With an increasing number of brewery visitors meandering their way throughout the Kootenay Rockies this past summer, a couple of things have become clear.
First, there is an increasing number of stops to make, beers to drink and small-town charm to be found — so best secure a few more days off work for your trip.
Second — as if the first wasn’t enough of a troublesome first-world issue — you might have to arrange an additional visit to experience the magic of winter in these mountains.
The Kootenay Rockies, where snow accumulates faster than the collection of growlers rolling around in your trunk, can offer the ultimate seasonal pairing of powder snow — whether at quaint ski hills or on forest trails — and delicious local brews, best enjoyed in charming mountain-town tasting rooms.
From ski runs to forest hikes, here are some of the region’s best winter adventures paired with the perfect local après pint.
Stoke it up
We kick things off in Revelstoke in the West Kootenays, with Mt Begbie Brewing Co.’s Stoked Winter Ale.
“Stoked is the perfect word to describe the winter vibe in Revelstoke. After an epic day slaying powder off Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s Stoke Chair, there is nothing tastier than this mildly spiced, rich winter ale,” says Mt. Begbie’s marketing manager Darryn Shewchuk.
According to Shewchuck, such a level of stoke is best paired with Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s Tasty Glades.
“As you ride up the Stoke Chair, there is something about the spacing between the spruce and pines, the contours of the slopes, the deep snow and the surprisingly few tracks snaking through these great trees. Its appeal is undeniable. It just looks so good, it begs to be consumed.
“Once on the snow and a few turns in you will understand why this area is called Tasty Glades. It satisfies in a way that is core to the Revelstoke experience, where the off-piste options outnumber traditional runs.”
If this doesn’t whet your appetite, you may as well stop reading now. But if it does leave your mouth watering, then start packing the car.
Saving face in Nelson
Next we’re heading south to Nelson, where, thanks to the craft beer boom, you can now reap the rewards of two breweries in one mountain town (with more on the way).
First up, Nelson Brewing Company, whose popular Faceplant winter ale gave its name to Whitewater Ski Resort’s Faceplant run.
“You can always tell it’s Faceplant season, as the locals yell at you in the streets, ‘When is Faceplant coming?’” says Al McLeod of Nelson Brewing.
“With hints of brown sugar and molasses, it’s higher in alcohol by volume, thus the pre-warning of personal consumption downfalls.”
Ready to rip and sip?
Established in 2014, Torchlight Brewing Co. is seemingly filled with classic rock junkies. Fittingly, one of the newer ski runs up at Whitewater is Ramble On, named after one of the brewery’s favourite Led Zeppelin songs.
“The first beer we opened up with back in 2014, which has remained part of our core line-up and helped define us as a brewery, is our Led Sled Porter, which has similar name origins and is tied to the classic car show that takes over one week of the year in September,” says Torchlight co-owner Josh Secord.
“Made with all British malts and hops, our porter is an homage to all things classic, from cars to rock and roll to classic British beers. No funny business; just excellent roasted and chocolate flavours from our blend of grains and an easy drinking dark beer that’s perfect for any après ski.”
Ready to rock?
Get a belly full in Rossland
From Nelson, we’re heading over to Rossland, where small town charm emanates equally from both Rossland Brewing Co. and nearby Red Mountain Resort. Brewery co-owner Petri Raito pairs their award-winning Seven Summits Milk Stout with Beer Belly, a great flowing run at Red Mountain.
Like all the other runs we’ve mentioned so far, it shows the common love of taking the more extreme way down in the Kootenays,
“Beer Belly is a beautiful black diamond ski run that is beloved and ripped up by all locals,” Raito says. “While maybe not for everyone, once you try it you always want to go back. Just like our Seven Summits Milk Stout. The taste opens with hints of sweet coffee and milk chocolate before maturing into a rich, full malty body.”
High time for a beer in Kimberley
We wholeheartedly understand if you are by now warming up the car. But before you pull out the driveway, there’s still the joys of the East Kootenays to consider.
First up is Kimberley, where lucky for you, there’s just 3½ minutes separating you from fresh tracks at Kimberley Alpine Resort and fresh pints at Over Time Beer Works.
According to Kenny Dodd of Over Time, the perfect pairing can be found in Mountain Standard Golden Ale and the run Stemwinder.
“Named after the method of winding up timepieces, the Stemwinder run is a super-fun cruiser, a refreshing and timely piece of the mountain. It’s a real smooth and easy mountain standard that winds up in smiles and ends best with a pint of Mountain Standard with friends,” says Dodd. Clearly it’s time to develop a seriously nasty bout of the flu and call your boss.
Happy Cranbrook trails
By now you might be somewhat exhausted and looking for a change in pace. Just 30 minutes east is the town of Cranbrook, where The Heid Out Restaurant and Brewhouse will provide you with a sumptuous feast, accompanied by a selection of their own Fisher Peak Brewing Company beers. The Heid Out’s preferred pairing will have both your quads and taste buds thanking you.
“A few minutes up the hill from the Fisher Peak brewery lies the Cranbrook Community Forest. Snow-packed trails meander through stands of aspen, fir and larch and across wide meadows. Your breath follows along behind you, plumes of white stark against the bluebird sky,” says the Heid Out’s Hugh Moore.
The brewery’s St. Mary’s Porter makes an ideal end to a wintry hike through the woods. A dry porter, rich with chocolate and coffee malt tones, it is silky smooth and dry in the finish, perfect for those who love the warm depth of flavour that a great porter brings.
Making Trax in Fernie
For a final flourish, we bring you Fernie Brewing Co. in nearby Fernie, where the steeps are as plentiful and mouthwatering as the beers. With a world-renowned ski area and snowfall, plus a wide variety of beers, picking just one perfect pairing proves somewhat tricky.
That being said, First Trax Brown Ale has to be the beer of choice. Available year round, yet coming into its own as a top contender during the winter months, First Trax is a wonderful, chocolatey and nutty brew. Brewed with seven specialty malts, this deep brown ale has a surprisingly smooth mouthfeel and has a great hop/malt balance.
Best pairing? Something steep and deep, where your tracks vanish as fast as your friends on a powder day. Choose from Stag Leap, Sky Dive or Decline, located at the end of a roller-coaster traverse from the top of the White Pass chair, taking you down the spine of Currie Bowl, all the way to the base of Fernie Alpine Resort. Best bang for your buck in vert, and if your quads aren’t begging you to go back to your desk for a rest by now, then you’re destined for the ski bum life.
Ready for your own Kootenay adventure? Check out the ale trails for Kootenay Rockies East and Kootenay Rockies West.