If you grew up in Ontario—and it seems like half of British Columbians did, myself included—then you know what “May Two-Four” means. You probably used that expression reflexively for the first few years after you moved here, gradually dropping it from your vocabulary until one day you heard someone say it and caught yourself thinking, “That dude must be from back east,” which, of course, is B.C.–speak for saying someone is from Ontario.
May Two-Four, if you don’t know, is Ontario-ese for the Victoria Day long weekend. The “two-four” part refers to a 24-pack of beer, which is a common packaging size there. At some point in Ontario history, a witty person made the connection between the 24-pack and the holiday because it occurs close to May 24. Needless to say, many two-fours are consumed on the May Two-Four weekend back east.
The point of all this is to highlight the fact that for many—whether you call it the May Two-Four or Victoria Day—the May long weekend symbolizes the beginning of summer, even if the season doesn’t officially begin until the solstice on June 21. It marks the start of camping season or the time when folks open up their cabins/cottages. (I won’t get into cabin versus cottage, which is almost as fierce a debate as the regional ginch/gonch one.) And for those who don’t head out of town, it’s prime park/beach/back-yard barbecue time.
In other words, it’s beer season.
So, to celebrate the May Two-Four, which technically happened on May 18 this year, here are some great “welcome to summer” beers to explore. Of course, since they’re all from B.C., none are available in an actual two-four.
Bomber Brewing Park Life Passion Fruit Ale
(Vancouver; six-packs of 355-millilitre cans at private liquor stores or the brewery, and on tap)
This refreshing, passion-fruit infused blond ale hits the perfect amount of crisp tartness to make it the ideal patio beer. At 4.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), it’s a session beer—meaning you can have a couple without getting lost between the bases on the softball field or ending up too woozy to ride your bike home from the beach. And if the name seems to encourage consumption in public green spaces, well, that’s not legal, of course, but it is pretty awesome.
Moon Under Water Brewery Light Side of the Moon
(Victoria; four-packs of 473-millilitre cans at private liquor stores, and on select taps)
Here’s another ideal session beer, this one in gorgeously illustrated tall cans from Victoria’s Moon Under Water Brewery & Pub. It’s an unfiltered craft lager brewed with rice malts and sweet orange peel for a dry, refreshing finish—so light at 4.2 percent ABV that it’s virtually weightless but still very flavourful.
Fernie Brewing Co. Slingshot Session IPA
(Fernie; six-packs of 355-millilitre cans at private and B.C. Liquor stores, and on tap)
Fernie Brewing has been exploring a wide range of “Bucket List IPAs” over the past year or so, and this “little brother” might just be the best of the bunch, even if it’s not officially part of the series. It’s surprisingly full-bodied for a 4.5 percent ABV beer, and the blend of Australian Galaxy and American Mosaic hops (at 45 international bittering units [IBU]) gives it a fruity and citrus-y hop aroma and flavour.
Category 12 Brewing Waveform Witbier
(Victoria; 650-millilitre bottles at private liquor stores, and on select taps)
This latest seasonal release from Victoria’s newest brewery is a tasty Belgian wheat ale with a zesty, grapefruit flavour and subtle hints of cardamom that augment the yeast’s fruity and spicy character.
Cannery Brewing Stumbling Goat Dry-Hopped Maibock
(Penticton; 650-millilitre bottles at private liquor stores)
In Germany, maibocks are traditionally brewed in May as a transition from the darker bock beers of winter to lighter summer lagers. Cannery’s version is dry-hopped, which gives this malt-forward beer a refreshingly dry finish.
Driftwood Brewery Gose-Uh
(Victoria; 650-millilitre bottles at private liquor stores, and on tap)
Gose is a German style of wheat beer with a unique combination of sour fermentation and added salt. This summer, Driftwood is using locally produced salt from Vancouver Island Salt Co. in its beer. The result is a refreshingly tart and slightly salty mix that works perfectly on hot days.