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West Bay’s Boozy History

Updated: Sep 18, 2021

By Amy Higginbotham

Several years ago, my husband and I did some excavation work in the backyard of our house on Dunsmuir Road. As we were digging, we noticed something shiny in the dirt. Upon closer inspection, we realized we had found a very old looking beer bottle (see picture to the right). The bottle is imprinted with the words, ‘Victoria Brewing Co.’

When we first bought the house in 2005, we had heard that the land it sat on was previously the site of an industrial brewery. So, when we found this tangible remnant of the property’s history, we were interested to learn more.

The Phoenix Brewery was established in 1858 by William Steinberger, who had arrived in Victoria from Germany in search of his fortune in gold. The brewery was first located at Swan Lake, moved to the corner of Yates and Blanshard Streets in 1860 and relocated to Head Street in 1892. The company also purchased the nearby waterfront land around this time with plans to build a wharf to export its beer internationally; however, there is no record that the wharf was ever constructed. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a picture in existence of the West Bay brewery; however, it was reported to be a brick building which incorporated the latest technology and allowed the company to increase its production ten-fold.

The Phoenix Brewery amalgamated with the Victoria Brewing Company in 1896 and remained at the premises in Esquimalt until 1928. In 1955, the Victoria Phoenix brewery changed its name to Lucky Lager and, in 1958, it was purchased by John Labatt.

In the image to the right, I can see that our house on Dunsmuir Road is likely located just slightly to the west of where the brewery once maintained a ‘bottling’ facility. It makes sense then that more than 100 years later we would inadvertently uncover a memento from West Bay’s fascinating history.

Much appreciation to the Esquimalt Archives & UVic for the historical info. and images above.

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