Victoria Breweries and Sights

For the lover of Art, Coffee, Beer and Diversions, here are some fun tips for a Victoria BC trip, and a reflection on story telling as well as random hedonistic enjoyment.



Sights and Stories:

Swans Brewery & Pub

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Local Victoria developer Michael Williams (whose estate was donated in 2000 to the University of Victoria to create UVic properties) purchased the run-down building in 1987 and opened Swans in 1989 [pub history].

Brew master Frank Appleton, who helped to start Horseshoe Bay Brewery in 1982 and Victoria's Spinnakers Brew Pub in 1984, helped kick off the Swan's Pub, together with his then apprentice Sean Hoyne of Hoyne Brewing fame. Interestingly they also helped start another one of my favourite US breweries: Oregon's Deschutes Brewery!

Image removed.Source: CBC News Apr 29, 2021, "B.C. brewers mourn the loss of craft beer pioneer Frank Appleton"

Our beer flight took us to Scotland, the West Coast, and German Oktoberfest:

Scotch Porter - like the smell of an old wood polished and historic varnish stairway, pleasant but unsurprising.
Elder Swan IPA - rather non-descript; not much of a taste bud challenge.
West coast IPA - much better than expected ! Does not give a lot away for the nose and has an easy start, but a nice bitter butt end for the bang and bursts of bubble bath for the tongue.

Flammenbeer - absolutely amazing. Peaty and smokey , fantastic ! If you like an islay whiskey like Laphroaig (as we do), or the smoked black tea Lapsang-Souchong, this is the beer for you. Drink in the smells of a wood-fireplace on a cold winter's day.

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Whistle Buoy

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We really enjoyed the visit to Whistle Buoy, a brewery and tasting room at Victoria's market square. We sampled the following:

  • Coastability Pale Ale - smooth with very slight gooseberry twinge at the end
  • Tiramisu desert - OMG. A sweet coffee stout, latte smoothness, creamy thickness with honey sweetness - amazing. Guilty pleasure like a giddy girlfriend
  • Chocolate death bourbon barrel aged imperial stout . Mature barrel dark chocolate bar - firm and strong.

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We took home a fair sampling of the Tiramisu and Chocolate Death so as to die the most pleasant demise imaginable.

Whistle Buoy also has a selection of board games available.

They are at Marketsquare which is a lovely browsing area with shops and restaurants, as well as a curiosity shop should you want to take home a random bird skeleton or two.

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A Tale of Two Alleys

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As I followed the duck down the white rabbit hole of search results for Victoria (BC) history, I noticed that there were a number of flavours of the origin stories for historical buildings or part of the city.

Firstly, the 'discovery-development' narrative that disregards anything preceding European entry. Secondly, the story that focuses on the founding family, the named individual who builds a business, and leaves a legacy.

And finally, specifically for non-European neighbourhoods, the mention of the non-descript masses and hints of salacious illegality. Since the rabbit hole never bottoms out unless one lands in the puddle, I thought I'd explore these two narratives.

Wood-paved Waddington Alley

Bill Cleverley, from the Times Colonist, tells the story of this alley as an enterpreneurial endeavour, led by a named individual in light of progress and development, a cliff hanger, and salvation at the end:

"The alley, which runs between Yates and Johnson streets, near Wharf Street, was named for Alfred Waddington, who created it to provide access to three lots he owned during the gold rush of 1858.
After Waddington died of smallpox in 1872, the deteriorating state of the alley raised public concerns. Ultimately, the complaints saw the alley paved with creosoted wooden blocks — complete with a metal carriage curb — at a cost of just under $1,000 in 1908. By 1942, it was the only wooden-block stretch of street left in Victoria.
The blocks almost disappeared in the 1980s, when the then-city engineer wanted to rip them up and asphalt the alley. Coun. Geoff Young, then in his first term in office, remembers walking by and seeing what was about to happen, and then taking the unprecedented step of asking city crews to stop their demolition work. Council decided in 1992 to preserve and restore the wooden-block alley." [Times Colonist 2017]

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Photo Michal Klajban - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 Image removed.

