You know what they say… behind every great beer name, there’s an even greater story.

Once upon a pre-COVID time, I embarked on a road trip across the Kootenays. Dipping into breweries for crisp salvation, I came across a number of brow-furrowing, curiosity-sparking Kootenay beer names. Intrigued to discover the secrets and stories that lurk within those names, I asked several Kootenay-based breweries about the inspiration behind their most creatively-named beers.

Kootenay beer names - Fernie Brewing - BC Ale Trail
Project 9 Pils from Fernie Brewing in Fernie, BC

Project 9 Pilsner – Fernie Brewing Company

A classic brew for a classic ride, this clean, crisp pilsner was named after one of Fernie’s most epic mountain biking trails, Project 9.

Despite this Bavarian pilsner being an easy-going beer, there’s nothing relaxed about the trail it’s named after but over in Fernie, descents, just like beers, are best enjoyed caked in sweat and dirt. With the trail and the beer of equal reverence in the hearts of Fernie-ites, it often begs the question: which came first, the beer or the trail?

Kootenay beer names - Rumpus Beer Company on the BC Ale Trail
Space Nugs Pale Ale from Rumpus Beer Company in Revelstoke, BC

Space Nugs Pale Ale – Rumpus Beer Company (Revelstoke)

Back before he owned a brewery, Fred Orndorff carried around a notebook in which he’d write down beer names whenever inspiration hit. Among his scribbles was Space Nugs, a term he first saw used to describe perfect trail conditions something to the tune of “chucking space nugs off my back tire.”

Fast forward a few years, and Fred found himself dumping space-nug-looking hop flowers into the mix of a silky smooth pale ale with a citrusy twist. When it was time to name the beer, he had his answer.

In Fred’s words, this crushable, flavourful, easy-on-the-ABV brew goes down best after-hours playing in the mountains with friends, and “pairs well with sore legs and cheeks that hurt from smiling too much.”

And of course, skiing too much.

Kootenay beer beer names - Backroads Brewing Company - supplied photo
Allight Allight Allight Kolsch from Backroads Brewing Company in Nelson

Allight Allight Allight Kolsch – Backroads Brewing Company (Nelson)

As the name suggests, this is a light, a light, a light beer both in colour and its delicate dance on taste buds.

Inspiration behind the name of this crushable, lawnmower beer came from inside a local café, where Andrew Purtil was naming daily coffee roasts after old tunes and classic movies.

When Brent Malysh, co-owner of Backroads, noticed the name, he immediately thought it would look great plastered on a tall boy of light, German-style Kölsch.

Skip to today and Brent brewed the beer of his dreams, Andrew drew up the can’s artwork (featuring none other than Matthew McConaughey), and they both lived happily ever after.

Nasty Habit IPA - Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. - supplied photo
Nasty Habit IPA from Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. in Revelstoke, BC.

Nasty Habit IPA – Mt. Begbie Brewing Co (Revelstoke)

Legend has it, when brewers first tasted this low-bitterness, gateway IPA, one of them reportedly exclaimed, “Oh man, this is going to be a bad habit.” Understandably wanting to avoid using the word “bad” to describe their delicious beer, the name morphed into what it’s known as today.

“It started out as a bad habit, and it ended up being a nasty habit,” said director of sales and marketing, Darryn Shewchuk. “The idea behind it is basically that, you know, everybody loves a good nasty habit.”

Giving those who don’t typically like IPAs a first-class ticket aboard the IPA train, this malty, hoppy beer is best enjoyed in a hot tub after a long day of shredding.

Kootenay beer names - Rossland Beer Company - supplied photo
Helter Smelter Amber Ale from Rossland Beer Company in Rossland, BC.

Helter Smelter Amber Ale – Rossland Beer Company

Paying homage to the brewery’s roots, this one gets its name partly from the local smelter, and partly from the song, “Helter Skelter.” This refreshing, easy-drinking beer was named by co-owner, Ryan Arnaud a Beatles fan who happened to live near Trail’s smelter plant.

“He’d go for walks and see the smelter, so he put them together and said one day this would make a really good name for a beer,” said the brewery’s co-owner, Petri Raito.

With a toasty, malty aroma, this middle-of-the-line people-pleaser pairs well with everything from hanging out pool-side in the summer, to après-ing in the winter.

Out Cold Cream Ale - Erie Creek Brewing Co. - supplied photo
Out Cold Cream Ale from Erie Creek Brewing Co. in Salmo, BC.

Out Cold Cream Ale – Erie Creek Brewing Co (Salmo)

The name for this light-to-medium-bodied, smooth-drinking beer pays tribute to the 2001 snowboarding flick, Out Cold, filmed in Salmo featuring big names like Zach Galifianakis and Victoria Silvstedt.

