Driftwood opened back in 2008, when there were just 55 breweries in British Columbia. Now there are 155. They’re based in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, which has around 25 breweries and brew pubs. Driftwood have grown quite a bit and now are the fifth largest craft brewer in BC. They do just larger format bottles and draft.
‘We wanted to brew a number of different styles, and the 650 ml bottle makes that possible,’ explains co-owner Gary Lindsay. ‘It’s the best margin and it’s simple.’
As they’ve grown they’ve invested $2m on a new bottling line which allows them to control oxygen pick-up, resulting in better quality beers that last longer. The bewery capacity has risen from 30 hl to 60 hl, and this year they’ll produce 21 000 hl of beer. They make six core beers and on top of this there are seasonals and limited releases.
Gary explains that as a hop-centred brewery, the hop profile is key to the success of their beers. ‘If it changes, customers notice,’ he says. So a lot of work goes into making sure that the beers are consistent even though the hop harvests are different. They have their hop contracts sorted out until 2020.
Driftwood have 60 barrels and produce a range of sours. Gary prefers barrel-aged sours and isn’t a fan of kettle sours. ‘For an IPA the turnaround is 10-14 days. For sours it is a year,’ he explains. ‘They cost a lot to make.’ Despite the current popularity of sours, he doesn’t think they will be the next IPAs because of this cost, and the fact that the flavour is not for everyone.
When Driftwood started in 2008 it was at the height of the craft boom, and they couldn’t source the hops to make IPA. So they began by focusing on Belgian styles. Now, though, their best-selling beer is the Fat Tug IPA. It’s 65% of their sales. There’s a huge malt base here but it isn’t a complex malt base. A ton of dry hopping develops the nose and flavour, but with the right base these bitter, astringent characters work really well. This is Driftwood’s skill: beers where all the flavours are integrated.
Driftwood Cry Me a River Gose
A salted sour white beer. Fresh, tangy and a bit salty. Tart and sour with some citrussy notes. Has freshness but also nice texture. Refreshing and saline. 8/10
Driftwood Farm Hand Saison
Made with Chouffe yeast plus white and black peppercorns. Fresh and tangy with lovely detail, and quite a bit of spiciness. Lively, spicy and vivid with a peppery edge. 8.5/10
Driftwood Entangled Haffenweis
With the fruity, tropical north American hop Mosaic. Extremely fruity and very tropical, with some passionfruit. Nice texture here with toffee, apricot, marmalade and spice. 9/10
Driftwood Black Stone Porter
Burnt coffee nose. Very dry and savoury. Complex and spicy with tarry roast coffee notes. Dry on the finish, with some iron notes. 8/10
Driftwood Fat Tug IPA
Amarillo is the main hop, supported by Cascade, Columbus and a few others. Beautifully complex, fresh and spicy with grapefruit and passionfruit. Powerful with a bit of sweet malt but also lovely complexity and freshness. 9/10
Driftwood Sartori Harvest IPA
This is a fresh hop beer and it sells out quickly. It’s made with Centennial, grown in BC. 400 pounds of wet hops go into 70 hl of wort. This is lively and spicy with fresh hoppy notes and some marmalade. Grassy and herby, dank and skunky. Brilliant stuff, full of interest. 9/10
Driftwood New Growth IPA
This is made from processed BC hops. Very fresh and lively with lemony fruitiness and some spiciness. It’s quite herbal and there’s some earthiness. Distinctive, hoppy and drinkable. 8/10
Thanks to Brent Muller of Vessel Liquor store, Victoria, who set this visit up