand of God on a beer list, I order it. Doesn’t matter what mood I’m in, what the weather’s like or what I’m eating—if I see Back Hand, I order it. And you should, too.
Collective Arts Brewing – Guava Gose (4.9% ABV)
Tart, fruity, citrusy and refreshing, this sour wheat ale features Himalayan pink sea salt, coriander and a metric shit-ton of guava for a well-balanced tropical treat that tastes as good as it looks.
Howl Brewing – Reishi Mushroom Hibiscus Lager (5.0% ABV)
Full disclosure: I have not tried this beer. Like a lot of Howl’s experimental beers, it sounds pretty crazy: it contains reishi mushrooms, hibiscus and zero hops. But if I’ve learned anything about Dan and Ben Van Netten’s beers, it’s that it likely won’t taste like anything you’ve ever had before. Which will either be a really good thing… or not. Either way, you’ll have a story to tell.
Beau’s Brewing – Lug Tread Lagered Ale (5.2% ABV)
But you know what else is great? Beer that tastes like beer! Beer that tastes like summers at the lake! Beer that tastes like pickup trucks and Fender Stratocasters! Beer that tastes like a long weekend! Beer-flavoured beer!
Merridale Cidery and Distillery – Mo’Moro (6.0% ABV)
You’re going to need at least one cider to shake things up a bit, and this should be it. English heirloom cider apples and blood orange, dry-hopped with Mosaic hops. Crisp, tart, fruity and very refreshing.