Vancouver Island Brewing

by | Jul 21, 2018

How does a microbrewery miss out on the craft beer revolution? According to Chris Bjerrisgaard, marketing director of Vancouver Island Brewing, don’t make an IPA.

“We released our first full strength IPA ever last year,” said Bjerrisgaard. “That is the number one beer style in craft beer and they didn’t have one.”

Now Vancouver Island Brewing (VI Brewing) is making up for lost time and trying to recapture its position as the “islands brewery” with a new look and new beers that pay homage to island life.

The was opened in 1984 and for 30 years relied on making beers that were well known and liked, but lacked innovation. While the craft beer scene was exploding, VI Brewing saw a decline.

In 2016 the brewery was bought by Bob Macdonald, owner of Muskoka Brewery in Ontario, who began the task of re-invigorating the brewery.

“The big trick is to try and balance the respect for the past and the products that are much beloved and have a loyal following, but at the same time develop new products that are interesting and forgoing the ones that are not,” said Bjerrisgaard.

VI Brewing convinced brewer Danny Seeton to move to come on board to help develop new beers and systems. Seeton previously worked alongside Graham With at Parallel 49 Brewing and understood the ins and outs of scaling a brewery.

Armed with a new look and a new lineup is a good start, but Bjerrisgaard has the difficult task of changing public perception of VI Brewing being old hat.

“There’s definitely a lot of skepticism,” said Bjerrisgaard. “It was very much my dad’s craft beer and that doesn’t actually bode well for saying that we are actually innovative and we do current things, because people don’t necessarily want to give you a chance.”

VI Brewing released their Summer Outpost Mix Pack to showcase some core and seasonal  beers.including a lychee saison, blackberry helles, pilsner and hazy IPA.

The Twisted Stalk Blackberry Helles stood out in the pack with its pure blackberry flavour, light malts and a little sour to finish. The Ukidama Lychee Saison was also a stand out and was named after the glass orbs Japanese fishermen use and that often wash up on the Vancouver Island coastline. The citrus notes of the yuzu used to brew the beer came through more than the lychee, but this slightly sweet beer is refreshing and perfect for park days.

The pack has some really promising beers that showcase the direction VI Brewing is taking. Most importantly, it includes an IPA.

“Don’t take us for granted as the same old Vancouver Island Brewing.” said Bjerrisgaard. “We are going to continue to innovate and push the envelope, while still doing the things that we have done best, which is really well-executed consistent, clean craft beer.”

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Excellent work. Well done you. Bravo.

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