It’s another hot summer day as Dean McLeod turns the sprinkler off and proceeds to tap a metal hoop further across the bulge of a barrel’s staves.
“We use [a garden] sprinkler to keep them moist or they can dry out and crack, especially in a hot summer like this,” McLeod said.
This summer the head brewer of Victoria Caledonian Brewery and Distillery has been using the whiskey hogshead barrels to special age a batch of Holy Willie’s Robust Porter for an upcoming seasonal that will appear in 650-millilitre bottles, or ‘bombers.’ It helps that the distillery half of Caledonian has brought in a load of pre-aged whiskey barrels (including the strong peated styles of Islay, and the more popular Speyside) for its in-house whiskey blend, which is for sale on site at the Enterprise Crescent tasting room.
The whiskey-aged porter will also appear at the 25th anniversary edition of the Great Canadian Beer Festival, Sept. 8 and 9 at Royal Athletic Park.
Joe Wiebe, author of Craft Beer Revolution, confimed the growing craft beer industry is not slowing down. Already, six breweries have opened on Vancouver Island since McLeood first poured Twa Dogs in August 2016.
“It’s been a nice little boom of new breweries opening on the South Island, with more on the way,” Wiebe said.
With so many breweries opening, Beer Fest has become a go-to event for beer geeks like Wiebe – a well-travelled craft beer writer – to keep updated on B.C.’s constantly expanding industry.
Surprisingly, there’s still tickets available, partly due to a circulating myth that Beer Fest still sells out in eight minutes (which it has done), though there’s a growing waiting list for breweries to join the festival.
“I’m getting emails from people begging me for tickets, and I’m just telling them to go to the site,” laughs Gerry Hieter, chair and co-founder of GCBF. “For years we did sell out in eight minutes, but not this year.”
While tickets are available, booths for breweries aren’t.
Going into 2018, Hieter expects a 40-booth waitlist for Beer Fest as there are currently 151 breweries in B.C. but only 68 booths at the festival.