An easy stroll from downtown Victoria, if you reach the Russian Submarine docked in the harbor then turn around, you'll be staring at the beautiful Harbour Canoe Club building. The impressive interior features red brick walls with light wood beams peaked 30 feet above the hardwood floors. The ceiling skylights add to the open and airy atmosphere. Large plants in pottery separate the seating areas while artwork adorns the wall of the bar-lounge. The building's right side contains the ground level and loft dining areas while the action on the left side revolves around the beers. The small dark wood bar is augmented by tall and short wooded tables and stools. From the large glass windows the sofas and chairs offer a view of the passing marina traffic. A single red felt covered pooltable stands in one corner, offering a relaxed place for a game and giving an unobstructed view of the five shiny serving tanks directly above the bar. The 25 hl Northern Brewer Systems brewhouse lies out of site behind the bar. A peek into that industrial side of the building reveals the mash tun, boil kettle, and five uni-tank fermenters. From the lounge, stairs lead down to washrooms containing two showers. An attractive feature if you're navigating your sailboat around the world and need to freshen up before ordering your first pint of the day. For relaxing outdoors, the stone tiled patio offers green plastic furniture with a great view of the marina.
The Davey Jones Lager is crisp and hoppy, with a lasting head. The City Lights Pale Ale is dark gold with a sharp hop bitterness paired with a dry maltiness. The Dry Dock ESB is dark amber with a medium body and rich, dry maltiness and nice supporting hop bitterness. The Board Walk Brown Ale starts with a sharp black malt aroma that warns of the coming dry, slightly roasted flavor that contains hints of subtle hops and sports a lasting head. The Blackberry Stout (seasonal) also offers a black malt aroma and flavor but the roasted character is mellowed by a slight sweetness from the subtle blackberries.
The "Beer Fleet" set of five five-ounce tasters costs $5.95 CAN, while glasses run $3.75, pints $5.25, and pitchers $14.95. Appetizers run $2 to $9 and include Focaccia, Ceasar Salad, Spring Rolls, Wings, Nachos, Steamed Mussels, Chili Prawns, Shrimp & Crab Cakes, and Calamari. Look for live music on Fridays and Saturdays. The brewpub tries to accommodate everyone. A bike rack is mounted out front and a landing level elevator can get customers with wheelchairs to where the action is. Once you pull yourself away from this relaxed setting that combines views, brews, and a cozy atmosphere, you can try to extend the experience by picking up a few 22-ounce bottles in the lounge's off-sale cooler. Open since May of '98, the Harbour Canoe Club, and the unfiltered, naturally carbonated beers of Sean Hoyne are now an established part of the British Columbia craft beer community.
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - December 2000