Jul 1, 2009 | Marmot, Summer 2009

Savour the Tastes of the Comox Valley this Summer

Eating local is a big deal in the Comox Valley. So is drinking local. And there?s plenty of selection for both.

Surgenor Brewing in Comox is the latest brewery on the scene. Surgenor did their first brew on Feb. 11 this year, and now have about 90,000 bottles to fill in the coming months, Public Relations Manager Lee Everson said.

The brewery is the brainchild of Bob Surgenor, a former electrician. ?About 10 years ago he started to see a decline in the industrial contracting market. He was starting to have to go farther away to get work,? Everson explained. Then Field Sawmills closed and Elk Falls looked to be going the same way. They were integral to his livelihood.

Four years ago he bought a piece of property on Shamrock Place in Comox with an eye to getting into the beer business. He created his business plan and broke ground on the brewery in July 2008. ?He was thinking, he liked beer and he knew a lot of people who liked beer and thought, why not??

It?s a fun business to be in, said Everson. ?All the people we?ve dealt with so far have been happy people.?

Surgenor offers two brews: their signature Red House Ale, a smooth ale from northern Ireland; and Steam Donkey Lager, which hearkens back to the Comox Valley?s logging history.

Surgenor?s beer is available in local restaurants as well as the Alibi Room in Vancouver and Shelter Restaurant in Tofino. The brewery has a retail store for off-sales, too.

Beaufort Winery opened last year on Pickering Road in the Comox Valley and has been a success since.

?We sold out of everything we produced,? said Jeff Vandermolen, who owns the winery with his wife Susan.

This year they?re starting with 400 more customers than they had last year, so expect to sell out quickly, despite releasing 1,600 cases of wine this year (last year they released 1,200).

Beaufort Winery?s wines are also available in many Comox Valley Restaurants. ?We?re probably 30 or 40 per cent sold out or committed to the restaurants, which is way ahead of where we were last year,? Vandermolen said.

Beaufort will release a Grigio this year as well as Panacea, a blended white wine. They will have a second release of their Black port, which has been soaking in oak barrels for an additional seven months.

This will be Beaufort Winery?s first yield year from their estate grapes, too. Vandermolen expects to produce four to five tonnes off his vineyard this year, which is about one-quarter of their maximum production.

The winery is open until July 4 on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m., then open Fridays through Sundays from July 17 to Sept. 6. There are also special events.

Hornby Island is known for both its famous and eclectic inhabitants as well as its white sand beaches. And with the opening of Middle Mountain Mead and Carbrea Vineyard and Winery, it?s also becoming known as a hotbed of locally-made wine.

Stephen Bishop from the Sea Breeze Lodge operates Carbrea along with his wife Suzie.

They made their first planting in 2002 in their four-acre vineyard. Carbrea carries both red and white varieties, as well as a Wild Blackberry Wine.

Middle Mountain Mead is an artisan honey winery producing mead – made from honey and water and flavoured with spices, teas and botanical elements.

Mead was the only wine available in northern Europe until grape wines became available about 6,000 years ago, according to Middle Mountain Mead?s website.

?We found the history of mead so fascinating and enriching that we decided we should develop an artisan honey winery and see if we couldn?t help along the global renaissance of mead,? say Helen Grond and Steve McGrath.

Their mead comes in several varieties, from Lavender Cranberry and Cranberry Mead to Wild Harvest, Green Tea Elixir Alpenglow, Black and Olde Meade. Their mead is available from Campbell River south to Victoria on the Island and in North Vancouver.

Over at Shelter Point Distillery, Jay Oddleifson and his partners are brewing up dreams of single malt whisky.

The distillery, located on the former UBC Farms site on Highway 19A near Black Creek, is still in the pre-production stage.

The distilling material has been ordered from Forsyth in Scotland, but ?we still have to get confirmation when we?re slotted into the production schedule,?Oddleifson said.

The idea for the distillery germinated in 2006. The crew has done some trials growing barley and ?we know we will have no problem growing an excellent crop.?

Clean air, clean water and the wind coming off the nearby ocean combine to create fertile conditions. ?That?s really what we?ve got going for us, is purity,?he said.

If the equipment arrives in a timely manner, Oddleifson said Shelter Point could have its first distillation later this year. Shelter Point will create a cream ale and a single batch of rye malt whisky.

In time, Oddleifson foresees working with other brewing companies to create unique local products. He talked about using oak barrels that Beaufort Winery uses for its Black port to create a port finish to Shelter Point?s whisky. The farm could also look at growing rye for Surgenor Brewing, should there be a need. The possibilities are endless, he said.

More from this Issue