GOLD – Best Imperial Ale/Lager // Hermannator
One of the founding breweries of the early microbrewery movement in Canada, Vancouver Island Brewing began its existence as Island Pacific Brewing in 1984. Its original location was in Saanichton north of Victoria proper, but the name was changed to VIB in 1991 and the company moved to its current location on Government Street not long after. For a long time VIB survived on the legacy of core brands like Piper’s Pale Ale and Hermann’s Dark Lager, as well as B.C.’s original holiday seasonal, the cult favourite Hermannator Eisbock. But as microbrew evolved into “craft beer” and consumer tastes became more and more refined, VIB struggled to keep up with trends. Its core customers were aging, new customers were not coming on board, and sales were dropping.
Following an ownership change in 2016, the brewery rebranded itself in a big way—say goodbye to the orcas and hello to the new VI. But the hexagonal logo and associated brands were largely met with disdain in the marketplace, and a year of poor sales, a new manager was brought in to oversee another rebranding, this time with more humility and a better connection to Island lifestyle—yes, the orcas were back!
A year and a half later, as VIB quietly marks its 35th year in business, the brewery is at the top of its game again. It has been winning awards and winning back customers. Most importantly the beer has been tasting great, which is all that matters after all.