For 15 years now, Alberta beer geeks have been driving to B.C. to load up their cars with beers from the Phillips Brewery in Victoria. If you were one of them, you can now save that wear and tear on your vehicle as Phillips has entered the Alberta market with many of its finest offerings, and there’s more to come.
The beers are great, but the story of Matt Phillips, his Victoria brewery and its beers, is even better. Phillips, already an industry veteran with stints at Alberta’s Grizzly Paw, B.C.’s Whistler Brewing Co. and Spinnakers (arguably Canada’s first craft brewpub), dreamt of opening his own brewery. With a well-crafted business plan he went looking for financing, but bank after bank refused to give him the small business loan he needed — from there the story got a little punk rock. (Warning to anyone with a financial education: reading further is not recommended as this business model leans toward anarchy.)
On the way out of every financial institution, Phillips collected all the credit card applications he could find, filled them out and mailed them in. The result was a dangerous house of credit cards, with limits ranging from $2,000 to $12,000.
With the purchase of some used brewing equipment and a lease on the second floor of a warehouse with no natural sunlight, the brewery became both Phillips’s home and workplace.
Rolling up his bedding each morning and setting up timers on halogen lamps to imitate the sunrise, Phillips’s days of brewing, hand bottling, and hand labelling were topped off by late-night ferry rides to Vancouver for deliveries. He worked the mythical 25 hours a day, eight days a week for the first two years. It’s a true story Phillips can tell his grandkids — he really did walk uphill to and from school each day to ferment his dreams. There is more to this wild story, but let’s get to the beers:
• Phillips Hop Box (5 per cent to 6.5 per cent): A mixed 12-pack of four different India pale ales: a Rye IPA, a Black IPA, their regular “Hop Circle” IPA and a rotating seasonal IPA. The current seasonal is my favourite of the four, and not just because of the name “GrowHop.” This brew is a big lupulin blast of fresh Chinook hops.
• Phillips Amnesiac Double IPA (8.5 per cent): With so many hops in it, one could imagine that drinking enough of these will cause you to lose your short-term memory, but that’d likley be due to the 8.5 per cent alcohol.
• Phillips Hoperation (8 per cent): A fun take on the Belgian or Tripel IPA. This is a classic Double IPA for hopiness and booziness, but with a twist — it’s fermented on a flavourful, funky Belgian yeast. My fave of all the offerings — dry hopped to the f**king nuts for a mouth-puckering dryness on top of some Belgian funk.
Not all of the offerings are hop bombs. Seasonal offerings include barley wines, a brown ale and a Baltic porter.