I don’t pretend to know a lot about beer besides what I like and what I don’t like. But with the sudden surge of microbreweries and craft beer sprouting up across BC lately, it’s hard not to notice when they appear in unlikely places – like Valemount BC, a small town of about 2,000 people nestled in the mountains, 292 kilometres (181 miles) east of Prince George, near the Alberta border.
Three Ranges Brewing Company, opened by Michael Lewis in December 2013, is well worth the 7 hour round trip drive I took to get there. I recently took this trip with the local Prince George Kiwanis Club, in promotion of their Kiwanis Ale Fest that will take place in January 2015. About twenty-five beer “enthusiasts,” many of them strangers (but not for long), piled onto a big coach bus for a full day of togetherness with one thing in mind: beer. Now that’s love.
Arriving in Valemount, we couldn’t have been greeted by a more charming and down-to-earth host, as happy to see us as we were to be there. Michael is a retired US Army pilot who moved to our region seven years ago, excited for all the opportunities around craft beer. When his wife told him that he drinks enough beer, he should just make it, they decided to settle in Valemount – specifically chosen for its strong sense of community and beautiful location – and open the nanobrewery.
As his faithful bartender, Ange, started lining up our flights, Michael shared his story, filled with dedication to his past, his local community and his beer. Full of humour, he told us: “I want you to know that I walk in at 7:30 in the morning and start drinking beer.”
Each of the beers has a story. The Up Swift Creek Pilsner is named for the local creek where residents get their water from, and is definitely my favorite beer (a great drinking beer) and the biggest seller in Valemount. My second favorite, the Sacrifice Red Ale, was named in recognition and appreciation of the sacrifices that soldiers and their families make, and every month Michael puts this beer on sale with proceeds going to a different military service. The Mudbogger Dark Ale was something Michael made by accident as a home brewer – he said it stunk for four days, but when it was cleaned out, turned out to be amazing – and it sure is!
Following our tastings, we got a quick tour of the back room, where the magic happens. All of the brew equipment was made by Michael and a friend, a stainless steel worker. We were invited to smell (and taste, against our better judgment) some of the different grains that are used for the beer making process, many of which come from Armstrong, BC.
At the end of it all, I couldn’t resist picking up a 2 litre growler and 1 litre growlette to take some of our tasty findings home with me. They sell six-packs at the brewery as well, but a growler gives you a great excuse to go back again – and although I live a few hours away, I’ve already gotten mine refilled twice!
And if that’s not enough to get you on the road to Valemount this summer, I have to tell you, there’s also an amazing food truck just down the block from Three Ranges, called The Funky Goat. Michael recommended it last time I stopped to get my growlers filled, and just look at this homemade burger and poutine. Delicious!
See you in Valemount!