The Beer Series: Part 2 of 5
Started in 1984 by a small group of beer-crazy locals, Vancouver Island Brewery (VIB) was the Island's first craft brewery.
Originally producers of draught-only products for pub customers, through steadfast local support VIB began to grow and expand their range of beers.
In 1995 they outgrew their original location in a small warehouse in Central Saanich and made the decision to build a new brewery on Government Street where they've been located ever since. Despite their workforce increasing from a meagre six employees in 1984 to over 40 today, VIB still sells approximately 80% of their beer on the Island.
VIB isn't afraid to pay a little more in order to secure the best ingredients and all their beers are made with 100% barley malt; cheaper grains like rice or corn are nowhere to be found. Their current roster of brews include the year-round Piper's Pale Ale, Hermann's Dark Lager, High Trail Honey Ale, Sea Dog Amber Ale - one of General Manager Rob Ringma's personal favourites - and Vancouver Islander Lager; and the seasonal Storm Watcher Winter Lager, Dough Head Gingerbread Ale and Hermannator Ice Bock - voted best beer in B.C. and another favourite of Ringma's. They also produce limited releases including Absolute Darkness India Dark Ale, Black Betty Blackberry Saison and Flying Tanker White IPA.
Drawing inspiration from their surroundings, VIB is a local company through and through. They strive to employ local workers wherever possible and the bulk of their profits go right back into the local economy, including spending over $100,000 a year to sponsor community events.
Inspiration for their individual beers can come from anywhere. Employees will often get together and spit-ball about different beers they like, they've seen or heard of, or they've imagined, and it'll go from there. Once a rough idea is in place, it will then go into their pilot system which produces a 40 litre one-of batch. If the beer is a hit, VIB will move ahead with full production. The Doughhead and Flying Tanker are both examples of successful pilot project beers.
Plans and Aspirations
VIB isn't aspiring to world domination. Their plans are first and foremost to continue serving the local market and then to further amplify their presence in the rest of B.C. Being in the business of "help[ing] promote and advocate beer culture", VIB will strive to do just that. With beer becoming more of an "occasion beverage", the complexity of beer culture and appreciation has grown in recent years. This is something VIB has taken note of and their future plans will cater to this increased complexity. This means more summer seasonal beers, more barrel-aging and delving into wonderful world of sour beers. As well, with their 30th anniversary coming up this year, expect something big!