Greater Victoria is blessed with an amazing network of bike trails. The Galloping Goose Trail extends 45 km to the nearby community of Sooke, home to three breweries, a meadery and a distillery, which makes it an ideal destination on a weekend bike excursion.
Riding out to Sooke from Victoria is a great adventure. I have done it a few times over the past few years, joined by a few friends. We usually make a weekend of it, staying in an AirBnB. Last year, we couldn’t stay overnight because of COVID rules, but I still did the ride there and back with a friend. That was a long day of riding totalling nearly 100 kilometres!
This summer, the ride to Sooke was scheduled for mid-July. Luckily, it was after the oppressively hot heatwave we experienced earlier in the month. In fact, the first day of the ride was cool and overcast with rain a possibility in the forecast. We never did get wet, but the cooler temperature made for great cycling weather.
We kicked things off with brunch and a beer at Spinnakers Brewpub — it’s always important to fuel up before a long ride. I was joined by my regular cycling pal Tom, along with my friend Mike from Nanaimo who had accompanied me on the single-day ride to Sooke last year. Another friend, Jaime, joined us after lunch. We started out by taking the E&N Rail Trail, which begins not far from Spinnakers. The E&N Rail Trail runs next to the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway, a currently unused rail line.
If we had wanted to stop for another beer, it would have been incredibly easy to do so.
Within 10 minutes of leaving Spinnakers, we had already passed very close to both Lighthouse Brewing and Driftwood Brewery’s new location. And not too much farther along we rode within sight of the 4 Mile Brewpub. But our plan was to ride all the way to Sooke without stopping.
The E&N Rail Trail runs diagonally across Esquimalt and meets up with the Galloping Goose Trail in View Royal. It’s one of my favourite stretches to ride in Victoria because it takes you through such a diversity of landscapes and backdrops, including urban warehouses covered in graffiti, the navy base (CFB Esquimalt), quiet residential neighbourhoods, and surprisingly wild pockets of forest. Some parts of the trail are lined with blackberry bushes, but it was still a bit too early for berry picking in mid-July.
The Galloping Goose is a converted rail trail that once extended all the way out to Sooke; it was named after the train that used to run the route. As a result, most of the trail is quite flat. Once we were on the Goose, we headed west into Langford, the burgeoning Victoria suburb that, rather surprisingly, is home to only one craft brewery: V2V Black Hops (previously called the Axe & Barrel Brewhouse). That brewery’s location on the north side of the highway makes it a bit of a side trip for cyclists along some fairly busy roads so we decided to forego a visit. I wonder why no other breweries have opened in the “downtown” part of Langford south of the highway — it seems like it would be an ideal location for at least one if not a few small craft breweries.
Before long we were riding past Royal Roads University in Colwood, which necessitated a photo stop since Mike has been completing a certificate program there remotely. Soon we found ourselves cruising through the farms and forests of Metchosin. This part of the Galloping Goose is so beautiful — riding through peaceful stretches of countryside with no cars to worry about has a restful, meditative quality for me.
After Matheson Lake, we encountered the only two steep sections of the ride — two small but extremely steep gullies that must have been spanned by bridges when the train was still running. In both cases, we all had to dismount halfway up the other side, partially because we were heavily laden with saddlebags. But after those two valleys, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. Next, a gorgeous vista opened up on our left side — here, the Galloping Goose extends along a high bluff overlooking the Sooke Basin. It’s a beautiful stretch of the ride and, as soon as it was done, we found ourselves on the outskirts of Sooke. At this point, you have the choice of following the bike trail as it runs above the main road and then up to Sooke Potholes Park or riding along Sooke Road itself. The road is very busy, but we wanted to stop in at Sooke Oceanside Brewery a short distance towards town so we took the road.
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At that time, Sooke Oceanside Brewery was still in its original location connected to a gas station. Since then, it has moved into a newly constructed building closer to “downtown” Sooke. Anyway, when we pulled in on our bikes there were several people inside the tiny tasting room already and we found out it was at capacity. Since we were already planning to visit again once the new location opened, we got back on our bikes and returned to the Galloping Goose, heeding the siren call of beer at Sooke Brewing!
