When David Jones returned to Scotland after a stint in British Columbia to find none of his favourite Canadian craft brewers were sold here, he did what most of us wouldn’t do and set up his own import business.

After months of research, red tape slashing and tenacious negotiations with Canadian brewers, the 33-year-old has just brought in his first pallet of beers from the Driftwood brewery, a brilliant outfit in Victoria whose glowing reputation extends far beyond its own sales reach of north-west Canada. Until now.

Driftwood formed in 2008, as part of a second wave of new craft breweries in British Columbia, which now boasts more than 100 breweries – not bad for a province of fewer than five million people. While a lot of Canadian breweries took inspiration from the craft beer scene in the States, Driftwood also looked to Europe, developing Belgian saisons and German altbiers, and they were one of BC’s first breweries to start barrel ageing. When they won Best Canadian Beer in 2011 for their monster IPA Fat Tug, their reputation as a top-end, pioneering brewery was sealed.

Driftwood admit they were initially reluctant to see their beers leave Canada. The brewery’s Gary Lindsay says: “Our biggest concern was having our beer properly represented; that means fresh beer, priced fairly and sold in the best possible scenario.”

Not something they could control from the other side of the Atlantic. But Gary admits that David’s persistence and passion won them over, and in the middle of October the first pallet of Driftwood beers arrived in Europe. They sold out 10 days later. The reaction to the beers, says David “has been incredible”. He also reveals he’s doubled up his next order (about 1500 large bottles called bombers with a volume of around 650ml) through his fledging business ScoCan and is also in negotiations with other Canadian craft brewers.


Fat Tug 7%

A hop-heavy beast of an IPA, Fat Tug’s aroma, like everything about this beer, is big. Its reeks comes from a Del Monte jungle, and it pours the colour of The Man’s burnt orange skin while the head is a creamy white, the colour of his Panama hat.

Venture inside, and hop fans will be the ones nodding Yes. This is a hop-laden beer where the sweet and bitter flavours marry beautifully. Body-wise, it's solid and waxy.

The malt's there - strong yet yielding - like caramel spread on toast, while the sweetness rushes in from the start - mangos, lemon, oranges, under-ripe peaches provides a slight twang of sourness towards the end. And is that a glimpse of vanilla too? Fat Tug’s a beast, but taming it is marvellously rewarding.

White Bark Witbier (5%)

A cloudy yellow beer with lemon zest, orange and gentle coriander aroma. Looks fairly solid, and tastes it too. The zesty tanginess continues, with some lively carbonation, spices and typical ester flavours.

Crooked Coast AltBier (5.1%)

A German-style beer made with dark malts and European noble hops giving flavours of citrus and a slightly caramel and toasted bread character. Pours a beautiful copper colour - like the gloaming on autumn hills - with a medium body and finish.

New Growth Pale Ale (5%)

The successor to Driftwood's eponymous ale, New Growth is a classic American style pale ale, with heaps of C hops, in this case the locally grown Centennial. Big juicy tropical flavours of melon, mango and tangerine; while malt-wise, think biscuit. The moderately bitter finish will keep you coming back for more.

Farmhand Saison (5.5%)

An aroma of cloves and gunpowder on the breeze, this Belgian-style saison has that estery tang to the fore though it’s followed by drawn-out flavours of spices, including cardomon, mango, oranges, peach and sweet lemon tart. It’s light-bodied, clean and elegant, with a lingering sourness at the close alongside a swaying bitterness.

Blackstone Porter (6%)

Rich in chocolate and coffee flavours, Blackstone Porter is deep, dark brown beer with an almost huggable body. Easy to drink, with an understated and pleasant citrus tartness, and roasted flavours and a gentle bittering in the finish.

Additional research by Jan Zeschky who writes about beer at theprovince.com/beer