Veteran-owned brewery flying high with new ales

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Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

A veteran-owned microbrewery in Victoria continues to expand its operations and delight the taste buds of beer connoisseurs despite uncertain economic times.

V2V Black Hops Brewing recently released two new brands to its line-up of Canadian military-themed craft beers with Sea King IPA and Gunpowder Stout. The two new brews are already making their way into liquor stores.

The company is owned by Capt (Retired) Graham Hafey, a former Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) pilot. He has a soft spot for Sea King IPA, not only because he logged over 1,200 hours flying the now retired helicopter, but also because of the beer’s unique taste.

“It’s a west-coast style India Pale Ale, which means it tastes a little more delicate than the standard British IPA,” he says. “The hops have given it a really nice citrus-like finish and it tastes great.”

Gun Powder Stout, like their Victory Ale, is dedicated to the First Responders and anyone battling PTSD. The beer is not as heavy in taste like traditional Irish stouts, but is dark in colour, sweeter to the taste, and still a full-flavoured brew. 

The science behind his beer comes from his civilian Brewmaster, Duncan Blackman, former owner of Langford’s Happy Homebrewers U-brew, who Hafey says has an impressive resume of awards and recognition in provincial brewing competitions.

The duo now have high hopes they can make further in-roads in the craft beer market with their latest offerings, but are also painfully aware of the recent pandemic-related economic slump.  Early 2020, they purchased the 3,900 square foot Axe and Barrel brew pub in Langford and expected to open this year. But that went on hold with the pandemic.

“The timing of the opening couldn’t have been worse; it was planned weeks in advance and we had no idea how intense the ramifications of the pandemic would be at a local level until just days in advance,” said Hafey. 

They use the facility to brew keg, can, and bottle their line of beers, and sell them in the retail store attached to the pub.  Blackman oversees the brewpub’s massive 1,200 litre and 2,400 litre brew system that provides beer for his eight draft beer taps. They also can and bottle his products onsite, making six packs and various sizes of beer growlers for purchase or refill.

The beer company is only two years old, starting with Victory Ale and then The Brig Blonde Ale, a Pilsner/Kolsch. Both beers earned customer loyalty and are now sold in 35 liquor stores across B.C. and Alberta, with plans to expand to Ontario.

“We have come a long way in a short time, but it took some incredibly hard work,” said Hafey. “We are different than other microbreweries because we have a purpose, not only because we are veteran run, but also because our initial support came largely from military members, veterans, and first responders.”

V2V supports veterans, military, and first responder charitable organizations with cash donations. Some beneficiaries are Cockrell House, a transitional facility for homeless veterans that provides social services and housing, Can Praxis, an equine-based mental health therapy provider for veterans and first responders, and the BC/Alberta Guide Dogs, a charitable organization that provides Service Dogs to both veterans and first responders who suffer from PTSD. Black Hops has recently joined forces with CannaConnect, which provides access for veterans to medical cannabis products.

The pub and adjacent patio finally opened in late May, but under strict health and safety guidelines and limitations on the number of patrons. 

“It’s been very difficult for us and others in the hospitality industry; we are all greatly impacted by COVID-19,” said Hafey. “The wholesale and draft beer market essentially collapsed for several weeks and when other bars and pubs who also carry our beer shut down our sales took a direct hit. Things are gradually starting to rebound, but for now the future is very uncertain.”

V2V is currently offering free delivery to customers on the West Shore for orders over $40 and charges a $5 delivery fee to other customers in the Greater Victoria area. An added kick to the service is their Canadian Army LSVW truck and U.S. Army Humvee that make the deliveries.

“Our customers get a big charge seeing these vehicles roll up on the scene,” he says. “The delivery service is aimed at a number of people who aren’t yet ready to return to the bar and the restaurant scene.”

For updated information about V2V’s full line of products, their pub menu, hours of operation, or to place a delivery order, follow their Facebook page or visit their website www.v2vblackhopsbrewing.ca

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Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author: The Lookout Newspaper can trace its history back to April 1943 when CFB Esquimalt’s first newspaper was published. Since then, Lookout has grown into the award winning source for Pacific Navy News. Leading the way towards interactive social media reach, we are a community resource newspaper growing a world wide audience.

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  1. Krista Smith says:

    Looking forward to getting this at our Royal Canadian Legion Branch. Would you be interested in coming over and doing a “Launch Party” with us sometime?

  2. Ian Mullin says:

    looking forward to get it in Winnipeg.

  3. Bret Fraizer says:

    I would like to order in Wisconsin USA.
    I flew in the sea king as a SAR swimmer at HC-1 San Diego, CA . 1988-1992

  4. Ken Glidden says:

    Can I order Sea King IPA to be shipped to Massachusetts?

  5. Dave Thomas says:

    Would like to purchase in South California, we have a local called Total Wine and More.

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