JUNE/JULY 2005 | REGIONAL |
B.C. Brews News
By John Rowling
The Six Mile Pub in Victoria is celebrating
150 years of beer drinking on the banks of Millstream Creek.
Friday, July 13, 1855, was when Bill Parsons, ignoring the
inauspicious date, opened for business. Bill Parsons is alleged
to have been a senior London “Bobbie” who left
England in a hurry after one of his men was killed while he
was drinking at a party. Parsons
built the Parsons Bridge Hotel, as it was known, in 1855,
and beer has been served continually there ever since. Parsons
didn’t purchase his “country retail licence”
until the next year (perhaps encouraged to do so after paying
a fine of two pounds, 10 shillings). This made official what
is the oldest pub in B.C. still operating today.
The Six Mile was the heart of the community and was used
as a postal address when the stagecoaches began to run in
the 1880s. Roadhouses, as they were called (hence the name
Six Mile House), were dropping-off points for the mail. All
that’s left of Bill Parsons’s original hotel are
the bricks from the foundation that you see in today’s
fireplace. The hotel burned down in the late 1800s and was
completely rebuilt and expanded. During Prohibition, though
officially closed, the hotel continued to be a meeting place
for many locals, who went there to talk politics and drink.
Bootlegging was a popular sport, and Six Mile House was the
Today the enlarged pub has 250 seats, with another 75 on
the patio. With its gazebo and flower boxes, the patio is
one of the nicest spots in the neighbourhood on a summer evening.
There are 22 taps, with B.C. micros well represented. This
is a happy pub. The menus on the tables carry pictures of
the fun of last New Year’s Eve. This building has an
atmosphere about it that reeks of history. And so it should.
At the other end of the spectrum, Dix Barbecue &
Brewery in Vancouver’s trendy Yaletown district
is a relatively new pub. On the last Saturday of April, Dix
hosted the first Hop Madness: “all the meanest, gnarliest,
most challenging, highly hopped, aggressive, mind-blowing
IPAs in the province gathered together.” The event was
meant to be a cask-conditioned IPA fest, but not everyone
was prepared for that. In the end there were nine gravity-fed
casks, eight draughts and one Party Pig. This was a delightful
beer festival. It was small and intimate, and the beers were
wonderful. With virtually no lines, plenty of space and a
wonderful food menu, the afternoon passed all too quickly.
The beers ranged from plain and simple IPAs to taste challenges
such as Storm Brewing’s Wormwood IPA and Yaletown’s
Lavender IPA. The last produced quite a few comments: “Tasted
like Grandma’s old sock drawer” was one of the
printable ones. Iain Hill, Yaletown’s head brewer, said
he made it for fun, hoping to “make it smell like Grandma’s
drawers,” at which point I stopped writing down any
more comments. Storm’s Wormwood IPA has tincture of
wormwood added and was exceptionally bitter, especially at
the back of the tongue.
Hop Madness: “all
the meanest, gnarliest, most challenging, highly hopped,
aggressive, mind-blowing IPAs in the province gathered
By unanimous consent, the crowd favourite was Central City
Empire IPA. This was not cask-conditioned but was a superbly
balanced beer, finished with Amarillo and Crystal hops. It
was very drinkable and disappeared quickly. Gary Lohin, former
brewer at Sailor Hagar’s, has succeeded in introducing
several exciting new beers at Central City. Two more outstanding
entries (both cask-conditioned) were Old Yale Sergeant’s
IPA and Granville Island IPA. The Old Yale was finished with
East Kent Goldings and dry-hopped with Chinook hops. This
beer had recently been picked as the best of B.C.’s
bottled IPAs. The Granville Island IPA was very smooth with
a lovely maltiness. It was finished with Chinook and dry-hopped
Many brewers were present, and it was nice to be able to
discuss the beers with the people who made them. Tony DeWalt,
Dix’s head brewer, hosted the festival, together with
Keith Lemke of the Siebel Institute of Technology. Lyn Kruger,
president of the Siebel Institute, also was in attendance.
Both Rick and Barry of R&B Brewing were there, Barry proudly
showing off photos of his new twin boys.
There are three new beers we tasted especially for this magazine
from Phillips Brewing, available in 650-ml
bottles. Matt Phillips has obviously pushed the envelope and
raised the standard for B.C. beers.
The first beer was Longboat Double Chocolate Porter. There’s
lots of sweetish dark chocolate aroma in the nose, just like
opening a new box of chocolates. The beer is very dark red
with a tan head. It is smooth and surprisingly full-bodied
for a 5.2% abv beer. The initial taste of chocolate gives
way to chocolate, and then more chocolate! There’s a
bit of tartness at the beginning, but it has a nice, clean,
dry, mild hop finish. This beer would go very well with a
fruit tart, or you could drink it curled up with a good book
and a box of cherry chocolates!
Next was Black Toque India Dark Ale. This beer pours with
a nice dense head and has a gorgeous mahogany colour. It has
a beautiful fruity aroma, with an interesting interplay between
the roasted barley and the hops. The initial impression of
malty sweetness quickly gives way to hops. However, there’s
a long, lingering malt finish that dominates the hops. This
is a very good beer that is deceptively strong (6.5% abv).
It would go very well with curry or other rich meat dishes.
Last up was Amnesiac Double IPA. This has a deep amber-coppery
colour and a dense white head. Great aroma of candied orange
or marmalade from the very fruity and citrusy Pacific Northwest
hops. This is an extremely bitter beer that is well balanced
with lots of malt, creating a very clean flavour. Despite
being 8.5% abv, there is no heat from the alcohol, which is
testimony to the skill of the brewer. This beer is not for
the faint of heart but is so well balanced that it will make
hop fans everywhere sing its praises.
Six Mile Pub
494 Island Hwy.
Victoria, B.C. V9B-1H5
Dix Barbecue & Brewery
871 Beatty St.
Vancouver, B.C. V6B 2M6
John Rowling lives in Victoria, B.C., which,
according to him, is "a seven-brewery city: one for every
day of the week." He was CAMRA Victoria's first president,
and he is one of the founders of the Great Canadian Beer Festival.