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

C.E. “Ned” Bentley owned a garage on Shaughnessy Avenue, now Lakeshore Drive in Summerland. Bentley later went on to serve on Summerland’s council and was recognized with the Good Citizen Award in 1939. (Summerland Museum photo)
Former Summerland reeve once ran garage

C.E. “Ned” Bentley was a prominent figure in Summerland’s past.

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is offering home compost bins at reduced prices until March 25. (Contributed)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen offers compost bins at wholesale costs

Pricing offer at participating stores in place until March 25

Council has left some grant money in reserves in case there is a need later in the year. File photo
COVID makes some of the 2021 grant decisions for Princeton council

Municipality doles out funds while striving to meet policy

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to Stoney and Minnie lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

Paramjit Bogarh, connected to the murder of his wife in Vernon 35 years ago, has been relerased on full parole, one year after he was sentenced to five years in prison for accessory after the fact. (Contributed)
Full parole for ex-Okanagan man who helped wife’s alleged killer escape

Paramjit Bogarh pleaded guilty to accessory to murder after helping brother flee Canada

Displays and programming have continued at the Vernon Public Art Gallery despite pandemic restrictions. (Lianne Viau file photo)
Support keeps North Okanagan art groups’ lights on

Despite pandemic restrictions, art gallery and others sustaining the storm

Most Read