#651 Goodbye ladies and escorts
Island Craft: Your Guide to the Breweries of Vancouver Island
by Jon C. Stott
Victoria: Touchwood Editions, 2019
$25.00 / 9781771512923
Reviewed by Ian J.M. Kennedy
Jon C. Stott knows and likes his beer. This comes out loud and clear in his twentieth book, Island Craft: Your Guide to the Breweries of Vancouver Island. It is his fourth book about beer, brew pubs and breweries and in it he takes readers on a “journey of a thousand sips” visiting thirty-three breweries and brewpubs on Vancouver Island from Victoria to Campbell River and out to Tofino and Ucluelet.
Stott’s first-person style of writing makes for a very pleasant, effortless read in which he profiles the owners and brewers, the history of each brewery and examines the relationships each has with the communities in which the facility operate.
He begins by relating how he drank his first legal beer in Victoria’s Ingraham (“Ingy”) Hotel beer parlour in 1960 in a massive, windowless expanse that had separate “Gentlemen” and “Ladies and Escorts” sections. Festooned with round, terry-towelled “tables of isolation” patrons could neither stand or carry their glass of beer around the parlour, which stank of stale, spilled beer under a pall of cigarette smoke that hung a few feet from the ceiling. He juxtaposes that first experience with his theme that modern mini-breweries and brewpubs have become a “third place,” neither home or work, but pleasant, welcoming, often outdoor places where people can spend time, meet neighbours within their communities, and enjoy locally made beers and food.
Although Vancouver Island has had breweries since 1858, by 1961, about the time Stott started legally drinking, Vancouver Island possessed only one brewery, brewing Lucky Lager, a brand that still possesses a cult following on the Island even though it is no longer brewed there. Stott explains how that has all changed and that over the last thirty years, because of the craft beer revolution and changes to the liquor laws, there are now thirty-three breweries on the Island. Besides describing each, he also points out that the economic impact of these new facilities has been enormous in terms of employment; ancillary businesses that have developed to serve the needs of the breweries from brewing equipment fabricators, to printmakers turning out swag, to farmers growing barley and hops, to the beer enthusiast tourists who have taken to the Island Ale Trail, clutching guide books such as his in order to taste the eclectic variety of beers brewed on the Island.
Stott describes the brewing process and the beers produced, but doesn’t belabour the subject, preferring instead that his readers go out and try the beers themselves. His appendices at the end include a Glossary of Brewing Terms and a Guide to Beer Styles. He also includes maps throughout to assist readers locate the various breweries and brew pubs, and he also includes an extensive Bibliography, befitting the thirty-three years he served as an English professor — a vocation that is also evidenced by the sprinkling of English literature references throughout the book.
Stott’s other books include: Beer 101 North: Craft Breweries and Brew Pubs of the Washington and Oregon Coasts; Beer Quest West, and New Mexico Beer: A History of Brewing in the Land of Enchantment, which shows his dedication to the craft of writing books of this kind.
In Island Craft Stott has written a very thorough, readable guide that will stand the test of time and become a template for future books of this type. It is the only guidebook any beer aficionado needs to enjoy the beers, breweries and brew pubs of Vancouver Island.
Born in County Donegal, Ireland, Ian J.M. Kennedy came to Canada in 1954 where he attended Burnaby North High School and earned a B.A. from UBC. Later he did post-graduate work at Queen’s University, Belfast, and on his return to Canada taught geography and history at Steveston Secondary School for thirty years. Following his retirement in 1999, he moved to Comox and became a rugby journalist, travelling the world and writing about a game he never played very well. Widely published in many magazines, his journalism also includes numerous articles about history, travel, motorcycling, cottage living, and pubs. His books include Guide to the Neighbourhood Pubs of the Lower Mainland (Gordon Soules, 1982), The Pick of the Pubs of B.C. (Heritage House, 1986), Sunny Sandy Savary: A History of Savary Island 1792-1992 (Kennell, 1992), The Life and Times of Joe McPhee, Courtenay’s Founding Father (Kennell, 2010), and Tofino and Clayoquot Sound: A History (Harbour, 2014), co-authored with Margaret Horsfield.
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