Posted tagged ‘Sean Hoyne’

Back to Victoria: Phillips Brewing

July 1, 2015

After visiting CANOE and Lighthouse, you might think that I had already enjoyed my fair share of beer and beer talk. And normally you might be right. But here’s something you might not know about Victoria: ALL the downtown shops and stores close at 5:00 p.m. That means there’s very little to do except walk  down to the harbour and watch the seagulls. Or look for a restaurant or bar. And drink beer. And talk about beer.

tapas & beer

Hoyne Pilsner and a shared plate

Luckily, Elaine & I have experienced Victoria’s early closing hours, and we did what we have done on several occasions in the past: we had dinner at one of our favourite spots, the Tapa Bar in Trounce Alley. Trounce Alley is one of those impossibly cute tourist draws, a narrow Victorian alley chock-a-block with tiny but trendy shops. And the Tapa Bar has been there as long as we can remember, well before tapas (shared plates) became popular.

Looking for a good all-round beer that can pair to a lot of Spanish-inspired dishes, I decided on Hoyne Pilsner, made just a few blocks away by Sean Hoyne and his crew. It turned out to be an inspired choice, the crisp noble hops giving an extra oomph to each of the locally-sourced garlic-spiced sharing plates.


Perfect latte

Our dinner only emphasized how much Victoria (and frankly, a lot of BC) is a foodie heaven. Even in a small restaurant, everything always looks and tastes so good. The next morning, even a latte in the hotel bar was presented with a sense of calm perfection.

Over our caffeine fix, Elaine discussed what to do and where to go before we had to head back up Island. First up, we decided, would be Phillips Brewing.

What is your emergency back-up beer? You know, when you’re in a restaurant that only has the standard mix of American and European lagers courtesy of AB Inbev, MolsonCoors and Heineken? Thankfully, when I’m in British Columbia, I usually don’t have that problem — even in restaurants that don’t carry a lot of craft beer, I often find Phillips Blue Buck on the menu, a well-balanced northwest-style pale ale with a bright nose and a snappy finish with a that goes well with a variety of dishes. It also happens to be Phillips’ best-selling beer.

Phillips Brewing

The funky exterior of Phillips Brewing

Matt Phillips opened the doors of his new brewery in nearby Esquimault in 2001 as the only employee, and quickly made his hoppy beers a mainstay of the northwest craft scene. Two moves later, and the brewery, now located in Victoria, has over 40 employees. And although the brewery makes many styles, it still has something of a reputation for beautifully bitterness — Phillips brewers have never been afraid to add another handful of hops. Or two handfuls.


Bottle organ

The exterior of the present location has that funky, eclectic “what should I do with these spare parts?” sort of exterior. The tasting room is likewise rather funky, complete with an organ made with beer bottles. And although it was empty when we entered at 11 am, that didn’t last for long — over the next thirty minutes, a variety of locals and regulars entered to get their growlers refilled.

We were greeted by Matt (not Matt Phillips who had founded the brewery, just Matt), who quickly poured me a sample of beer. Wow, for sure they aren’t afraid to use hops. As a matter of fact, of the 15 beers produced on a regular basis, no less than seven are what you might describe as hoppy.


Lots of fermenters inside…

After a few more samples, Matt took us on a quick tour. And what we saw is pretty neat. The 30-hL brewhouse is certainly capable of pumping out a lot of brews each year, but it’s the number of fermenters I found impressive. We counted four rows of them, filling up what seemed to be all available space. In fact, they did take up all the available space — in a major expansion a few years ago, Phillips had to move some of their fermenters outside, something you usually don’t see at a craft brewery. In total, they had  46 fermenters on site when we visited.

external fermenters

…and more fermenters outside.

They also were one of the first Canadian craft breweries to can their beer, added a beautiful Italian rotary canning line during that major expansion. Over the past year, canning has become the fad du jour in Ontario, but was definitely not common at craft breweries even just three or four years ago.

Back to the tasting room for a few more samples — Matt seemed determined to get me to taste every one of the current beers on tap, and I have to admit, I didn’t put up much of a fight.


Chocolate Porter + Raspberry Wheat. Amazing.

The best was saved for last, however: the final sample was a beer cocktail (a “beertail”?) that Matt made by mixing half Longboat Chocolate Porter and half Raspberry Wheat. The resulting colour was a beautiful chestnut. The nose was a decadent and heady mix of fruity chocolate. And the taste…

I fell to the ground, crying tears of joy.

It was with some difficulty that Elaine got me out the door, and only after I had purchased bottles of the Chocolate Stout and Raspberry Wheat in order to reproduce this magical ambrosia for friends and family.



West Coast Journey: Hoyne Brewing

June 9, 2013

Having just completed a visit to Driftwood Brewery in Victoria, I was standing outside their front door contemplating where to go next when I happened to glance across the parking lot into an open delivery door. Surely those couldn’t be fermenters. I mean, how could you have two breweries looking at each other across the same parking lot?

Hoyne Brewing

View from the delivery door.

I ambled over, took a peek inside and sure enough, it was a very small but clean and efficient looking brewery. Three or four employees were busy at various tasks around what looked to be ten fermenters. A polite inquiry gave me the word that I was looking at Hoyne Brewing, and a few minutes later, Sean Hoyne came out to chat.

I actually knew Sean’s name before I met him — when I had been working on a college project a few months ago, I had sent an email to various brewers asking for some advice on the added cost of ingredients in remote places like Vancouver Island; Sean was one of the brewers who had taken the time to reply.

Sean has been a major force in Victoria brewing for many years. In 1989, in the early years of the craft beer movement, he helped open the brewery at Swan’s Hotel, eventually becoming the brewmaster there. In 1998, he set up the Canoe brewpub and was brewmaster for 13 years. At both of those locations he not only raised the bar for craft beer quality and diversity, but he also trained a new generation of brewers, many of whom have gone on to great things. Two years ago, Sean left Canoe to open his very own brewery. He found what he thought was the perfect location for a 10-hL brewhouse — right across the parking lot from Driftwood Brewery. I’m sure you can imagine the conversation if Labatt came to Molson and asked to set up a brewery right next door. However, this is the world of craft beer, where there is not only an air of collaboration, but also the recognition that having more breweries and more products actually strengthens everyone by creating more consumer awareness. So Driftwood gave Sean the thumbs up.

A 10-hL brewhouse is not very large — only twice the capacity of our small brewery at Niagara College — but that was probably a good thing, because when he started, he was the only employee. Today, less than two years later, it looks like he has lots of help.

Their website lists several regular offerings, including two types of pale ale, IPA, pilsner, red lager, espresso stout and bock, and one limited release, a strong (9% abv) winter warmer; alas, Hoyne Brewing has flown under my personal radar, and I have not tasted any of Sean’s beers yet. I will be sure to correct this deficiency on my next visit to B.C.

My Post-Apocalyptic Life

The world has ended, but movies and games live on.

Married to Beer

Seeing the humour in a spouse who loves suds!

Ruminations of a Canadian Geek

The thoughts and ruminations of a university chemistry and roleplaying geek

Madly Off In All Directions

A blog about whatever strikes my fancy...

It's what's on tap...

Brewing, mostly.