Since BEER QUEST WEST went to press nearly a year ago, the two biggest news items relating to Vancouver Island microbreweries north of Victoria have been the opening of a new brewery in Tofino (see our post of October 4) and the sale and rebranding of what had been Fat Cat Brewery of Nanaimo. Otherwise, brewers from Campbell River to Salt Spring Island have reported that business is proceeding pretty much as usual.

WOLF BREWING (Nanaimo): Although, when I asked them in May 2010, Bunny Goodman and Rob Haselow denied that Fat Cat was for sale, the brewery was sold over the winter of 2010-11. The new owners, Corinne and Travis Findlater and Jennifer and Dean Lewis, very quickly began a process of rebranding. “We felt that the Fat Cat brand was about the previous owners,” Corinne explained. “As new owners we wanted to be taken seriously and so we decided to move away from the cartoon style labelling and the rhyming name.”

The result was Wolf Brewing, with sleek clean new labels depicting the stylized head of a wolf. The names of the beers changed as well. The IPA became Red Brick; the Black and Tan, Woodcutter Dark Ale; the Porter, Black Tail Porter; and the Honey Beer, Golden Honey Ale.

“We’re still using Rob’s recipes as the basis of our brews,” Corrine explained, noting that Haseloh worked with the new owners and new brewer Glen Lamontagne, helping them get used to the equipment and the techniques of brewing the brewery’s specific interpretations of the various styles.

“But we’re tweeking things a little bit,” she continued. “We’ve made the IPA, which is our best seller, drier and more citrusy; we have added more aroma hops. We’re also using different hops for each of the beers we’re doing. And we’re listening carefully to the feedback we’re getting from old Fat Cat customers. Over all, we’re trying to combine west coast and English styles. Most important, we want our beers to be clean and crisp and fresh.”

“We like hops,” Lamontagne remarked. “But we don’t want to blow your head off. We can’t be too hoppy around here. This is Bud and Lucky territory.”

So far the new Wolf brand seems to be doing very well. Corinne reports that they are now brewing twice a week to meet demand. “And we’re getting into more and more bars and restaurants between Victoria and Campbell River.”

MERECROFT VILLAGE PUB (Campbell River): The only major change here is that Martin Eschbaumer of Surgenor Brewing has replaced Harley Davidson of Longwood as the brewer.

SURGENOR (Comox): In March 2011, Bob Surgenor announced that his brewery, which had been in operation for just over two years, was for sale at a price of $1,999,999. He reports that the asking price has been lowered to 1,700,000. Otherwise it’s business as usual.

LONGWOOD (Nanaimo): Harley Smith reports that there is no major news to report.

CRAIG STREET (Duncan): The planned expansion of the brewery, including the introduction of a canning line, has been postponed.

GULF ISLANDS: Murray Hunter is planning to make Whitetail Ale (an alt beer) and Heatherdale Ale available in the near future in 650 ml bottles.

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