Thanks to the recent opening of Ladysmith’s first craft brewery, Bayview Brewing, this historic town is becoming a destination rather than just a pit stop.
As someone who frequently drives from Victoria to Comox, I often only stop in Ladysmith if I have a hankering for a cinnamon bun the size of a sedan from the Old Town Bakery or need some gas. The truth is there are actually many reasons to visit this small seaside community, including a thriving art scene, a plethora of hiking trails, and some lovely restaurants, and now, its very own brewery: Bayview Brewing .
The first thing I notice when I arrive for my visit is the location. It’s situated off Dogwood Drive in a residential neighbourhood on the edge of Ladysmith’s quaint downtown. In fact, the brewery is attached to a family home and across the street from a new condo development. I’m so used to seeing breweries opening in industrial parks that this gem tucked away on a residential street is a refreshing sight.
The second thing I notice once I walk through the doors is the extensive food menu on display. I assumed this was first and foremost a brewery with maybe a snack or two to keep the masses happy so I am pleasantly surprised to see a substantial and eclectic variety of dishes. The Beer-Braised Pulled Pork Sandwich, a vegan and gluten-free Buddha Bowl, and the Tuna Poke Bowl are just a few of the dishes that jump out at me. Also intriguing are the Tortilla Chips with Beer Cheese and the Char Siu Pork Bao Bun, a dish I have seen posted many times on social media.
The last thing that stands out is, of course, the beer selection. Like the food menu, it is also extensive with a vast array of beer styles including some pale ales, a sour, gose, saison, dunkel, blonde, and a variety of IPAs. It’s at this point I meet Rod Alsop, the owner of the aforementioned attached family home and one of three owners of Bayview Brewing. He selects four pours for me (Sunny Saltair Special Hazy IPA, Blueberry Pie Lactose Sour, 7 Belles Saison, and the Spruce Tip Pale Ale ) and we have a seat on the beautiful hand-crafted patio to chat more about how this brewery came to be.
Alsop bought the house next door in 2011. A longtime music teacher at the local high school, that is where he met fellow teacher and now business partner Jonny Ludtke. Ludtke was working as a culinary arts instructor and they became fast friends, bonding over food and beer. As we continue chatting, Ludtke joins us out on the patio with the beer cheese and Char Siu buns I ordered. The cheese comes out bubbling and golden orange, and the Char Siu buns are absolutely massive. I’m in for a treat.
You can tell Ludtke loves what he does. As head chef and co-brewer of Bayview, he’s a very busy guy, but he still takes 45 minutes out of his day to chat with me about how he got started in the culinary and beer world, all self-taught, which is a phenomenal feat.
Ludtke grew up in a small town and started working in restaurants as a teen. After attending university he got a job to pay the bills as a cook at various golf courses including the Cottonwood Golf Course in Ladysmith. It was at the golf course where he met the principal of Ladysmith Secondary and found out about a position in the culinary program of the high school. And although his goal was to teach social studies, he took the culinary position as a way to get his foot in the door. This is where he meets Alsop and the rest, as they say, is history.
The early idea for Bayview Brewing was sparked by a dinner that Ludtke hosted and Alsop attended. Alsop was “astounded by the food” that Ludtke had lovingly made, and that got the wheels turning. It was roughly around this time that Ludtke started brewing beer at home, and when the third Bayview Brewing owner, Alfred Elviss, came into the picture.
Both Ludtke and Elviss were passionate homebrewers and over time started to not only perfect tested recipes, but also create their own. After a year of experimenting on willing friends and family, the two entered a homebrew competition in 2018 and won a few of the categories. With this new confidence, they started to seriously consider opening a brewery, and with a nudge from Alsop, they set out to find a location. They decided to take over the space directly beside Alsop’s house, and the brewery finally opened its doors on April 29, 2022.
I ask if they consider themselves more of a restaurant with great beer or a brewery with awesome food, and Ludtke responds that they thought the beer was going to be the focus, but in actuality the food has become the star. The beer is inspired by some of their favourite breweries including Île Sauvage in Victoria and Longwood Brewery in Nanaimo. Ludtke is particularly fond of pastry sours and dessert sours, but also loves brewing a more traditional saison and ale. The food is inspired by Ludtke’s many years working as a culinary teacher and he actually employs former high school culinary students.
So whether you are a beer lover that happens to grab a bite to eat or a foodie that happens upon a good beer, Bayview Brewing is a great new local spot to please a crowd.
What to Do (and Eat!) in Ladysmith:
Heart Lake Loop: Explore the surrounding nature and soak in some spectacular views on this 6.3km hiking trail. Full loop takes roughly 2.5 hours to complete and be prepared to go up! When you are done treat yourself to a coffee mascarpone crepe from Ironworks Café & Crêperie.
Maya Norte: Indulge in authentic Spanish-Mexican cuisine at this beautiful downtown restaurant. The carnitas tacos are a must try and the papas bravas (fried potatoes) are a local favourite.
Arts on the Avenue Festival: Be sure to visit in August for this popular event that celebrates local artists. Grab a coffee from Old Town Bakery and stroll along First Avenue among the many vendors selling their art.
Wild Poppy Market: Pop in to this cute shop to grab a killer breakfast sandwich or a gluten-free baked treat. It’s a great local shop to source local products like coffee from Duncan, honey from Cedar, or kombucha from Tofino.
Harbour Tours: Explore the coastline on a heritage boat run by the Ladysmith Maritime Society and keep your eyes open for resident seals, otters, and eagles. Be sure to stop at the Oyster Bay Cafe for a bowl of seafood chowder with a view.
Bonnie Todd is the owner of Off the Eaten Track Food Tours in Victoria, BC. She is passionate about discovering and promoting the culinary culture on Vancouver Island and is a regular contributor to local publications including Edible Vancouver Island and MicCHEK podcast.