Cordova Bay resident Peggy Pallan has volunteered for the Greater Victoria Beer Festival for the past 15 years. The self-confessed beer geek leads the GCBF's entry gate

Craft beer revolution a long time coming for Saanich volunteer

Great Canadian Beer Festival is back this weekend at Royal Athletic Park, thanks to Peggy Pallan and another 467 volunteers

It wasn’t long ago the saying, “Going for beers,” meant nothing more than a social gathering. Beer, or at least its contents, was never the focus.

But in 2014, it’s all about the beer – what’s in it, who made it and where’s it from.

The craft beer revolution is upon us, to steal a phrase from local author Joe Wiebe, who captured it in a book by the same name.

And the current revolution wouldn’t be what it is, save for the Great Canadian Beer Festival, an incubator that’s brought 40 of the best Northwest (and beyond) breweries to Greater Victoria for the past 22 years.

The popular outdoor event returns to Royal Athletic Park today (3 to 8 p.m.) and tomorrow (noon to 5 p.m.).

“I try to think what the beer culture was when I grew up and I can’t. It’s not like what we have now,” says Peggy Pallan, Cordova Bay resident and longtime beer festival volunteer.

Pallan is an Islander through and through, born in a house on Cloverdale Avenue. She’s witnessed firsthand the transformation of Victoria’s beer scene from fringe interest to full-scale craze.

“I always liked beer, but there was nothing to it until I joined Beer Fest as a volunteer. I remember driving past 15 years ago saying, ‘That looks like fun and I like fun.’ The next year I joined as a volunteer.”

Pallan soon fell in with the local chapter of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), and began brewing beer and wine at home. She’s since won multiple awards for her brews and ribbons for her wine. She’s also the current president of the Victoria Corks and Caps wine club.

Pallan is just one example of the legacy of the GCBF.

Victoria boasts multiple beer festivals, as well as new and recently transformed beer halls such as The Drake Eatery (26 taps) and The Churchill (55 taps). There’s also a 1.9-litre growler phenomenon, which connects consumer to brewery.

It’s a far cry from what was available to Pallan in the 1970s.

She recalls touring Victoria’s once prominent Labatt brewery. She also remembers visiting the original Drake pub, a beer hall with its own charms, but a place unlikely to draw legions of beer geeks looking for hard-to-find seasonal beers on tap.

She recalls touring Victoria’s once prominent Labatt brewery. She also remembers visiting the original Drake pub, a beer hall with its own charms, but a place unlikely to draw legions of beer geeks looking for hard-to-find seasonal beers on tap.

“India Pale Ale is my favourite style, in the growler. Except if it’s a growler I need someone to help me finish it,” Pallan says.

Pallan joins another 467 volunteers this weekend at the Great Canadian Beer Festival. She’ll lead a group of 27 volunteers who run the front gate.

Beer fest a foundation for craft beer explosion

Beer Fest has played an important role introducing Islanders to beers and breweries beyond Vancouver Island, said Joe Wiebe, who’s 2013 book Craft Beer Revolution is in its third printing and a B.C. bestseller.

“It’s helped create a very knowledgeable and discerning craft beer culture here,” Wiebe said. “This year, what’s most exciting to me is the chance to sample beer from 15 new breweries from B.C. that have opened in the past year alone.”

Expect local favourites like Hoyne, Phillips, Moon Under Water, Lighthouse, Driftwood, Spinnakers, Swan’s, Canoe Brewpub, Vancouver Island Brewery, Four Mile Brewing Company and dozens of others.

Great Canadian Beer Fest runs Friday, Sept. 5, 3 to 8 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 6 from noon to 5 p.m.

See gcbf.com for tickets and a full list of brewers.

reporter@saanichnews.com