Recently, Leif Bogwald, Owner & Travel Curator at Vancouver Island Expeditions, invited Local Loves Nanaimo along on one of their day-tours to experience some of the incredible local tastes that Nanaimo has to offer. And, shocker, our beautiful harbour city has more to offer our tastebuds than just the Nanaimo Bar (even though we LOVE that sweet, sweet treat)! Join us as we sip and sample our way through A Taste of Nanaimo.
First on our exploration into the tastes of Nanaimo was Arbutus Distillery. Located on Boxwood Drive, Arbutus Distillery specializes in fine artisan spirits made from local and provincial ingredients! YES, we love it when it’s local.
Arbutus focuses their menu on three spirits – gin, vodka, and absinthe. Head distiller, Michael, was on hand to give us samples and a little backstory into each of these finely distilled beverages.
All three of Arbutus Distillery’s spirits, The Empiric Gin, Coven Vodka, and Baba Yaga Genuine Absinthe, are made with as much local ingredients as Michael can get his hands on. In fact, some of those ingredients grow right outside their front door in Arbutus Distillery’s garden.
After our tasting, Michael guided us from the tasting room to the distillery where we were given a short lesson on how he distills his fine artisan spirits.
Not to be mistaken with the Longwood Brewpub and Restaurant (although they are somewhat related), the Longwood Brewery was next on our list and the first of two craft breweries on our docket for the day. As we walked into Longwood’s tasting room and ‘growler bar’ we were warmly greeted by Morgan, our tasting guide extraordinaire.
Overall we sampled six (SIX!) tasty beers including Longwood originals like Berried Alive, The Big One IPA, Stoutnik, Extra Blonde Ale, and Steam Punk, and the current seasonal: Super G Cream Ale.
Sarah’s favourite out of the lot was the super summery raspberry ale Berried Alive. A lightly hopped blonde ale with fresh raspberry crumbles, this is the quintessential summer beer. If you’re sighing at the thought of a fruity beer, you need not worry – as Longwood puts it: “This, friends, is not so much a raspberry beer as a beer with raspberries.”
Not so much a beer drinker (actually not so much a drinker at all), Sean was intrigued by the Stoutnik which is infused with nitrogen and coffee. I mean, if there ever was a morning beer this would be it.
As with Arbutus Distillery, we were treated to a tour of the brewery by brewmaster Harley who educated us on Longwood’s history and their range of craft beers. It’s always so interesting when we get to meet the people behind the product, especially people who are just as passionate as us about supporting the community and promoting locally.
After all that liquid it was time to get some food in us! Thankfully St. Jean’s Cannery was our next stop, and boy were we excited. We were met by tour guide Matt, who was hands-down the most energetic and excited guide we’ve ever had… ever. It was so much fun learning about the history and process of St. Jean’s Cannery from Matt.
After learning about St. Jean’s history (which included tales of founder Armand St. Jean, his 15 brothers and sisters, and his wrestling career where he was known as ‘The Flash’, amongst other tales) we were guided through processing and packaging, learning about the massive local operation that is St. Jean’s.
Our favourite tidbit was that in last year alone, about half a million pounds of sport fish went through St. Jean’s processing plant! And that’s just fish from the sport fishing industry!
Now, of course, we couldn’t leave before sampling some of St. Jean’s seafood. There was a selection of tuna and oysters set out for us to try and oh mY GOD was it ever good. So good, in fact, that Sean picked up a can of tuna to take home.
Lastly, after what had already been a tasty and informative tour, we headed to Wolf Brewing Company for more craft beer!
At the time of writing this, Wolf Brewing had only recently opened their newly renovated tasting room, much to our delight. Because this room is a thing of dreams. The wood paneling, the wood furniture, the wood pull tabs, THE WOOD EVERYTHING.
The tasting room wasn’t even the best part though, because we were given an incredible tour by brewmaster Kev, who just exuded passion for his craft. This is a person who loves what they do, and loves sharing what they do.
Like Longwood, we were given many bevvies to sample including the Golden Honey Ale, Scotch Ale, Porter, Black & Tan, India Pale Ale, and the seasonal Cerebus. Kev tries to use as many local ingredients when crafting his beer including local barley and honey from Fredrich’s Honey which is used in the Golden Honey Ale!
Wolf Brewing was a perfect end to a lovely tour with Vancouver Island Expeditions. We learned so much about the Nanaimo food & drink scene, tasting local flavours and meeting local crafters. If you’re interested in discovering the tastes of Nanaimo, check out Vancouver Island Expedition’s A Taste of Nanaimo tour – you won’t be disappointed!
If you’re interested, we threw together a quick video highlighting our favourite parts of the tour! Check it out below :)
– Sean & Sarah