Micro-breweries have flourished in Canada and abroad. For beer enthusiasts, there's something special about discovering local micro-breweries and tasting new and interesting beers.
I'm not a connoisseur of all things hoppy and malty, and I wouldn't put myself in the category of "beer enthusiasts", but I enjoy visiting tasting rooms and patios of local micro-breweries. In Victoria, of my favourite micro-breweries is Driftwood Brewery, located only about a 10-minute walk from our house, although I'm not even sure it still qualifies for the term "micro" anymore. Is there an official definition? Please share in the comments below if you know of one.
My other favourite one is the Mayne Island Brewery Company, or the MIBC.
I think this one is a "nano" brewery, because they're a "small batch" operation, brewing only 140 litres at a time, usually about three times a week.
The brewery's located at 490 Fernhill Road, pretty much in the centre of Mayne Island. It's about a 16-minute bike ride from the Ferry Terminal at Village Bay, and there is ample for parking too. As you arrive at the brewery, you'll turn off Fernhill Road and climb a short hill to a flat area, where the main building is located.
In front of it, owners Michael Garratt and Annette Witteman created a fantastic beer garden, where you can sit among the trees with family and friends and experience any of the 5 or 6 beers on tap that day. You have a choice to sit on stools at long, live-edge tables, or on patio-style chairs under trees and umbrellas. The tables are almost always adorned with fresh flowers from their property or donated by Islanders (shoutout to Margaret and Andrea, in particular).
A chalk board describes the available beers and tasting flights are ordered by the number. Choices are written in chalk on wooden boxes and beers poured in small glasses.
There are about 20 beer recipes in the brewmaster's repertoire, mostly ales and lagers. My favourite is the "West Coast style Froghorn IPA", a "strong ale" with 5.8% alcohol.
Another great one is the "Mayne Island Forager", a "Belgian Saison - Farmhouse ale, infused seasonally with different Mayne Island-foraged ingredients, such as Grand Fir tips, blackberries, salal berries, stinging nettles, dandelion and burdock (an "Old World plant of the daisy family"), rose hips, rose petals, rock weed, bull kelp, sea asparagus, just to name a few..." Imagine the flavours!
Brewmaster Michael uses grains and hops from Europe mostly. This is a quality-control measure to avoid glyphosate, often found in North American grains and hops, apparently. In case you didn't know, glyphosate is the most used agrochemical in the world and is the main ingredient in "Roundup." He claims people have reported his beers don't produce headaches in the same way more mainstream beers do.
Food isn't served at the brewery, yet, but guests often bring their own snacks, like chips and dip, popcorn, or whatever they fancy. Soon, Dana and I will show up with a scrumptious wood-fired pizza from Give Pizza Chance, another fabulous Mayne Island business (up-coming blog post?).
Michael, 58, hails from Crewe, in the UK, about an hour away from Liverpool.
He came to Canada in 1996 looking for adventure. And maybe love. He took on a job as a wine rep for some BC wineries in the Okanagan region, and that's where he met Annette.
The brewery didn't become a great venue on Mayne Island overnight.
They started the brewery 6 1/2 year ago. I remember visiting the brewery with our adult children and their friends about 4 years ago when it was just a plain building selling small batch beer. No beer garden, no swag.
Micheal and Annette work hard to make it an experience to remember - they've turned this nano brewery into a veritable destination for Mayne Island residents and visitors.
It's a place to visit often, relax among tall trees, drink delicious and interesting beers, socialize with friends, and listen to cool tunes while ordering your beverages.
But you won't find Top 40 music playing at the Mayne Island Brewing Company. Music is another one of Michael's passions, so you'll often hear new and unique music to groove to. He claims not to have a favourite band, but he likes UK poet and songwriter Linton Kwesi Johnson, so you get the idea...
Their brews are sold in 13 restaurants and retailers, so if beer gardens aren't your style (whaaaaat?), you can still enjoy the fruit of their labour at the Springwater Lodge, the Bennett Bay Bistro, and a bunch of other places, including on Saturna Island and "over the Georgia Straight" in selected bars and restaurants.
When Annette is not minding children, or the garden, or business-related affairs, she's also the Artist in Residence, making all kinds of company swag, printing MIBC logos on hats to t-shirts and sweaters.
What's in store for the future of the brewery? Michael's pretty content with the size of the operation now. He already works long hours as it is, up to 70 hours a week during the busy season, so more work is not in the cards.
If you've never been to the brewery, or if it's been a long time, I recommend you check it out. I'm nearly certain you'll really enjoy the experience.