Harry Maynard, Harry Walther, Peter Henning Peters, John Leahy, Henry Smith Fairall, Thomas Watson Carter, Joseph Loewen, Charles Gowen, Ludwig Erb. Any of these names sound familiar? If you drink craft beer in Victoria or anywhere in British Columbia you need to raise your next glass in honour of these historic fellows, the pioneers of brewing in the province. In the 19th and early 20th century they brought this piece of paradise to world attention for beer making excellence.
In March, in association with The Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria, our noted beer historian and Esquimalt Archivist, Greg Evans, hosted a walking tour of Ross Bay Cemetery. Part of the Cemeteries Society regularly scheduled weekly tours of Victoria burying grounds, “Ale and Hearty” introduced members of CAMRABC and the Cemeteries Society to the current resting places of the above named august founders of the BC brewing industry.
March 20th dawned cold, windy but sunny so we bundled up and set our sails for Ross Bay. Huddled in front of the Fairfield Plaza Starbucks a group of hardy enthusiasts from the both groups assembled to pay our respects, learn a little bit of background and be entertained by the always entertaining Mr. Evans.
As Greg led us from grave marker to grave marker, we covered an enormous distance in terms of history and actual acreage. The history of brewing in BC can be traced back to the earliest days of the British Naval settlement when the only safe beverage was made from boiled water, malt and hops…yup, beer saved lives and really settled the west.
Starting with Harry Maynard and his rags to riches story, Greg charted Harry’s rise from an immigrant to founder of the influential Silver Springs Brewery.
There was a stop at Peter Henning Peters graveside. After his death in 1886, wife Alvina took over the operation of his Empire Brewery and became the first woman brewery operator in Western Canada.
The final stop was at the imposing family Erb monument, it’s stature befitting the brewer behind the Victoria Brewery, one of the largest brewing operations in the province.
90 minutes is not enough time to cover much of the 150 year history of brewing in BC but, from growing hops on the Saanich peninsula to exploding breweries in Esquimalt, Greg managed to give an excellent peek at the people behind the industry as well as an overview of commercial brewing changes over the years.
Once the formal tour was finished it was CAMRABC’s turn to give the members of the Old Cemeteries society a tour of our turf and to wash the dust from our throats and feet.
So an afternoon spent with the founders of west coast brewing was brought full circle with a visit to the newest member of Victoria’s brewing community, Moon Under Water, a stone’s throw from Point Ellice House. Don showed off the brewery operation, Bonnie played hostess to the happy wanderers and then we got down to the serious business of sampling some modern real ales.