île Sauvage is Not Your Average Brewery

Rock Bay’s île Sauvage Brewing brings something old — and something new — to Victoria.

Photo by Jeffrey Bosdet

“If you just yell them out to me, I’ll pour them.”

From a tap mounted next to 20 others on a wall of white herringbone tile, Stephane Turcotte pours a red hibiscus-flavoured sour beer into a fat-bellied glass and sets it beside another — this one filled with a clear, light yellow brew with scents of ginger and pineapple. He carries on, filling various vessels for customers sitting along the bar at his high-ceilinged Rock Bay tasting room for île Sauvage Brewing Co.

As the name suggests  — île sauvage is French for wild island — this isn’t the place for anything regular.

“We are big beer nerds,” says head brewer Turcotte, who along with partners Ian Ibbotson and Adam Gresley-Jones, opened île Sauvage in early 2019.

Beyond Normal

Dedicated to the art of sour beer in the Orval tradition of French-speaking Belgium, île Sauvage focuses on uncategorical beer flavours achieved by a handful of specific techniques not associated with the average beer-making routine. These include long fermentation processes; the use of wild yeast and house-mixed bacterial and lacto cultures and the addition of flavours like rosemary, coriander and sea salt. Everything is blended to taste.

“We’re not just making your normal lagers and pale ales,” says Turcotte. “Everything we’re making has a twist.”

Most île Sauvage beer is brewed in third-use oak wine barrels. The bacteria and yeast used to sour the beer provides a range of unpredictable outcomes, some as willful as the wild hand of Mother Nature. Because of that, île Sauvage’s business model is focused on being a tasting room, rather than a production centre, though some of their signature beers are sold in select liquor stores in Victoria.

“Beer is best consumed where it’s made. That is where it tastes best, and it’s also the most environmental,” says Turcotte, a level-three advanced cicerone (the beer equivalent of a sommelier). “It’s the ideal way to brew and serve beer — at the brewery.”

This article is from the June/July 2019 issue of Douglas.