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EAT Magazine July_Aug 2017_Victoria_60_Layout 1 7/3/17 11:02 AM Page 54

BEER

ONLY POUR

THE GOOD S**T The decades-long overnight success of the Drake Eatery story by DANIEL MURPHY photography by JOHANN VINCENT MIKE SPENCE HAS NEVER BREWED BEER, or even worked for a brewery. But he has the Sickness. Through a decade and a half of long nights slinging suds, building his success upon the smelly dregs of pint glasses, he still holds an unmatched reverence for the art of craft brewing. The tourists in this suddenly-hip scene are so legion it’s like a horrible, bearded joke—making it more important than ever to recognize the heroes from the hangers-on, and pay homage where it’s due. But, like rare birds, you will have to seek them out. The true forefathers of the beer snifter are reluctant heroes. Before I can even sit down to initiate a dialogue, Mike asks if I’ve heard about a new plot by InBev (Budweiser’s parent company) to choke hop supply to independent breweries. He recounts a story about Lagunitas founder Tony Magee purposefully misspelling label information to stay consistent with the mistakes he made on his first print runs. He tells me—with as much ecstasy as his reserved, quiet nature can summon—that Scot Blair, bar owner/personal hero from San Diego, will be flying up to The Drake for an upcoming event. Make no mistake—Mike Spence lives, breathes and sweats the stuff. But only the best of the stuff. In 1989 Mike made his way out West to Vancouver from Charlottetown, P.E.I. Soon after, he was waiting for the ferry in Horseshoe Bay, Nanaimo-bound. He entered a bar and ordered what he calls “the bad beer of my youth.” Beside him at the bar, the Prototypical Old-timer snarled at him, “You don’t want to drink that shit.” It turns out the “shit” he should have been drinking, in one portentous curmudgeon’s opinion, was Hermann’s Dark Lager (VI Brewery.) This wasn’t a clichéd epiphany—more of a clichéd seed planted firmly in a young traveller’s mind. Thirteen years later, on February 2, 2002, the Knockanback Grill opened its doors, at Wilkinson and Interurban roads in Saanich, under the proprietorship of Mike and Lee Spence (Mike’s partner in marriage/business/crime.) Initially a stalwart outpost of Mike’s “bad beer” past, the Knockanback clientele began leaning toward a handful of the emerging local brews. Back in the day, this was not only a question of taste—local beer was expensive. And local brewers were not able to meet the “incentives” (legal or otherwise, mostly otherwise) that Big Beer was able to put on the table. This was a pivotal moment for the Spences. As a fledgling local pub, with everything on the line, moving away from the economic and generic safety of Big Beer was a bold and potentially

C O N T I N U E D O N F O L L O W I N G PA G E

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JULY/AUGUST 2017

Eat magazine july aug 2017  

Local Food and Culture Celebrating the food & drink in British Columbia

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