Us guys went to GCBF the other weekend in Victoria for what was an epic beer festival. We left bright and early on Saturday morning and caught the 9AM ferry to make our way downtown before noon. We parked where we were staying at Swans Hotel, but couldn’t check in until later that afternoon, and so headed out to start our day. After a merely adequate breakfast at John’s Place, we walked over to the Royal Athletic Park where the beer festival was to be held. It was a very hot, very beautiful late summer day for BC, perfect weather for an outdoor beer festival.
Now I’d heard that Saturday was the rowdier of the two beer festival days, but was still blown away by the level of rowdiness. I figured that the stellar craft beer lineup would attract a crowd of beer enthusiasts. However, I think its safe to say that over 90% of Saturday GCBF patrons were college age folk out for a good time. I’d also surmise that the majority of attendees had little to no interest in the quality and craftsmanship of the beer on hand, which isn’t to say they didn’t consume it in large quantities. I was actually quite shocked at just how much of a party atmosphere there really was. Many groups of people made themselves beerfest costumes or uniforms running the gamut from team jerseys to spandex super hero outfits. What with the hot weather and masses of inebriated youth, some might even suggest that far too many people were wearing inappropriately little. In my opinion, the appropriateness of any lack of clothing depended squarely on the attractiveness of the particular person.
As for the beer itself, there was a good variety of deliciousness available. My biggest problem with the beer selection was that there were more beers on hand than were advertised in the program. I failed to stop by at a few of my favorite breweries because it didn’t look like they had prepared anything special. It was to my great dismay to later find I’d missed out on a few unique brews, most notably a Blackberry Lambic from Driftwood Brewery. As for the rest, I was very intrigued by many of the Washington and Oregon brewers made the trek. I was also disappointed with our BC brewers who merely offered their regular brews. I’d hoped for some more interesting brews from some of my local heroes.
There were no beer tokens included in the price of admission, which irked me a little. Tokens cost between $1 and $2 each, depending on how many you bought at a time, and many of the tastes required two tokens. It is for this reason that I did not try nearly as many beers as I thought I would. I kept it mainly to unique to the area or cask conditioned brews, ignoring the draft versions of some of my favorites. Notable standouts to me included:
- Boundary Bay cask conditioned Oatmeal Stout
- Central City cask conditioned Imperial IPA
- Crannog Back Hand of God Organic Stout
- Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
- Elysian Brewing cask conditioned The Wise ESB, Night Owl Pumpkin, and Saison Poivre
- Lagunitas Lucky 13
- Longwood Brewpub cask conditioned ESB
- Swans cask conditioned Scotch Ale
It might have been good that I tried less GCBF beers than I’d planned on because it enabled me to enjoy the rest of the evening. We returned to Swans to check in and then went down to the pub for a few tasters. We then spent our evening on the patio at The Canoe Club before wandering over to Spinnakers for a completely unnecessary nightcap. We had to make our way back in the morning to pickup some of their delightful malt vinegar, which Spinnakers makes themselves. Also, if you are ever in Victoria and in need of breakfast, head to Mole. It was outstanding.
It was my first trip to GCBF and I enjoyed it. If I lived in Victoria, I would go every year. However, having to come over on the ferry from Vancouver and requiring a hotel have me questioning future trips. While the beer selection was good, it wasn’t outstanding enough to warrant the expensive journey. I consider more accessible beer events like Dix Caskivals and the Washington Cask Beer Festival more enjoyable. What would be even better is a GCBF in Vancouver too.