We all woke up one morning and craft beer was the only thing that anyone with any sort of personal style was drinking; wiping out kombucha, almond milk lattes and Vitamin Water overnight. Even in tiny Revelstoke, tucked away in the mountains, people felt the pull of the micro brewed. Having just relocated from Vancouver, Bart and Tracey Olson – a savvy couple, trained in Nuclear Physics and Biology, respectively – recognized the now-seemingly obvious potential of a locally owned and operated craft brewery out here in these hills.
Brewing good beer is a process that requires passion and a strong team: Mt. Begbie Brewery has both. From the team of brewers to the “softly titled” brewmaster, from the smiling girl at the front desk to the owners and operators driving the growth and infrastructure of the company, the team cares about their product beer with a lot of thought and a lot of heart. They donate their leftover wet grain to local farmers, they launch their seasonal varieties in different venues every year to stimulate the local economy…and, most importantly, they host brewery tours, so that the townsfolk and tourists can see what really goes on behind the heavy plastic veil.
This means that every Friday, around 3 pm, there is a very cheeky way to end your work week early. It’s also a sinful little way to kick off a Friday evening…night. It becomes a night out. The brewery tour goes a little bit like this:
3:00 pm: Arrive, exchange niceties. Very politely listen to tour guide’s initial introductions.
3:10 pm: Begin sampling. Everything. Is. So. Good.
3:15 pm: Any/all awkwardness of solo-arrival to brewery tour thrown out the window.
3:30 pm: Head into the back! It’s like a dairy farm for beer!
3:31 pm: Slight embarrassment for dorky beer farm comment.
3:45 pm: More beer facts: from the stalk to the germinating to the malting process to the taste varieties – a canning machine that spans two rooms! Amazing.
3:47 pm: Tease tour guide for something unnecessary; you’re such buds now.
4:30 pm: Laughing on street with slight buzz with all of your new best friends – so where’s dinner?
5:00 pm: More of the same at one of the fine establishments in town that serve Begbie beer.
9:30 am Saturday: Walk to pick up truck parked outside brewery. Wearing sunglasses.
“The emphasis here is on fun,” says the tour leader, as he hands out the 4 oz. glasses of our first sample: a local crowd pleaser, Attila the Honey, Begbie’s summer seasonal. Amber with a cream coloured head, the brew is accentuated with malt, giving it a grainy and caramel aroma; the BC honey that it is brewed with gives the beer an ever-so manageable amount of sweetness. I’ve heard that eating local honey is good for your immune system – so, this beer actually makes you healthier.
Bottles of Tail Whip, Powerhouse, Bob’s Your Dunkel and Darkside of the Stoke line the wall behind the magnificently hand-crafted wooden bar. “Where do you guys come up with the names?” I ask. As a super-fun-staff-under-ten would, the Mt. Begbie Brewery naming parties involve in-depth tasting and subsequent beer-induced brainstorming. “It’s a lot of fun,” says Tracey, “we have a party, drink the beer and give it a name.” A local artist, Rob Buchanan, is responsible for the creative graphics on the labels and the clever descriptions on the bottles. All together, this collaboration is what gives Begbie beer its personality.
Like a well-fed child, the brewery just keeps on growing. “Home brewing was a hobby that turned into…mayhem,” laughs Tracey, who looks after the brewery’s marketing, administration and financials. Originally based out of a smaller space, the brewery was forced to move downtown to its current location so that they could supply to the demand. With business brought in with heli-skiing companies and restaurants, Begbie needs even more room. “We found out we were leaving town from the newspaper,” laughs Tracey, “then we read that we were staying.” There’s nothing like a little small town gossip to rally a town around the things they love the most, and the idea of the brewery relocating to the big city had people up in arms. Revelstoke really loves Begbie beer, in fact, it’s a staple; much like the taste of salmon can remind you of the West Coast, or a steak dinner can transport you to Alberta, the taste of a cold Powerhouse Pale Ale after skiing, mountain biking, or trail running is the quintessential Revelstoke flavour experience.
Lucky for us – the tours start back up over the May Long weekend – and the beer is served all over town.
Breweries, Cideries and Distilleries in BC