Looking back this weekend, I realized that I have yet to dedicate a review to some of my favorite watering holes here in Victoria. Sure, I’ve mentioned them, maybe even rated their wings, but where’s the page dedicated to them? Time to remedy this! And I shall start with the place me and wife know as “Old Faithful”. Swan’s Brewpub.
I can remember when I was a young man and living in Ottawa, some friends of mine who were from Victoria and periodically came back to visit family would always bring some Swan’s beer home with them. Yeah, it was always a treat to enjoy a few frosty Swans and watch some our favorite shows in those days. If they’re reading this, hi Aaron, hi Megan! Miss you guys!
Since moving to the west coast, dining in at Swan’s has been a recurring treat. Not only are their beers faithful examples of craft brewing, their food is also a tasty treat. It’s little wonder then why my wife and I refer to this place as “Old Faithful”. Alas, some specific examples feel necessary. First up, the taps!
Appleton Brown Ale: A nice, tawny, smooth ale that is in keeping with a London-style dark ale. Highly drinkable, smooth and yet complex. 4/5
Arctic Ale: Definitely one of the lightest beers I’ve ever had, and certainly the lightest produced by Swans. Named in honor of Canadian-style beers, apparently, this beer is clean tasting, has a quick, light finish, and is completely inoffensive. However, that is not necessarily a good thing, not when you’re me at any rate. Nothing wrong with it, but not my favorite either. 3.5/5
Buckerfield’s Bitter: One of my favorite ESB’s (Extra Special Bitter) to date. Copper colored, clean tasting, with a nice dry hop finish; this bitter taught me what this beer is all about! A favorite I routinely order! 5/5
Extra IPA: A true India Pale Ale, at 6.8% alc/vol and full of hops! The color is a rich orange, the nose is floral, and the flavor both sweet, dry and lingering. I’ve had so many I think I’ve OD’d! Best enjoyed with food and in moderation, unless your an IPA lover like me! 4/5
Old Towne Bavarian Lager: A fitting accompaniment to spicey food or on its own as a nice light drink. This beer is a faithful lager, combing a clean taste, crisp hops and a lingering finish. Its color is also clear and golden, reminiscent of traditional lagers found in your famed Munich beer halls. 4/5
Pandora Pale Ale: Probably the most faithful brew offered by Swans, I can attest to both its popularity and its drinkability. Golden amber, with a nice hop nose, clean taste and short, sharp finish, this beer is their flagship brew for a good reason! 4.5/5
Raspberry Ale: My wife and I agree, there are few who do fruit beers up right. These guys would be one of them! This ale combines a nice drinkable ale with a tart and semi-sweet touch that is both refreshing and is well paired with deserts or just on its own. It’s especially refreshing when enjoyed on your patio during a hot summer’s day. The taste also manages to conceal the fact that its actually quite strong, at 7% alc/vol! 4/5
Riley’s Scotch Ales: A traditional ale done in the “wee-heavy” style, meaning of high alcohol content. And this customer is no exception, being 8% alc/vol and possessing a strong, malty flavor, a big dose of hops and a sweet finish. Definitely not for the unititiated or the faint of heart. Definitely not for light beer drinkers! 4/5
Swan’s Oatmeal Stout: Swan’s was one of the first microbreweries in my experience to incorporate the Oatmeal Stout into their lineup. And there stout is definitely among the best I’ve had. Well rounded, creamy smooth, but with a nice, bitter bite for a finish. Stout lovers will approve! 4/5
Legacy Ale: This ale you won’t find on the regular menu. It’s an anniversary ale, which means it was made in honor of the brewery’s anniversary back in 2007. Hence, it is only available periodically, and let me tell you… it is one of the best beers I’ve ever had! Comparable only to McAuslin’s Millennial Ale, this Barley Wine has it all. Rich, mahogany color, smooth malty goodness, and a semi-sweet touch with just the right hop finish. I give this beer 6/5. Yes, I know that doesn’t make any sense, but who cares? I love it!
You might have noticed, most of these beers are rated pretty close to each other. But that’s a testament to their quality. And now, the food! However, know that the menu has changed since we ate there last, so some of these items might be out of date.
Chicken Wings: Not the best wings on the island, but definitely faithful and consistently good. The wings themselves are not plump, but not emaciated either, and the sauce is simply Frank’s Red, but they get the job done. Especially with beer! 3.5/5
Yam Fries: Now I’ve had several version of yam fries over the years, especially since I moved to BC (seems to be a local thing!). However, this remains the place that does it best, in my humble opinion. Sweet, lightly dusted with Cajun spice, granulated salt and accompanied by a kick-ass chipotle mayo! 5/5
Chicken Focaccia: A very decent sandwich! The focaccia bread is the perfect accompaniment to a chicken breast, don’t ask me why, and the veggies, red onions, and mayo compliment the flavor perfectly. 4/5
Buckerfield’s Burger: One of the best burgers I’ve had since moving to the island. Hand made patties, cheese, bacon, grilled mushrooms and onions and a smokey bbq sauce. This burger is exceptional when pared with a Pale Ale and some yam fries! 5/5
Apple Pie: Apple pie is just one those things. It’s hard to screw up, but its still nice to find a place that does it especially well. And as you can imagine, this is one such place. The pastry is hearty, the apples sweet and spiced just right with loads of cinnamon! And of course, the accompanying dollop of vanilla ice cream, ya can’t go wrong! 4/5
Creme Caramel: It has always been a source of consternation to me that Swans doesn’t do a creme brulee. However, their creme caramel is a fitting stand in! Creamy, rich, sweet, but not overpowering, this desert is the perfect end to an evening of fine beer and fine dining! 4/5
Hmm, seems I did it again with the food. Just about all them score within the eighty-percentile. But hey, that’s how it is. Good food, good beer, good times. If you’re interested, here’s a link to Swan’s full and updated menu. Check it out, preferably in person!