In 1946 George Orwell wrote an essay in which he provided a detailed description of his ideal pub, the fictitious Moon Under Water. Anyone who has a passion for real beer and a real fine place to drink it in has likely several such pubs swimming in their imaginations. I’ve certainly got my idea of what makes for the perfect pub, but I’ll spare you the prose this time around. Better yet, if you offer to take me out for a few pints of IPA or bitter ale, I’ll be more than happy to tell you all about my ideal public house. Mr. Orwell lists off ten characteristics his perfect London pub should have. I may well have enjoyed a beer in something very close to his ideal type during a trip to London some years ago, but my ideal is a lot different. This is not 1946, and Victoria, BC may pretend to be like London, but it ain’t no London. And I sure as hell ain’t George Orwell.
Upon entering Victoria’s newest micro-brew pub today, I was so very relieved that the owners did not attempt to mimic the Victorian pub Orwell envisioned. If I see one more dusty print of an 1800’s English countryside fox hunt adorning the wall a faux British pub here in Victoria, I’m gonna scream. Well, maybe not scream, but certainly finish my beer and scoff at the contrived interior decorations.
Victoria’s Moon Under Water is about as far away from London as it could get, in actual kilometres and interior design. And that’s a good thing. The minimalistic interior at this Moon Pub is spacious, with a tasteful selection of local art and a couple of gas fire places. The brew kettles are bubbling away in the adjacent, easily visible brewery room, reminding you exactly where you are and why you’re here. I love brew pubs that have the kettles close by because there are fewer scents I like more than that of hot, malty wort wafting through the air.
Like Orwell’s ideal type, Victoria’s Moon Under Water delivers true ales and pub food via self-serve. The Brits have always done it right. Walk up and place your order, fetch your own beer. If you order food, take a number back to your table, and when ready, food will be brought to you. Pub efficiency at its best. I don't need a bimbo in a Scots mini-skirt hovering around my table, giving me the hard sell, stealing glasses that still have drink in them, working me over for tips.
Moon Under Water Pub had three excellent ales on tap today. A blonde ale, a pale ale and a best bitter ale. All three were delicious, and while I love the zymurgic innovations done with beer in North America’s often overzealous micro-brew scene, the tastings today at Moon were the truest-to-English style ale I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy this side of the Atlantic. Like the ales made in England, Moon’s three ales are all under 5% alcohol, which has its benefits, especially given BC’s new impaired driving legislation. This is good brew, folks, and there will be more styles to come as brewmakers at Moon have a chance to settle in and expand.
As for food, Moon Under Water did not disappoint. I had the Moon Burger, my associate had a sandwich (chicken/pesto) with soup (borscht), and both were delicious, about as good as pub food gets in this town.
Perhaps the one thing working against this new pub is its odd location. When we hear Rock Bay neighbourhood, we think cement factory, small manufacturing plants, and (as of last week) a new homeless persons shelter. Brew pub you said? An odd location indeed, but not a bad location. We live downtown, and were able to walk it in 25 minutes. From Chinatown, it will take you 10 or 15 minutes on foot. The number 14 bus will drop you off and pick you just steps from the pub door. If you are driving, there’s ample free parking.
I think Moon Under Water is a great addition to Victoria’s thriving real beer sector, and it may well turn out to brew some of the region’s finest tap ales. After my visit today, I’m inclined to argue that its ales are as good as any, if not better, than those you’d drink at Spinnakers, Swans or Canoe Club.