West Coast Journey: Moon Under Water Brewpub

Early May in southern Ontario usually means warm breezy sunny days, while Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland of B.C. typically get pelted with cold winds and rain. However, the weather patterns of these two regions somehow got swapped this year — Ontario endured its coldest spring in many years, with snow and garden-killing frosts and what seemed to be endless weeks of rain, while southern B.C. basked in record-breaking summer-like weather.

I only mention this because I had spent most of the morning walking under the unexpectedly hot sun, travelling by Shank’s mare from my hotel in downtown Victoria to the industrial area where the Driftwood and Hoyne breweries are located. I had worked up a powerful thirst, and the official tour at Vancouver Island Brewery didn’t start for another hour or so; serendipitously, Jason Meyer of Driftwood had recommended that I stop in at a nearby brewpub.

Moon Under Water Brewpub

Moon Under Water Brewpub

So just as the sun rose over the yard arm (nautical parlance for “the bar is open”), I found myself outside the Moon Under Water Brewpub. (It takes its curious name from a 1946 essay, “The Moon Under Water” by George Orwell, in which he described ten attributes that defined the perfect pub. He himself admitted that even his own favourite local only met eight of the criteria.)

The pub shares a small commercial property with a beauty supply store, and is surrounded by similar-looking buildings that house various light industries; its view across the road is a gravel depot. All in all, perhaps not the ideal location for a craftbrew pub. However, the view inside is considerably more pleasant — cool and dim, with a lot of wood and copper. I tried to resist the siren song of cold beer, but step by step, against my will, I found myself drawn to the bar.

That last sentence is a complete and utter fiction. In fact I hustled across the room so fast, a breeze whistled in my wake.

Four beers

L to R: weizenbock, IPA, dunkel, pilsner

In short order, the bartender had set me up with samples of their four regular beers: a hazy hefeweizen, a rich nutty dunkel, a nice IPA and a crisp pilsner, all unfiltered. When I say “regular” beers, I mean “always on tap”, not “bland and mainstream” — there was nothing bland about these. The IPA was a get down and git ‘er done northwest IPA pulling about 60-70 IBUs. The other three were German styles, but each had a unique Pacific twist. The pilsner was more bitter than most and the citrus notes definitely came from some northwest hops such as Amarillo or Cascade. The hefeweizen had a typical spicy clove and banana nose, but there was also a hint of passionfruit, perhaps from some New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops. And the dunkel had a big rich sweet nuttiness that made it a meal in a glass. In fact I wasn’t going to have time for lunch before I skedaddled over to Vancouver Island Brewing for their 1 p.m. tour, so I chose a pint of the Creepy Uncle Dunkel, a proper barley sandwich to sustain me.

Gate

Gate to brewhouse, handcrafted by brewmaster’s step-father.

As the bartender poured my pint, I mentioned that it was curious to see a pub in Victoria, last bastion of the British Empire and heartland of the British ale style, serving so many German-style beers. It turns out that the brewmaster,  Clay Potter,  is a local boy who was yet another university student led astray by brewing. Despite earning a degree in genetics, Clay became as an assistant at a Victoria brewery. Eventually he headed off to earn an MSc in brewing at Heriot Watt University in Scotland, and while there, he and his new wife spent a lot of time visiting European bars and breweries. Back in B.C., he got a job at a local brewery but harboured a dream of opening his own place and putting a distinctive B.C. twist to the old German styles he had tasted in Europe. When a small Victoria brewpub with a German brewhouse came up for sale, Clay’s entire family joined the venture. (His mother is now the bookeeper, his wife is the hospitality manager, and his stepfather, owner of a metal shop, helped renovate the interior — the gate to the brewhouse is his work.)

Copper kettle

Kettle and whirlpool. I can see myself in the polished copper.

Unfortunately for me, Clay was not on the premises, but the bartender opened the gate to the brewing area and let me take a quick walk around to look at the very sweet copper-clad 10-hL system. Like Tofino Brewing, which also makes unfiltered beers, Moon Under Water has a dedicated whirlpool to remove as much trub as possible after the boil.

And I have to say, not trying to put a knock on other breweries, but this had to be the cleanest brewery I have ever seen. The floors were spotless. The equipment gleamed —  even the copper exterior of the kettle, which tarnishes notoriously fast. Amazing.

The quick tour over, it seemed like it was time for another pint. Alas, if I was going to get to my official tour at Vancouver Island Brewing on time, I would have to leave now. But I promise to return some day for another pint of Creepy Uncle.

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One Comment on “West Coast Journey: Moon Under Water Brewpub”


  1. I would have to say this is the perfect location for a brew pub. All the workers in the hood need a place for lunch and after work brews.


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