Photo courtesy Backroads Brewing Co.

On Tap

Finding your favourite craft beer in the West Kootenays

  • Feb. 8, 2021 8:50 a.m.

– Story by Kate Robertson

Since the very first BC microbrewery, Horseshoe Bay Brewery, was established in 1982, British Columbians have had a love affair with craft beers. Today, with more than 150 breweries strewn across the province, craft-brewery tourism is alive and well, and the West Kootenays, with five breweries within an hour’s drive from the runway at the Trail airport, are no exception. So assign your designated driver and be prepared to taste some unforgettable brews.

Trail Beer Refinery, Trail’s first microbrewery, which opened in 2017. The décor of the 75-seat all-ages taproom gives a nod to the city’s main industry of zinc and lead smelting and refining, with its modern twist on industrial, reclaimed elements.

“Trail Beer Refinery is quite different from other local breweries. We not only make a full range of beers and vodka sodas but we serve amazing food [think beef carpaccio and grilled cheese pizza]. Check out our weekly burger Instagram post!” says co-owner Mike Konkin. In the summer of 2020 they will release a new Radler brand.

Ten minutes up the mountain in Rossland is the Rossland Beer Co., where as soon as you go through the door, you’re overlooking floor-to-ceiling tanks. Petri Raito, co-founder/owner and CEO, says, “The vibe of our tap room is very happy and easy. It’s a place where you don’t see people on their phones. The beer menu changes all the time, there are almost always one-offs on the menu, and our beers are always very distinct from each other.”

The taproom is small so get there early (especially on Friday nights when there’s live music), but in the summer there’s also a sunny patio to enjoy your beverage. Either way, it’s guaranteed you’ll be rubbing shoulders with friendly locals dropping in for a pint of their favourite brew after a day of shredding it up on the mountain bike or ski trails.

A half-hour drive brings you to the new kid on the block, Tailout Brewing, opened in late 2019 in Castlegar.

“Tailout” is a fishing term that refers to a pool of water where fish like to hang out, and true to form, you will see fishing references throughout their taproom. Tailout doesn’t serve food in house, but they encourage patrons to bring their own, or arrange for local delivery straight to their table.

A 40-minute drive and you’re in Nelson. With three craft breweries and easy walkability, this is the perfect place to park the car. Stretch your legs with a walk up the hill to the Nelson Brewing Company, the OG of the West Kootenay breweries, established in 1991. In 2006, NBC went fully organic to set themselves apart and to cater to Nelson’s all-natural setting and population. They have a very small tasting room, where you can sample some limited edition brews and one-offs.

Backroads Brewing Co, located in the heart of Nelson’s downtown action. BBC is all about local — the 100-seat taproom is made from wood from local mills and forests, and filled with custom-made furniture and local art.

“Our taproom is for sure our biggest differentiator,” says Brent Malysh, founder and CEO. “We’ve gone for a very cosy cabin vibe. All our tables are community seating, and we don’t have TV or WiFi, so it all encourages strangers to sit together and talk to one another. If you’re one of the lucky ones to get a seat on the patio on a sunny afternoon, it’s pretty special. Baker Street is known for being really eclectic and sometimes just plain weird, so the people -watching is next-level.”

At BBC they make a lot of traditional beers, plus explore lesser-seen styles and do some playful experimentation.

“There’s been a huge increase in the number of companies producing beer in our region, and this has really helped get locals interested in trying a lot more different styles of beer. Right now, probably the biggest trends are hazy beers and sour beers,” says Brent.

Down closer to Kootenay Lake is Torchlight Brewing Co., where they serve up craft beers in a spacious industrial-style setting.

“It doesn’t have the feel of a conventional bar and that’s deliberate,” says managing director and brewmaster Craig Swendson. “We wanted it to be a different and more open space. You can see, and sometimes hear, the equipment in the back. There are pipes and ducts running on the ceiling. We want everyone to know where their beer is actually made. At Torchlight we like to pursue the ethos of delicious innovation.”

Torchlight also has a full kitchen and a menu of tasty pub grub with a twist as well as their own house-made craft sodas on tap as a non-alcoholic option.

Think you can’t be budged from your current favourite beer style? A tasting flight at any one of these West Kootenay breweries might just change your mind.

Story originally published in Soar, the inflight magazine for Pacific Coastal Airlines

BC Craft beerBeerFood

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton Golf and Country Club was in full swing on opening day on March 2. (Monique Tamminga - Western News)
Golf in full swing on opening day at Penticton course

All tee times are booked into the next two weeks at the Penticton Golf and Country Club

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

The City of Penticton is redirecting $150,000 for emergency repair work on Penticton Creek. (Western News File)
Grant delays force Penticton to redirect funds for emergency creek repairs

Council approved redirecting $150K to do repairs before the spring melt

Penticton City Hall. (File photo)
Penticton council ups construction costs

Council approved an interim increase of 25 per cent to all of the city’s development cost charges

(Black Press file photo)
Penticton man arrested while sleeping in stolen vehicle, again

30-year-old Penticton resident Shane Pope is well-known to police

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. has cleared the Lumby RCMP of any wrongdoing after a missing person was found deceased in December 2020. (IIO photo)
Police watchdog says North Okanagan RCMP played no role in missing person’s death

The body was found by a family member shortly after the RCMP suspended their search

The area on Cordova Bay Road where ancestral human remains were discovered Feb. 22. (Submitted photo)
Human remains discovery a reminder of B.C. Indigenous culture dug up and displaced

‘These are the people who inspired and birthed the generations that we now have here’

The images are of Bald Eagles feeding.
Photos: Birds of prey

Princeton photographer captures compelling photos of a Bald Eagle breakfast

HOPE Okanagan’s Stay at Home Gala will raise funds to help serve Kelowna and Vernon’s vulnerable. (HOPE Okanagan)
Non-profit hosts virtual gala to support Okanagan’s vulnerable

HOPE Okanagan wants to raise awareness and support for those struggling in the streets

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

An off-duty Vernon Taxi driver got a 24-hour licence suspension, vehicle towed, after failing a standardized field sobriety test around 1:40 a.m. Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (John E Green - Facebook)
Vernon Taxi towed after driver suspected impaired

Off-duty cab towed from McDonald’s drive-thru early Tuesday morning

Kamloops This Week
Cause of Kamloops landfill fire may never be known

Fire investigators are dealing with too much destruction in too large an area

Most Read