Similarly, the narrative for the Soda Water Factory, a beautiful brick building that can be found in the alley, created by a named individual:

In Waddington Alley at number 1315 you can find Morley's Soda Water Factory; one of the few industrial buildings in the Old Town District to survive from the boom period of the 1880s.
Constructed in 1884 for Christopher Morley, this building's original function - manufacturing soda water, lemonade, essences of peppermint and ginger, and a variety of syrups - illustrates how Victoria was evolving from a Hudson's Bay Company fort to a well established city in the late nineteenth century. The only building facing onto Waddington Alley, it is significant that Morley's Soda Water Factory has retained the key physical elements which identify it as a unique early industrial building in this area, including a carriageway leading through the building to a Klondike-era courtyard at its rear.
[Source: "Canada's Historic Places"]

ChinaTown's Fan Tan Alley

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ChinaTown's Fan Tan Alley, on the other hand, is described in various sources as follows:

"Named after the Chinese gambling game Fan-Tan, the alley was originally a gambling district with restaurants, shops, and opium dens.  [wikipedia]"

The inhabitants are the un-named masses with stereo-typed characteristics: "Like so many others, the Chinese were drawn here in the late 1850s by the promise of good fortune in the Fraser River gold fields.. The Chinese were hard workers, deferential and uncomplaining. Moreover, they were willing to perform menial tasks—labouring, market gardening, laundering and domestic work—that white men refused." [Focus on Victoria]

Fan-Tan is linked to to opium dens and crime - how different do we treat casinos and perceived 'white' types of gambling! I wonder if one were to look at descriptors for the various China towns in North America, how repetitive these terms may be. We relish the rush of illicitness while raising the bar of respectability to only the vices we partake in.

Yet - let's not let the narrative diminish the current moment and delight.

This alley is the narrowest street in Canada; at its narrowest point it is only 0.9 metres (35 in) wide. It was designated as a heritage property by the local government in 2001. Fan Tan Alley is also absolutely enjoyable. It provides endless browsing in very cute shops selling items ranging from new age crystals to artsy umbrellas.

The air is filled with fragrance of incense and amber and the sky is embroidered with red lanterns. There is no time here.

Victoria's ChinaTown

The old streets are lined with brick buildings from around 1900. We had a well-spent hour in a grocery store avoiding the restocking carts that travel the alleys at high speed, and finding spicey and sweet delights with the travel-bug inducing strange looking labels.

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Check out "Wander Victora" for more great information about China Town and this Map with a great walking tour.

Image removed. Image removed.Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and Chinese Public School, 1909 Image removed.

The Bent Mast - 1884

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The "Bent Mast" building gets a very personalized origin story:

"Facing west, the structure sits in the triangular lot formed by those two roads as they meet at Menzies Street. The house was built for John & Lizzie Chandler.  John had it built for his wife Lizzie, but they didn't ever make it their home. The reasons for this aren't clear but speculation ranges from disputes with local youth, stolen chickens, a smallpox scare to Lizzie's dislike of the back basement kitchen." [source: James Bay Beacon May 2015]

The large Victorian Arts & Crafts house was built in 1884 as residence. Extensive renovation work was done in 1912 which altered some of the architectural characteristics of the building and added the classic front porch. In 1946 it was changed into a rooming house, and has been a restaurant since the 1970s.

As a restaurant, well worth visiting and the price is very reasonable They have a very nice menu and a few hazy's and two Stout's including Hoyne Dark Matter which is always really good on tap.

Image removed.Picture: TripAdvisor

And in the same street less than a block away is a must-visit: James Bay Coffee and Books, the most lovely second hand book store and coffee shop, in another former home. Check out the book category descriptions!

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

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In 2014, Tanabe said:

...I try to avoid brush marks so that it looks as though the paint has just floated on...[8]

Another beautiful heritage home dating from 1889 houses the Art Gallery of Victoria.

They have a lovely bonsai display which can be viewed from one of the windows as well as an Asian art collection with Japanese katanas and a grand Chinese Bell, cast in 1641 during the Ming dynasty that was presented to the City of Victoria in 1903.

When we were there, they had a fascinating exhibition by Canadian artist of Japanese heritage such as Shizuye Takashima (1928-2005) and Takao Tanabe (b. 1926)
Shizuye Takashima was born in British Columbia in 1930. At age eleven Shizuye was sent with her family to the Japanese internment camp of New Denver in British Columbias interior. Following the war Shizuye studied art at the Ontario College of Fine Arts. After graduation she painted and worked as an instructor at her alma mater. Her experience in internment camps was the subject of an award-winning autobiographical book "A Child in Prison Camp".

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Born Takao Izumi in Seal Cove, today part of Prince Rupert, British Columbia,[1] the son of a commercial fisherman, he was interned with other Japanese-Canadians in the British Columbia interior during World War II.

Tanabe attended the Winnipeg School of Art, Winnipeg, Manitoba (1946–1949) and the  Brooklyn Museum Art School, New York City, and subsequently traveled and taught at various Colleges. [wikipedia]

In 1980, he returned to British Columbia where he lives and works on Vancouver Island. He is considered today a painter who primarily evokes the landscape of British Columbia in minimalist paintings.

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