Article & photos by Lenora A.Hayman.
Did you know that our Pacific Salmon are super heroes of the sea? Yes, I am listening to Miki Eslake, the BC Naturalist hired for the summer on the BC Ferries Spirit of Vancouver Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route. While enjoying the sunshine on deck 6, we learned that the skin of the salmon only becomes red on entering the streams to swim 50 kilometres per day and up to 3000 kilometres in total to their final destination to spawn. Our magnificent black & white Killer Whales or Orcas, as well as bears, wolves & eagles depend on salmon for their primary dietary needs. The half-eaten salmon left by the animals in the forest, decay & provide nitrogen in the soil to fertilize our forests.
The #70 Express & #72 Victoria Regional Transit buses meet passengers at Swartz Bay for the $2.50, one-to-one & a half hour drive in to Victoria. The pleasant bus driver let me off at The Bay Centre to catch the #6 Esquimalt bus at Yates & Douglas to travel over the Johnson St. Bridge & around the harbour to Spinnakers Gastro Brew Pub & Guest Houses at 308 Catherine St.tel:1-877-838-2739 toll free.
My bed for the night is in their 1884 two-storied Heritage House, restored in 1998, complete with steamer shower, private balcony, Wi-Fi, local Silk Road Brew Tea, Fernwood Blend Coffee, & their own O de Vie Aquifer sparkling water.
Thirty years ago, Paul Hadfield’s Spinnakers was the first Gastro Brew Pub of the modern era in Canada, & it not only brews wonderful craft beers but also produces gourmet cuisine from their open kitchen sourcing the fresh foods from local farmers & lavender & herbs from their own garden.
Lisa Wilkie, the Front Desk Manager located also in their Provisions Store at the entrance of Spinnakers Gastro Brew Pub, showed me their beer & cider based vinegars, beer jelly, orange & cranberry scones, house-made granola, local cheeses from Natural Pastures, Nostrala Organic Cheese & orange & lime sea salt from Vancouver Island Salt Co. Displayed also were their in-house artisan truffles & chocolate barks.
House guests are given a complimentary beer & truffle tasting, so I went upstairs through the taproom to sip in the sunshine on their outdoor balcony, while watching a cruise ship in the distance & a tug boat in Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
The Pilsner-like fruity Kolsch Style Ale 4.8% alcohol paired well with the white lemon & basil lemon drop truffle. The medium dark Grand Cru 8% alcohol, brewed in celebration of the 30th anniversary was matched with the Naughty Fairy dark chocolate, absinth & basil truffle and the Tequila Shot dark chocolate, tequila, lime & salt truffle was great with the copper-coloured 5.5% alcohol Northwest Ale (NWA).
It was busy on the warm Tuesday evening I was there, so I was pleased that I had made a dinner reservation for 6:00pm. Since I was alone, my server Ryan Price wisely suggested I try a couple of appetizer plates to experience the variety of local fare. The Brewhouse Tasting Plate had a choice of locally produced salami, Amber Ale cheese, Comox brie, beer jelly & ale poached pear, while the West Coast Fish Plate offered the house smoked salmon, tuna tartar, bacon wrapped oysters & Spinnakers kelp crackers. My main entrée of crispy skinned sablefish in a hot & sour kelp broth, clams shiitake mushrooms, fingerling potatoes & sesame braised kale was nice & moist.
A hot steamer shower & a sound sleep in their queen-size bed concluded my evening.
Having a complimentary breakfast included next morning is very welcome & I wish more establishments would do the same. The Spinnakers granola parfait with apple compote, natural yogurt & rosemary infused honey followed by their house-smoked salmon, spinach & scone bennie started my day well. Their London Fog made with Silk Road’s Imperial Earl Grey Tea with vanilla & steamed milk was the best chai latte I’ve ever had! So naturally I had two!
After checking out of Spinnakers, I had a pleasant walk along West Song Walkway by the harbour back to the city and even witnessed the Johnson Street Bridge opening to let a tugboat and barge through. Butchart Gardens had a car decorated in flowers in front of the Fairmont Empress Hotel, a string trio was playing on the lower causeway & tourists were photographing our Victoria Parliament Buildings. I arrived at 1:00pm at Government & Superior Streets in time for my return bus back to Swartz Bay & the 3:00pm BC Ferry.
I certainly felt refreshed, rejuvenated & well fed after my one night vacation. I shall be back!