I can’t wait to check out SOB’s new location, which features a full tasting room with views of the Sooke Harbour!
Sooke Brewing is located right in the heart of “downtown Sooke” in a custom-built building with a giant tree trunk front and centre. It has a patio out front and another in the parking lot behind, where a food truck is permanently parked. The brewery serves its own community primarily — the only way to try its beers is to visit the brewery in person. And that is just what we did, rewarding ourselves after our long ride with a flight of tasters. My favourite was the Belgian Blond: a light, effervescent ale with a spicy finish.
After filling some growlers to take with us we continued on to our AirBnB, located in a townhouse complex right down on Sooke Harbour. We had a fun evening barbecuing, hot tubbing and playing board games.
On Saturday, after a leisurely morning, we headed out on our bikes with a plan to visit a brewery, a meadery and a distillery.
The first destination was Bad Dog Brewing, which is located above central Sooke just off Otter Point Road. Although this ride was only about 8 km long, it was mostly uphill so, by the time we got there, we were definitely looking forward to our reward!
Bad Dog was founded by John and Rosie Lyle, who built it on their rural property late in 2017. Recently, they expanded the tasting room space, but it was closed during our visit because of COVID rules. We were happy to sit outside in the very welcoming picnic patio space where we sampled the beers while we played a round of CodeNames.
The very friendly proprietors served the beers through the tasting room window, and they were busy the whole time we were there, serving flights to customers or selling cans for takeaway. Bad Dog Brewing is a great destination to visit, whether by bicycle or car, with delicious beers and a welcoming vibe.
After a pleasant hour or so, we got back on our bikes to head for our next destination. At this point, we said farewell to Jaime, who had to ride back to Victoria—poor guy! Mike, Tom and I continued on our way, heading west along Otter Point Road. Although there were a couple of short, steep climbs along this stretch, we also enjoyed two long, winding downhill stretches. The second one ended abruptly at the highway, however, which necessitated some rather heavy braking!
From there, it was only a short ride to our second stop of the afternoon, Tugwell Creek Meadery. Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from honey and, because it requires a lot of beehives to produce enough honey to make mead, there aren’t very many meaderies in British Columbia. Based on a beautiful property with sheep in pastures, as well as lots of wildflowers with bees buzzing around them, Tugwell Creek is a popular stop for tourists driving west from Sooke. In fact, we had to wait in line for about 15 minutes before we got a chance to taste the mead. Because of COVID rules, the tasting room was closed, but founder and mead-maker Bob Liptrot was offering samples through a serving window.
The meads produced at Tugwell Creek are similar to wines in terms of their strength and flavour profile. Some are more like port or sherry — in fact, Bob said he works with Sheringham Distillery to distill some of his mead to use in his fortified versions. My favourite was one of those: the Vintage Sac, a traditional dessert-style mead that is aged in French oak. I bought a bottle to take home with me.
After taking numerous photos of wildflowers with buzzing bees, we got back on our bikes and rode back into Sooke. This part of the day’s ride was definitely the least enjoyable since it was on the main highway, which does not have bike lanes or even rideable shoulders at points. I would like to see the road improved to make it safer for cyclists, especially since it is definitely within cycling range of riders from Victoria.
Our third stop was the Sheringham Distillery in central Sooke. Sheringham produces a variety of different styles of gin, as well as vodka, aquavit and some liqueurs. The distillery, which is set behind a combination car wash/dog wash, has a small store where they provide taster samples to encourage sales. Best known for its Seaside Gin, I’d discovered the Kazuki Gin on past visits, which is made with cherry blossoms, yuzu peels, and green tea. The Rhubarb Gin liqueur proved to be very tasty too.
Soon we were back at our townhouse where we enjoyed more hot tubbing, delicious food and board games. Sunday morning began with a healthy breakfast of steel cut oats and blueberries. Then we loaded up our bikes for the return ride back to Victoria. We did make one stop to check out the location of Sooke Oceanside Brewery’s new tasting room, which was still under construction. It will definitely be a great spot and Tom and I made a plan to ride out there again as soon as it opens. (Not that Mike wasn’t keen to join us, but it would be a lot longer to ride there from Nanaimo!)