Tucked away in the back of Revelstoke in Johnson Heights, a sleek industrial building sits surrounded by quiet forest, snow and mountain views. Inside, bright lights reflect off a line of aluminum tanks, standing like soldiers on a polished concrete floor.
This is the new home of Mt. Begbie Brewing Co., Revelstoke’s local award-winning brewery known for popular beers such as the High Country Kölsch and Tall Timber Ale.
Their brew flows at most venues around town and to deal with growing demand, reaching from Vancouver Island to western Canada, the company needed a bigger space. It’s the second time they’ve moved and it’s been a long time coming. Construction began around May 2015 and should be finished this month.
The company supplied about 6,600 hectolitres of golden goodness to its customers this year and will likely do about 9,000 in 2016. The capacity of their new quarters is 15,000, so there is plenty of room to grow.
Owners Bart and Tracey Larson began the brewery in 1996. Bart has a PhD in nuclear physics and Tracey has degree in biology, but that hasn’t changed the way they brew beer.
“When we started, the failure rate was one in two for craft breweries,” Tracey says. “Our parents thought we were insane for leaving our careers and education.”
The number of breweries in B.C. today is expanding. The B.C. Craft Brewers Guild says there are 126 registered in B.C., a vast change from 2013 when there were under 60.
“We have grown by more than 20 breweries each year to rise to the current 126 with more scheduled by year end,” the guild’s Ken Beattie said.
The struggle is to stand out, which Tracey says they do by having a consistent quality. It helps when you have top-of-the-range machines to help with production.
Their COMAC canning machine, which throws out neat packages of six, does 3,800 by the hour. It’s worth a few hundred thousand dollars — the brewery’s media officer Darryn Shewchuk says it’s their Ferrari.
“It’s like everything high performance and Italian, it’s very expensive,” he says.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the brewery’s move is its expanded offering to visitors. Inside, there is an observation deck where visitors can view the beer-making process from above. At their previous facility, production had to be stopped for tours.
Then there’s the large modern-deco tasting room, with tables and chairs facing a wall of windows that provides views out to the actual Mount Begbie on a clear day.
Barstools will line the expansive bar area in readiness for this season’s beer samplers and outside, in the summer, there will be a patio dedicated to the equation of lounging, sun and beer.
No doubt with such a short stumbling distance to the nearby Hillcrest Hotel, guests will take advantage of this latest addition to Revelstoke’s broad range of tourist attractions.
For Bart and Tracey, they’re hoping things will ease up after working the seven-days-a-week toil.
“It’s not getting any easier but we keep expanding and growing,” Tracey says. “I get excited when I see it coming to life.”
Mt. Begbie’s craft beer to try this winter
Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. releases a number of special seasonal beers to keep things interesting. This month Stoked Winter Ale will be on tap and in retailers.
And as Mt. Begbie has reached its 20th birthday, the company will also be releasing a number of beers over the next six months as part of a Heritage Series.
“We wanted to resurrect and remind people that Revelstoke has had a long history of quality brewing,” Shewchuk said.
The most significant of this history began in 1891 with the Revelstoke Brewery. It operated on the north bank of the Columbia River and ran until 1900. Enterprise Brewery, operating where the Alpine Inn sits today on 1001 2nd St W, ran for longer from 1897 to 1957. Lastly the Revelstoke Wine & Spirit Company, who later changed their name to Revelstoke Brewery operated from 1903 to 1906 on at the corner of Campbell Avenue and Fourth Street.
“[The first Revelstoke Brewery] were one of the biggest breweries in B.C. and they made a lot of really good beer,” Shewchuk said.
The Heritage Series will include a Revelstoke Lager, Pilsner, Strong Ale, and Stout, and will be marketed with the ’50s style labels. The first, to be released in late December, will be the Revelstoke Lager, described as a crisp, refreshing, old style lager.
Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. current line includes:
- Mt. Begbie Cream Ale: their original signature, a golden ale with delicate, fruity flavour and a hint of honey.
- Powerhouse Pale Ale: a traditional full-flavoured pale ale driven by a big helping of lightly roasted malt, with a caramel hint.
- Tall Timber Ale: their most popular brew. This moderately-hoppy, full-bodied English Brown Ale brings caramel undertones and some residual sweetness.
- Nasty Habit IPA: award-winning beer features a blend of rich specialty malts and a hoppy profile.
- Brave Liver Scotch Ale: smooth full bodied strong ale. Scottish pale ale malts are artfully crafted to impart hints of oak, scotch and caramel.
- High Country Kölsch: a light, mildly-hopped beer originating in Köln, Germany, using Kölschbier yeast. Mt. Begbie has won several awards for this delicate and drinkable beer.
This article was first published in the December issue of the free Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.