24 Beers of Christmas – December 15th: Phillips Brewing and Malting Co. Blue Buck

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Victoria, British Columbia, was one of Canada’s first true craft beer towns. 1984 was big for craft brewing in Canada. It was a year that saw pioneers like Jim Brickman, formerly of Waterloo’s Brick Brewing Company, and Mitch Taylor, of Granville Island Brewing, start their own breweries to provide consumers with an alternative to the big three beer companies that dominated the Canadian brewing market for so many years (Carling O’Keefe, Labatt and Molson). That same year, two breweries were founded on Vancouver Island; Spinnakers, based in Victoria, became Canada’s first micro-brewpub, while Vancouver Island Brewery which can now be found right across the harbour, opened its doors in Saanichton.

Though it was certainly not an easy time to open a craft brewery, the dedication of these early microbrewers inspired waves of future entrants into the industry over the years that followed. One such entrant was Phillips Beer, which was established with a copious amount of debt back in 2001. Phillips took Victoria by storm, introducing new boldly flavoured beers to a market used to more traditionally inspired styles. Phillips’ approach was unique and it helped propel them to becoming one of British Columbia’s most successful and nationally recognized beer brands. They have since grown to include soda and distilled spirits to their portfolio and they, to the best of my knowledge, are the only brewery in Canada with their own malting facility.

Unlike the more uniquely flavoured beers that helped Phillips grab attention, Blue Buck is actually just a really nice take on a more conventional style, the British Strong Bitter. This English Pale Ale inspired beer is copper-hued and toffee and caramel malt based with a slightly uncharacteristic grassy and fruity hop character from the use of hops from the Pacific North West of North America. It’s a very good value-for-money beer that goes down easily but doesn’t shortchange your taste buds.

Style: British Best Bitter – 5.0% ABV, ? IBU

Food pairings: Fish and Chips, Derby Cheese, Shortbread

Availability: LCBO, The Beer Store

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