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Great Canadian Beer Festival

This year’s sold-out 22nd Annual Great Canadian Beer Festival saw a whopping 249 beers being poured from 65 breweries across the country.

This festival prides itself on being the All-Canadian craft beer festival, traditionally held on the weekend following Labour Day in Victoria’s Royal Athletic Park.

Great Canadian Beer Festival

This two-day festival’s been on our radar for several years now and we’re finally glad to have been able to check it out. The atmosphere is wonderful, friendly and we learned lots about some up-and-coming beers as well as old favourites.

New this year is a Quebec pavilion featuring Les Trois Mousquetaires, Dieu du Ciel, Le Trou De Diable and Brasseurs San Gluten.

Great Canadian Beer Festival

Once in the park, it feels rather daunting to try and figure out your game plan. The guide has a map that also includes each brewery, the style of beers on offer and its booth number.

How we organized our two days at GCBF? We just picked our must-visits, wrote each booth number on the front of our guide, and went at it!

Great Canadian Beer Festival

The $40 entrance fee per day doesn’t include beer tokens (at $1.50 per). You decide how much to drink as token sellers (aka friendly volunteers numbering over 400) are set up with tables with blue tokens in neat little rows near the entrance.

Before we broke into our bag of beer tokens, we were invited before the 3 pm opening to follow GCBF Director John Rowling around the site for a preview.

Great Canadian Beer Festival
[John ringing the festival opening bell]

Our first stop is at Dieu du Ciel for a sample of Rosée D’Hibiscus). This rose-coloured wheat beer contains the addition of hibiscus flowers added during brewing. Beer Advocate rates Dieu du Ciel as one of the top five breweries in the world!

Great Canadian Beer Festival
[Glutenberg Blonde]

Brasseurs San Gluten is pouring a Glutenberg Blonde, our next sip on the tour. Dry and citrusy for sure, this will appeal to light-bodied beer fans and gluten-intolerant drinkers alike.

Great Canadian Beer Festival

Steel & Oak Brewing is based in New West and offers a few beers at the festival, including the Roggen Weizen, with banana/clove/malty rye and wheat notes with a distinct banana cream pie and clove taste. If the combo doesn’t sound appealing, try it! It’s delicious. Open since June 2014, this brewery’s now on our radar.

At Four Winds Brewing, we sampled the Juxtapose Wild IPA, using a propagated wild Belgian yeast imparting tropical fruit notes that play off the hops.

Great Canadian Beer Festival

Our final stop on the tour was at Axe and Barrel, a local brewery formerly known as Loghouse Pub. Their IPA uses Columbus and Horizon hops, dry-hopped using Australian trifecta of Summer, Topaz and Ella for depth and tropical aroma. Axe & Barrel beers are only available at the pub (pints and growlers). Soon the space will undergo renovation and reopen with a BBQ brewhouse; bottling and packaging will follow.

Great Canadian Beer Festival

17 different fruit beers represented as well, along with sour and cask-aged beers. Spinnakers collaborated with Merridale Cider to create a dry-hopped house cider marrying Amarillo hops with 100% BC-grown apples. Refreshing!

Great Canadian Beer Festival

A half dozen food vendors (from perogies to Filipino cuisine), water stations and a live band completed the picture.

Visit GCBF online and plan on making it to the 2016 festival! We sure hope to.

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