When it comes to craft beer, tradition does not always insinuate quality; in fact, tradition is often attributed to stale flavours and an inability to adapt in a dynamic marketplace. Spinnaker’s Gastro Brewpub and Guesthouses is Canada’s oldest brewpub and has recently upped its game in the climb back to the top of BC Craft Beer. This iconic name in BC craft first opened back in 1984 and is still owned by founder and publican Paul Hadfield. Paul has dreamed of the rise of BC Craft Beer for 30 years and now that the time has come He and his brewery are rising to the occasion meeting the demands and exceeding expectations of the BC Craft Beer connoisseur.
Long before the west coast passion for hops fueled microbrewery growth, this small brewpub in Victoria BC was brewing beer inspired by the idea that beer could be bigger than tradition seemed to represent. A focus on local, fresh and quality ingredients has created much of Spinnakers’ success and created opportunity beyond simply the beer. This focus on local, fresh and quality was also the source for significant growth in the past decade. The brewpub took the idea of craft beyond beer and applied it to each aspect of their business. Today the restaurant sources ingredients from local farmers, bakes their own bread, has an in-house chocolatier and even bottles and carbonates water from their on-site well. The idea of taking the artisan approach to not only beer but everything that Spinnaker’s has dived into seemed philosophically consistent to Hadfield years ago and set them apart from the race to the bottom in food and macro-beer before craft took off.
Illustrating the focus on local, the water being pumped from the aquifer below Spinnakers is not only a sustainable and environmental source but it also is a pure, non-chlorinated water source for the small but efficient 8HL microbrewery. This English sourced brewery was first installed back in 1984 but has seen piece-by-piece additions requiring space in an adjacent facility to allow for the increasing volume of beer sales. While limited by the 8HL capacity, around the clock brewing with nearly no downtime allows for the production of enough beer to stock the brewpub, a second pub-style location at the Victoria International Airport and two Spinnaker’s retail locations. Additionally you can find the beer on tap and at select craft retailers on the south half of Vancouver Island and from Whistler out to the edge of the Fraser valley. As the brewery continues to expand and demand is on a seemingly endless climb the small brewpub style facility is on the verge of something big. The idea of expansion to a facility in the 20-30HL range could be on the horizon quite soon. With rapid development in the Vic-West area only time will tell if this idea will unfold.
The longstanding effort of Spinnakers is by no means static and the recent surge in Craft Beer within BC has pressed the throttle a little harder for all BC brewers. Spinnakers has used this pressure and shift in consumer demand to change their tactics slightly. Where history shows us that consistency and tradition were very important, today the attention span of craft beer drinkers is short and temperamental. In addition the array of flavours demanded is beyond comprehension when compared to a decade before. With this frame of mind and Spinnakers’ small-batch capacity great diversification in seasonal offerings is a focus moving forward. Where consistency year round used to be key you will now see as many as two seasonal offerings per month landing on your local craft retailer’s shelves. This new product strategy allows brewmaster Tommie Grant and the brewing team the freedom to explore and experiment while advancing the flavour combinations and appealing to a greater audience. Through non-traditional ingredients, unique combinations and pure experimentation each brew in the vast line of beers is uniquely superior to what was offered years ago. If you see something you want with a Spinnakers label grab it now as these short-run releases will not last long.
Beyond just food and drink, Spinnaker’s also offers accommodation in a heritage house style venue. Small, quaint and classically intimate the Spinnaker’s hotel completes the craft package with quality, sustainable food, innovative beer flavours and home-style accommodations. Adding to the already stacked hand, the addition of hotel rooms allowed Spinnakers to not just be a brewpub but to also be a destination – a craft beer destination! Catering to a growing tourism niche focused on craft beer and acting as a gateway to the booming Victoria beer scene, Spinnaker’s is well positioned to not only continue to brew great beer but also tell a unique story and build the industry as a whole. Spinnaker’s was a driving force 30 years ago and still today they are challenging the way business has traditionally been done.
Publican Paul Hadfield attributes his personal successes and the brewery’s continued growth to the idea of not accepting convention. Engrained into his well being as a trained architect, Paul used this as a source for inspiration and shared that drive for continued improvement with those around him. Constantly re-evaluating and challenging norms has created a different business landscape previously unimaginable and has made for a sustainable business model spanning 30 years.It is easy to feel right at home staying with the Spinnaker’s family. From breakfast to beer and brewery to bed – the location, people, food, beer and inclusive nature is unlike any other craft beer experience in BC. Book a room and come hungry, come happy and come thirsty – Spinnaker’s will not disappoint!