Island brewers the toast of the province at B.C. Beer Awards

Vancouver Island breweries took home 21 of the 108 pieces of hardware up for grabs at this year’s B.C. Beer Awards, while an Island newcomer to the brewing industry won six awards in its first year of business.

Sooke Brewing, which opened in late fall last year, won four awards for its beer, the Rookie of the Year award and an award for Best Tasting Room at the annual event that drew 1,085 entries from 109 B.C. breweries.

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“I think this will be huge for us. Craft- beer lovers look for destinations and I certainly think winning those awards definitely makes us a beer destination,” said Sooke Brewing general manager Kristin Schill. “This will be great for tourism.”

Schill said within the last year the brewery has won over Sooke as they get a strong mix of locals and visitors through their tasting room. “We get visitors from all over the place, but you need your local support and that’s one thing we never want to compromise as we grow. We want to stay true to Sooke,” she said.

Sooke Brewing won second place awards for its Belgian Blond, Vienna Lager and German Pilsner, and a third place award for its Barley Wine.

Twin City Brewing from Port Alberni, which won the prestigious Best in Show award, won first place awards for its Dissimulator and Late Bloomer, and a second- place award for its Vanishing Act.

Sooke Oceanside Brewery won first place awards for its Renfrew Red Ale and Bear Beach Baltic Porter and a third-place award for its Wiffen Wizen. Axe & Barrel won first place for its Langford Lager. Spinnakers won a third-place award for its Black Lager, while Twa Dogs Brewery won a second-place award for Mistress of My Soul Saison and a third-place award for its Parting Kiss Bourbon Barrel Ale.

Vancouver Island Brewing won a second-place award for Islander Lager. Category 12 won a second-place award for its Side Project Amber Lager and Mount Arrowsmith Brewing Company from Parksville won second-place for its Jagged Face.

Riot Brewing from Chemainus won the award for best merchandise design.

“I was really impressed by the success of Vancouver Island breweries at this year’s awards,” said beer expert Joe Wiebe, content director for the B.C. Ale Trail. “I was also happy to see so many new breweries win awards. Twin City has been open less than 18 months, and Sooke Brewing just opened in November. That says a lot about the high quality of their beer right out of the gates.”

Wiebe said the awards allow breweries to compare themselves to their competitors, while it can draw attention to a new brand for craft-beer consumers.

The industry in Victoria has already grabbed the attention of beer lovers around the region and beyond.

“Victoria’s strong history as Canada’s craft beer capital is certainly a drawing card for tourists,” said Wiebe. “More and more, beer lovers are travelling to places specifically to visit breweries and taste beers in places they’ve never been before.”

Wiebe said that’s why they started the B.C. Ale Trail to raise awareness of the B.C. craft beer scene.

Paul Nursey, chief executive of Destination Greater Victoria, which partners with the B.C. Ale Trail to promote the industry, said beer definitely plays a role in drawing new visitors to the Island.

“Craft beer is one of several experiential focuses of Destination Greater Victoria marketing efforts and many local craft brewers are members of Destination Greater Victoria,” he said. “The craft beer industry in Victoria has grown substantially in the past few years.”

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