This is it,” I murmured under my breath as I walked into Hoyne Brewing Company’s tasting room. This was the first of many “this is it” moments I would have in Victoria, British Columbia each utterance leaving a pleasant taste, both literally and figuratively.  One tasting flight I was throwing a variety pack of Hoyne’s flagship beer into my basket, flipped up my kickstand, and pedaled to the next brewery.

That’s right pedaled, as in on a bicycle. This was stop No. 2 on a biking brewery crawl, what’s been dubbed “Hoppy Hour,” by The Pedaler, a downtown bicycle shop and tour organizer. The tour winds through neighborhoods, over trestles, and past quiet parks hugging the water. The first stop was at Phillips Brewing. There I sampled brews watching as locals lined up to fill their weekend growlers. Evidently this is an integral part of Victoria culture— each brewery I stopped in saw neighboring folk coming in to do the same.

Following an afternoon of pilsners, IPAs, hefes, pale ales, and chocolate stouts, it was time to see what Victoria had in the way of cocktails. This was where my next “this is it” moment took place. Clive’s Classic Lounge, in the hotel Chateau Victoria near Victoria’s Inner Harbour, has consistently been named one of the best bars in the world. I walked through the hotel’s chic glass doors and toward the entrance of a generic-looking hotel bar.

What was standard in style, Clive’s made up for in know-how. Here, they were only about the ingredients. What they do—making drinks that you’ve never heard of with spirits and ingredients you’ve probably never heard of either—they do with precision. While my intention was to only have one drink, three hours later and I was nomming on poutine and getting educated by a bartender on the Tiki-style program and their limited and rare spirits. Meanwhile, I was trying to suck every last drop from my Savage Garden Tiki concoction, featuring Brugal Añejo Dominican rum, Marquis de Villard French brandy, Luxardo Morlacco, house-made Cola syrup, and fresh grapefruit juice. It goes without saying that many of their syrups, bitters, and garnishes are house-made.

On the second day, I was ready to see what lay beyond the city limits of Victoria. I liked what I came across, but not before I had another “this is it” moment.

Following the signs for “Victoria Spirits” I drove down a little-maintained road, pulled into a driveway, and yet again said “this is it,” as I parked in front of a small farmhouse. Distiller Phil Lecours introduced himself and led me to the downstairs distilling room where a wood-fired still was warming up to make a batch of gin.

Phil walked me through their gin-making process from start to finish and gave me the rundown of their line of products. While Victoria Spirits’ gin (Canada’s first premium gin) is their flagship, they also have an aged gin, called Oaken, which piqued the interest of this whiskey-loving drinker. The Oaken is aged a year, giving it a darker tint and that oak-y flavor. While its lovely with tonic, which I tried with their house-made grapefruit bitters, Phil also recommended treating it as you would a whiskey, neat or in traditional drinks like a sour or mint julep.

My last stop had me staying a while at Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse; which yes, is in fact a house that makes cider and overlooks the sea. This is something of a destination cidery. You can absolutely make a day of it here walking through the orchard, enjoying lunch on the outdoor patio overlooking the orchard and sea, and going through a flight in the tasting room.

“Yes,” I responded without hesitation, when my waitress asked me if I would like the long flight. And a long flight it was: generous pours of their eight regular ciders and a trio of dessert wines, such as their 18% ABV Pommeau, which is something of an appertif. Also included was a seasonal pear. Unlike many of the beers and spirits mentioned, Sea Cider’s distribution reaches the U.S., primarily the Pacific Northwest, where several of their ciders are available, including the Pippins, which is comparable to mainstream ciders. Their other ciders stay closer to home and may throw your taste buds into a hissy. The Pomona dessert wine drinks like a port, and the Rumrunner, a 12.5% ABV cider, is aged in oak bourbon barrels that have been laced with rum.

It’s easy to hop on a bike or rent a car to get to the fringes of Victoria. There you’ll find a drink culture that’s still deeply founded on the roots of booze, be it honing the craft of pilsners, mastering the art of absinthe, or putting a spin on apple cider making. In a time when it seems to be more about innovation and the next big thing, it’s nice to see a destination focusing on the basics.

Hoyne Brewing Company

2740 Bridge St.
Victoria, BC Canada
+1 250-590-5758
Hours: Wednesday – Friday 2 – 6 P.M.
Saturday 11 A.M. – 6 P.M.

The Pedaler

719 Douglas Street
Victoria, BC, Canada
+1 778-265-RIDE (7433)
Hours: Monday – Sunday 9 A.M. – 6 P.M.

Phillips Brewing

2010 Government St.
Victoria, BC, Canada
+1 250-380-1912

Hours: Monday 10 A.M. – 5 P.M.
Tuesday – Thursday 10 A.M. – 6 P.M.
Friday 10 A.M. – 7 P.M.
Saturday 11 A.M. – 6 P.M.

Clive’s Classic Lounge

740 Burdett Ave.
Victoria, BC, Canada
+1 250-361-5684
Hours: Monday – Wednesday 11 A.M. – 12 A.M.
Thursday – Friday 11 A.M. – 1 A.M.
Saturday 5 P.M. – 1 A.M.

Victoria Spirits

6170 Old West Saanich Rd.
Victoria, BC, Canada
+1 250-544-8217
Hours: Weekdays by appointment
Weekends 11 A.M. – 5 P.M.

Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse

2487 Mt. St. Michael Rd.
Saanichton, BC, Canada
+1 250-544-4824
Hours: Monday – Sunday 11 A.M. – 4 P.M.