Second chances don’t always work out. Third chances can be even harder to get, let alone succeed at, which means that when you go for it, you really have to go big or go home.
Vancouver Island Brewing tried their second chance last March. New logos, designs, and beers were launched with great fanfare as well as pomp and circumstance. Ultimately though, it seems the feedback and results were both lacking in excitement, and the fanfare faded quickly.
Fast forward to now, and there’s a whole new playbook coming from a group of folks that should really just call themselves “The Goonies” as they will never say die.
Recently, there were three launch parties, with a Tuesday night happening at The Flying Canoe Pub in Courtenay, Wednesday night at the 10 Acres Bistro in Victoria, and Thursday night on the Lower Mainland at The Local Public Eatery in Kitsilano. This was the introduction of the newest version, bringing the Island back to Vancouver Island Brewing. The logo has reincorporated the orca, the artwork acknowledges the place where we live, and the names are still rooted in the history here.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the event in Victoria, and in stark contrast to last year’s event, this felt more at home. It was a relaxed atmosphere, the folks from VIB were there, approachable, and actually seemed excited to talk about the changes ahead as well as the beer, because all things considered, the beer will always be the most important factor.
In speaking with some of the team, the consensus is that there is a great deal more freedom to make exciting beers that don’t necessarily have to conform to certain predetermined rules, which, if you look around the brewing industry today, happens to be one of the traits of some of the more exciting breweries out there. On the other side of the coin, there is also a need to acknowledge the people who have been drinking your beers for the last few decades, so classics have to be a part of your lineup.
The summer lineup consisted of 5 beers being poured in gorgeous new pint glasses that will definitely make CAMRA members happy to see a fill line for a 20 oz pour.
Back from a lengthy departure is Islander Lager. This no-nonsense lager is easy drinking and definitely brings back memories of what this company used to brew. At 5%, this beer also shows that the ABV cap of 4.8% on the beers coming out of the brewery is a thing of the past.
One of the other beers to see a return is the new version of Black Betty, now known as Twisted Stalk Blackberry Helles. This iteration seems to carry more ripe blackberry flavours compared to what I remember drinking before, and will definitely be a nice option on the patio this summer.
Looking forward now, there’s a little something for everyone. The first new addition is the Faller Northwest Pale Ale. Before you read into that, no, this isn’t replacing Piper’s. This pale ale brings a bit more of a bitter hop bite to start, and is held up by a distinct malt backbone.
Next up, Broken Islands Hazy IPA. Everyone will say they’ve simply jumped on the haze craze bandwagon, but this beer is light enough and has bright hop character to it to make it a great starter IPA for people who don’t want to be overwhelmed, while still having more character than your run of the mill ISA with 6% ABV and 57 IBU.
Finally, the highlight of the night for me was the Ukidama Lychee Saison. The Saison backbone is there, and has a bright tart sweetness that carried notes of tropical fruit, citrus and melon. This alongside a lot of the bright seafood dishes that this city has to offer is a perfect fit. This is the beer that definitely indicated to me that we can expect more outside the box beers from them in the future.
Time will tell what the people have to say about these beers, but one thing has to be acknowledged is the desire to bring Vancouver Island Brewing back into a more relevant light.
Some of the new beers are already available in liquor stores now, with more to come soon.