Joe Wiebe, producer of Victoria Beer Week, gears up for the nine-day festival of craft beer by drinking a Vienna coffee beer, a lager style brew from Breakside Brewery at The Drake Beer Parlour. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Victoria Beer Week celebrates ‘five years of cheers’

Nine-day craft beer festival delves into home brew workshops, food pairings and a road trip to Sooke

Nine days, 13 events and 50 breweries from across B.C. – welcome to Victoria Beer Week.

It’s “five years of cheers” as the annual celebration of all things craft beer returns, March 2 to 10. The Victoria Public Market will serve as host venue for most of the planned events, but as the craft beer scene continues to grow here on the Island, so too has Beer Week, says producer Joe Wiebe.

“Awareness of craft beer has been growing geographically in the last several years,” he says. “It’s definitely focused mainly in the urban centres, but then it grows from there.”

Wiebe points to brewpubs like Axe and Barrel in Langford, or Category 12 Brewing in Central Saanich, for expanding the culture into more suburban centres.

And, it’s catching on. In Sooke alone – a community of just 13,000 – there are now three craft breweries. The tasting culture has played a big role in that, Wiebe notes, making it accessible to a lot more people.

“I love seeing when women or senior couples come out to some of our events,” he says. “It’s great to see them out enjoying themselves in an environment so long dominated by young men.”

Wiebe says the name of the game for Beer Week is all about giving each event a theme, so it’s “not just about going out and throwing beer down your throat.”

So, take your pick from beer school, to the home brewing workshop, a quiz night, or multiple evenings of food pairings with pizza, gelato, fish, tacos, and even cheese.

“People always think cheese and they think wine, but beer is so versatile, you have such a huge range of flavour options available to you,” Wiebe explains.

As Beer Week gets set to say “Hoppy Birthday,” there are even a few firsts this year – wine will be on tap at the headline event and a performance from The Susannah Adams Trio will throw some live music into the mix. As well, the $75 ticket price for the main event is all-inclusive, essentially an all-you-can-drink type party.

But it’s really not about people getting wasted, Wiebe says.

In a province where roughly 20 or more breweries are opening every year, you want to make sure you taste what you’re drinking, because as Wiebe points, the quality of beer just keeps getting better.

“I’m consistently amazed at what they can accomplish,” he says, of the creative minds driving the passion that continues to fuel today’s craft beer scene.

So, what does Wiebe recommend pouring into your glass?

“The hazy IPA thing is still the cutting edge,” he says, as well as those love ‘em or hate ‘em sour brews. “But, I almost always want to start my night off with a good, hefty lager.”

For more info, visit Victoria Beer Week online and grab tickets now – they’re going fast.

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