A few weeks ago, on a damp, drizzly December Friday, my friend and I decided to visit Victoria’s four brewpubs for a progressive pub lunch. We would start with soup and a complementing beer at one place and, after two intermediate stops for salad and sandwiches and more beer, end with dessert and beer at the fourth brewpub.

Had it been a sunny day, we would have walked, or better still, taken Victoria’s Harbour Ferry between our destinations. As it was, we drove.  

As our progressive lunch began, we made a dash through the heavy rain from our car, across a small parking lot and into the cosy atmosphere of our first stop: Moon Under Water Pub and Brewery (at 350 B Bay Street, a very short walk from the Point Ellis Bridge). There was a happy atmosphere, as Don, Bonnie, and Ron Bradley were one day away from celebrating the first year anniversary of the opening of their establishment. The soup of the day was just what we needed: Oysters Rockerfeller soup, a rich and creamy comfort food that featured spinich and grated swiss cheese. We washed our soup down with Blue Moon Best Bitter, a very good example of that style.

The rain had diminished to a drizzle when we made our second stop, midway between Swans Brewpub and the Canoe Brewpub, Marina, and Restaurant. We headed first to Swans (506 Pembrooke Street) for our next course: the house salad of cheese, lettuce, tomato, pumpkin seeds, beans and wild rice, along with herb bread with garlic butter. Arctic Ale, our accompanying beer, was a light-bodied, crisp and refreshing complement to the salad. While we were admiring the magnificant West Coast Native art that Swans founder, the late Michael Williams, had collected and decorated the restaurant and brewpub with, brewer Andrew Tessier, who had just won a silver and a bronze medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards, stopped by to chat about the local brewing scene.

On the way out, we noticed that one of the featured bands that would be playing later in the week was called “The Mid-Life Crisis.” We both laughed and remarked that that period in our lives was rapidly becoming ancient history.

As we walked down the steep hill of Swift Street toward the Canoe Bewpub, Marina, and Restaurant (450 Swift Street), the sun made a brief, very feeble attempt to break through the clouds. The air was still very damp and we were happy to get into the pub, content to look at the upper inner harbour from inside. Not used to big noon-day meals and wanting to save room for dessert, we decided to split a Cowichan Bay Farms pulled chicken sandwich, generously heaped with tomato, bacon, arugula, and lemon mayonnaise. It was accompanied with house made fries and house made tomato catsup. 

Artifact Amber Lager, a Vienna style beer crafted by Canoe’s new brewer Daniel Murphy, was more substantial than the Arctic Ale, but less so than the Blue Moon Bitter. It had some malty sweetness, but a clean finish that helped cut the richness of our sandwich.

We drove across the Johnson Street Bridge, past Vic West Park, where, over half a century ago, our family used to attend the Clyde Beatty Circus, to 308 Catherine Street to Spinnakers Gasto Brewpub, Canada’s oldest brewpub. As we took our seats by a window overlooking the outer harbour, the clouds separated and the sun shone on the waters, creating thousands of diamond-like sparkles. We ordered and shared a pint of nut brown ale, a piece of honey cheese cake, and a hazel nut tort. All three made a rich and satisfying conclusion to a great three hour progressive pub lunch.

We both agreed that we’d make the trip again, mixing the order of our stops so that we could try different courses and different beers. We’d watch for a late spring or early autumn sunny day for our progressive pub lunch. That way we’d be able to do some walking to build up our appetites and later burn off some of the calories we’d taken in.  We’d also be able to enjoy a couple of  relaxing rides on the harbour ferry.