Capturing the complex flavours of a cream ale while balancing nicely with a low IBU bittering hop, in the words of brewmaster Colin Hango, this refreshing brew is “a common ground where both Haze Bro and Joe Budweiser can enjoy the same beer… Youngsters and grandpas can both session this beer together.”

But beware, because Colin warns, “It can knock you Out Cold if you are not careful.”

Nelson Brewing - supplied photo - BC Ale Trail
Bent Pole North West IPA from Nelson Brewing Company in Nelson, BC

Bent Pole North West IPA – Nelson Brewing Company

At a beer tasting many moons ago, one of Nelson Brewing’s employees pointed to a picture of a woman skiing, crashing through snow-covered branches with a bent pole in hand. The scene inspired him to exclaim that one day he was going to name a beer Bent Pole and what do you know, he did.

Capturing the essence of the Kootenays inside a silver can, this crisp Northwest IPA was brewed as a tribute to Whitewater Ski Resort’s 40th anniversary.

Cracking open the can, smelling those piney, resinous, citrus aromas transports you to the top of the mountain, surrounded by coniferous trees and all the fresh pow you can ride,” said head brewer, Simon Barna. “It tastes like the mountains, it tastes like the hill, it tastes like a good time in the Kootenays!”

Tailout Brewing - supplied photo - BC Ale Trail
Single Spey IPA from Tailout Brewing in Castlegar, BC

Single Spey IPA – Tailout Brewing (Castlegar)

Paying homage to the satisfying sensation of sending a single spey cast into a perfect seam on a coursing river, every sip of this classic West Coast IPA emulates the feeling it’s named after.

“My introduction to West Coast style IPAs were on West Coast rivers, chucking big flies for salmon,” said founder, Hedin Nelson-Chorney. “To me, not much can beat the intense flavour of old school IPA while sitting on the riverbank.”

Citrusy, bitter, and refreshing, Single Spey IPA is best sipped on in the great outdoors, next to a soundtrack of running water or falling snow.

Rhubarbarian Nordic Ale - Torchlight Brewing Co - supplied photo
Rhubarbarian Nordic Ale from Torchlight Brewing Co. in Nelson, BC.

Rhubarbarian Nordic Ale – Torchlight Brewing Co (Nelson)

Barbarians meet rhubarb in this strawberry-raspberry-rhubarby Nordic Ale. While the name was previously attached to Torchlight’s first rhubarb-flavoured beer, the original innovation was eventually decommissioned due to the complexities of brewing with rhubarb.

But fast forward a few years, a new brew system, and some refined techniques, and the ‘barb came back in a bright, fruity, slightly tart reincarnation of its predecessor.

Dreamily described by brewmaster Craig Swendson as “very refreshing, and very comforting in an easy, relaxing way,” this beer is a year-round jump into a cool pool.

Dirty Secret Stout - Trail Beer Refinery - supplied photo
Dirty Secret Stout from Trail Beer Refinery in Trail, BC.

Dirty Secret Stout – Trail Beer Refinery

With notes of dark chocolate and roasted coffee peeking through its malty thickness, this smooth stout is a rendition of the Beer Refinery’s original Slag Stout, named after the piles of black slag left behind from Trail’s smelter. Brewed with an iconic dirty brown tinge, the colour of this beer ultimately inspired its name.

“The name came after we actually saw the final product because it kind of had this dark, dirty colour to it,” explained founder, Mike Konkin, who hopes those who indulge in its drinkable, milkshake-y splendour will “savour it, and sip it, and think that it’s this decadent, dirty secret dessert that they can have.”

With countless other uniquely-named beers lurking in the depths of B.C’s fridges, the fables never end. So next time you find yourself knocking back a brew, be it Fisher Peak Brewing’s Soggy Otter Brown Ale, Old Bitch English Bitter from Angry Hen Brewing, some Right About Now IPA from Over Time Beer Works, or a bottle of Whitetooth Brewing Company’s Thread the Needle, allow your mind to wander over to the stories, the places and the people that make up each batch of hoppy, malty, crisp perfection.

All of the breweries listed here can be found on the Kootenay Rockies East and West Ale Trails. Obviously, under current COVID-19 travel restrictions, we all should stay close to home, so if you don’t live in the Kootenays then use this blog as a resource for planning a trip there when we are once again allowed to travel more freely. Some of these beers are also available in liquor stores throughout British Columbia, so you can seek them out there or check the individual brewery’s website for possible delivery or shipping options.  

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