This article first appeared in the January 2018 print issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.
By Matt Timmins
As Revelstoke locals lined up for the first true powder day of the season at Revelstoke Mountain Resort on December 18, Bart Larson was busy plowing snow out front 2155 Oak Drive. Inside, Tracey Larson was adding the final touches to the Mt. Begbie Brewery Co. tasting room, set to open in just a few hours.
It has been a much-anticipated day for the brewery owners Bart and Tracey and their team. Set in a winter wonderland with snow falling from trees, sun glistening off the fresh snow and views of Mt. Begbie across the valley, the tasting room opened its doors to the public.
The new venue offers a food menu designed by head chef Keith Cormier, pairing sliders, pizza, tacos, dips, salads and other mouth-watering snacks with the same award-winning ales Revelstoke beer drinkers have come to love over the last two decades.
On the taps, the tasting room has enough to keep any beer enthusiast wanting to try a little (or a lot) of everything, offering all the year-round beers that Mt. Begbie brews as well as seasonal and experimental beer.
Boasting a large retail shop featuring clothing, glassware and other swap and a production and packaging area much larger than their previous downtown location, Tracey jokes that this is the third, and hopefully final move for the brewery.
As her and Bart sit down for a five-minute break for a photo op, their arms are twisted to pour themselves a beer for the shot, to which they oblige without much hesitation. The five-minute beer break is much deserving, as even though the tasting room is open, the flock of tourists, après-skiers and local beer lovers is just around the corner.
All that ales ya’
By Bryce Borlick
Beer: it’s what’s for breakfast. That joke may be a little past its ‘best by’ date but when you consider that 0.7% of the world‘s population, or roughly 50 million people, are drunk at any given time, it’s really not that far from the truth. The world loves beer. Water and tea may be more widely consumed but water is about as exciting as slow Wi-Fi and tea never got a ‘it’s what’s for breakfast’ joke even though it actually is for breakfast. But despite beer being our sweetheart beverage, what does the average zythophile know about the origins and evolution of this intoxicating elixir?
The fermentation process that makes beer was likely a happy accident stumbled upon 12,000 years ago when hunter-gatherer tribes settled into agrarian civilizations that grew cereal crops like wheat, barley, and rice. China is often credited for producing the first fermented drink roughly 9,000 years ago, but evidence of the first barley-based beverage was found in 3,000 BC Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization. Beer was popular in Babylon and even used as currency in building Egypt’s Great Pyramids. Through those early millennia, the thick lumpy low-alcohol gruel was slow to evolve.
Beer as we know it today appeared sometime in the late Middle Ages when Bohemian brewers perfected the use of hops as a preservative. With a much longer shelf life and improved quality, beer could be mass produced and exported, and in 1516 the Bavarian Purity Law restricted the ingredients to water, barley, and hops. Industrialization in the eighteenth century further increased quality and many of the European brewing formulas established in this period have remained largely unchanged. From this foundation, countless offshoots — lambic brewing, live ingredients, and flavouring, just to name a few — have further expanded consumer choice and clouded the definition what ‘good‘ beer really is.
“Maybe that’s the difference between a good beer and a bad beer: is it what the brewer intended the beer to be?” jokes Bart Larson, owner of Mt. Begbie Brewing, when asked to define ‘good’ beer. “It’s a combination of things. Your brewing process has to be really good.”
Bart knows good beer. The accolades that he’s garnered over the years are numerous and in 2017 Mt. Begbie Brewing was named Canadian Brewery of the Year and it’s High Country Kolsch was recognized as the World’s Best Kolsch at the World Beer Awards. To accomplish this lofty feat, he combines pure glacial water, Gambrinus malt, German and North American hops, and carefully chosen German yeast. It sounds simple but the real expertise in good brewing lies in the processing and packaging techniques.
“Fermentations — that’s what makes your beer. People think it’s just the malt and hops but yeast, temperature, conditions, pH – it actually generates a really high proportion of the flavour,” Bart explains.
“Then its how it’s treated after that. Every transfer is an opportunity for infection. From brew house to fermenter, through the centrifuge, to conditioning, to the brite tank, to your packaging source.” continues Bart. “Good brewing is doing it all consistently right.”
But as scientific as this all sounds, it’s the subtle variations in the process that add an artistic flair and continue beer’s slow evolution. In recent years, heavily hopped India Pale Ales have dominated the craft brew market but as preferences change, so do the products flowing from the brewers. Perhaps we’ll next see a resurgence of Hefeweizen or Oyster Stout or even Bob and Doug Mackenzie‘s beloved Elsinore pilsner. The current Mt. Begbie Brewing line-up leans toward light flavourful non-hoppy ales but change may be afoot now that their tasting room is open to the public.
“With the tasting room we‘re going to be able to be a little more adventurous. We’ll be able to do some little batches,” says Bart, hinting that guest brewers may even be a possibility.
Although it spans the millennia, the world’s steamy honeymoon with beer isn’t over yet. Beer has been a currency, a socializer, a nutriment and, according to some, a cornerstone of civilization. But all these facts fall by the wayside simply because we’re blinded by our love. And after thousands of years of consummation, only one question remains: what do you want for breakfast?
10 Things I Didn’t Know About Beer Before Writing This Article
• Czechs are the world’s biggest beer drinkers, consuming an average 142.4 litres of beer per capita annually. Canada comes in 39th, behind the U.S. (17th) and Australia (19th).
• In ancient Babylon, the crime of brewing a bad batch of beer was punishable by death.
• The acids in beer can soften meat, making it a good marinade.
• A Scotsman reported a four-week hangover after consuming 28 litres of beer.
• Louis Pasteur discovered pasteurization in 1850 after studying fermentation in beer.
• The nutritional benefits of moderate beer consumption have long been recognized. In moderation, it strengthens bones, improves cholesterol, reduces diabetes risk, delivers nutrients and antioxidants, and can even help reduce inflammation in those sore knees.
• The term ‘rule of thumb’ originates from brewers sticking their thumb into the mixture to determine the right time to add yeast.
• Brewmaster Snake Venom beer boasts the highest alcohol content at 67.5%.
• At least eight people were drowned in the London Beer Flood of 1814 when roughly 1.5 million litres burst forth from broken vats and washed through the streets as a 1.4-metre wave.