drink

Get Better at Giving.

We’ve all heard it: “give experiences not things” – which is fine but what experiences are we talking about specifically here? One of the suggestions I heard recently is babysitting your niece. Great. But dude, that shouldn’t be a Christmas gift. It’s nice and all but if you live in the same city as the little rugrat, and you aren’t babysitting once in awhile, it’s time to step it up. And the ‘ol book of coupons for your main squeeze isn’t as awesome as you think, trust me. Sure, a foot massage sounds romantic, but there may be a reason it isn’t a popular request in your house (hint: you suck at it). All that said though, giving thoughtful and creative, experiential gifts is way better than going to the mall and buying everything in sight. But there is another way to be thoughtful and creative, so put away the craft supplies, set up a play-date with your niece for fun and instead, think local food and drink.

First up, West Coast Brewery Tours. What better way to check out Victoria’s booming brew scene than to actually go visit the breweries and speak to the malt magicians who work there? Tour choices range from a two hour jaunt to a five hour haul and all include transportation so you can imbibe, just make sure you grab a cab home! 

Why not give the gift of dining? Most restaurants sell gift certificates so your recipient will be able to go for a great gastronomic experience anytime. Even though there are so many incredible restaurants in town, it’s tough to step outside your comfort zone. This is where a copy of TASTE MAG is going to come in handy. With detailed restaurant profiles of quirky Victoria favourites like Mo:Lé and North 48, old standbys like The Keg, Pescatores and Willies Bakery you’ll find a ton of information to make the perfect decision. Plus, with the locals driven listings you can do some taste-testing pre-Christmas, just make sure you use the built in rating system to keep track of your favourites. This is going to come in handy year-round. Turn to the back of the MAG and you’ll find an awesome piece that lets you know where you can take those coffee connoisseurs on your list – try checking out one of the many open mic nights or grab a low key lunch with made with local ingredients. 

A gift basket full of local, edible goods is great for everyone. Surprise someone with a romantic picnic or let your family from out-of-town try the best of what Victoria has to offer. For a great homemade gift basket, your first stop should be the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson. It’s an incredible place where you’ll find local artisans, farmers, fishers, butchers, bakers, cheese-makers, vinters, perservers, florists and brewers all congregating under one incredibly funky roof – just make sure you take a break from shopping and grab a bite at Roast. Top off your basket with a bottle of local wine, cider or beer – you just can’t go wrong.  

See? Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming, just remember that whatever experience you decide to gift someone this season, you’ll be in good hands pairing local fare with great company.  

See? Cider is Awesome.

Autumn in Victoria is something special - the fiery colours of the leaves, the salty kiss of the wind, the welcome glow of steamed-up pub windows… and nothing kicks it off quite like Thanksgiving. Unlike its American counterpart (whose date makes it more or less a dress rehearsal for Christmas) Canadian Thanksgiving is an October affair that stands on its own two feet without Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock or American football. There are some commonalities, though: turkey, stuffing, more turkey, pumpkin pie, heartburn; but this Thanksgiving we decided to try something a little different…and very Victoria. Instead of our typical haul of wine and beer, we chose three different kinds of Seacider from our favourite specialty liquor store. Here’s what we discovered…

Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse is a ten-acre operation on the beautiful Saanich Peninsula, boasting a whopping 1,300 apple trees and fifty-plus varieties of heritage apples. The ciderhouse itself, which features breathtaking panoramic views of Haro Strait, is open for tastings and tours year-round, 11am to 4pm. That’s the long way of saying ‘scrumpy heaven.’

It all started back in 2007, when Kristen Jordan purchased the property with the purpose of creating an organic farm and orchard that produced old school artisanal ciders. Fast forward eight years and Sea Cider are producing seven thousand-plus cases of award-winning product each year, distributing in BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Washington, Oregon and Illinois. Why the success? Because beautiful, boozy, apple goodness takes serious talent and Kristen and company have bushels of it. Let’s get down to the scrumptious details…

RUMRUNNER (Prohibition)

Gold Medalist

Here’s the story: Rumrunner was inspired by the bootleggers who ran the illicit booze trade in the waters visible from the cidery. It blends the juice of aromatic apples like Stayman’s Winesaps and Winter Bananas to match the intense oak and rum notes. Rumrunner’s apples are hand-pressed with a traditional rack and cloth press, slow fermented with Champagne yeast and aged in rum-soaked bourbon barrels for the better part of half a year. Semi-dry, this rich, mahogany offering hits you with notes of brown sugar, molasses and rum, pairs beautifully with spice, and weighs in at a whopping 12.5% alcohol volume. Because this amber beauty does have a higher alcohol volume, we found that it’s a great for replacing champagne or wine at the table. Plus, for anyone who thinks cider just tastes like sparking apple juice, this bad boy will turn them around. It was a great pairing with our homemade pepper jelly appies and even killed it as a companion with the proscutto wrapped dates.

This effervescent semi-sweet brew is infused with a cauldron-full of autumn spices with haunting hints of cinnamon, orange, nutmeg and ginger. Combining the best of BC cider apples, the magic in this potion comes courtesy of champagne yeast, cold-fermented to maximize the aromatics of the cider base, pumpkin spice bitters in cider au de vie and a dose of Oaken gin from the good people at Victoria Spirits. Named after the invasive Scotch broom that’s synonymous with West Coast flora, Witch’s Broom is pumpkin pie in a pint glass, pairing beautifully with root veggies and succulent dark meat. This gal went with everything. It was a perfect addition to the entire day and when the last bottle was done there were some seriously disappointed diners! So good it’s spooky!

PERRY

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When a heritage perry orchard was discovered just a few miles down the road from Sea Cider, Kristen Jordan and company knew there was only one thing to do: make a small batch of perry in the traditional Herefordshire style. A perennial favourite, this straw-coloured, beautifully nuanced sipper is made with champagne yeast, and features dry pear flavours and a light tannic, sharp finish. Perry pairs excellently with rich or creamy dishes. Think creamy pasta, green curry, or gooey cheeses. This was a favourite with the ladies at my house. It’s nice and tart so a little goes a long way and went perfectly with Thanksgiving fare cutting the richness of the creamed potatoes, gravy and turkey. It’s a great standby that I’ll be picking up again and again (as long as the stock lasts!)


Sea Cider is a certified organic farm in compliance with Canada’s National Organic Standards through the Pacific Agricultural Certification Society (PACS).