My name is JP Lancaster and I play in a band from Kamloops, BC called At Mission Dolores. For me, the pursuit of music shares a similar ethos to craft beer. Both seek to make something where quality is never compromised. Quirks and oddities are embraced rather than suppressed for the sake of mass consumption. There is equally a central value of engagement over distraction. Look no further than a brewery tasting room to see all of the above in action.
While making music has been an integral part of my life since I was young, I also have spent a number of years working in the BC craft beer industry. In 2011 and 2013 I worked for Phillips Brewing in Victoria before embarking on a 2.5-year stint with Red Collar Brewing when it opened in 2014. The experience of working for both breweries really emphasized that it is possible for the pursuit of creativity to be at the core of how a business operates.
Over several weeks in May, we documented our time on the road for the BC Ale Trail as we toured to support the release of our debut album. The following is an account of some of our BC dates on that tour.
Friday, May 3 – Vancouver
Today is the day that our debut LP, “Last Night Outside Her Apartment,” is officially released into the world. We have a fairly extensive catalogue of EPs, singles and b-sides dating back to our band’s inception in 2016, but this is our first proper album. It’s also coming out on vinyl, which is a milestone for everyone in the band. Given that we are our own publicists and booking agents, the past three months have been spent sending countless emails trying to line up reviews, interviews and shows. It feels amazing to actually be at the point of doing what we love; playing music. If that’s not cause enough for celebration, we’re spending the night with two of our dear friends, one of whom works for Brassneck. There is most definitely some good beer in our future tonight.
We get to town and check in to the Mt Pleasant neighbourhood where we’ll be staying. Generally there is a lot of buck-a-slice and/or value food in our lives, but since today is release day we splurge and check out The Arbor on our drummer Jared’s recommendation. I go with the Southern Fried Artichoke Sandwich and I can confidently say it makes my “Top 3 Most Delicious Things I’ve Eaten in 2019” list. Seriously, this sandwich will change your life. It’s all the charming and redeeming things you like with fried chicken with none of the grease shame and self-loathing that comes with the low-brow variety (note foreshadowing). As most places do, they have a nice assortment of Vancouver beers on tap. I go with a Strathcona Brewing “All That and Then Some” pale ale and for a brief moment in time I’m completely invincible.
Now that we’re satiated we have a few jobs to get done. Half the band heads over to Exile, which is the boutique music equipment shop to end all boutique music equipment shops. If you’re a gear nerd and have a lot of money you don’t want to keep, this is your spot. Meanwhile Jared and I head down to Neptoon Records to drop off some copies of our record. If you live in Vancouver and are a vinyl fan, do us a kindness and pick up a copy of the record from their shop!
Next on the agenda is a quick rehearsal. My co-guitarist and singer Jared (who, for the sake of this article, we will call Cool Jared to avoid confusion) has just flown in this morning from a two-week trip to Japan and has not slept in 24 hours. A quick runthrough of tonight’s set is probably a good idea.
We get things polished up, hear the finer points of the ramen vs. udon debate and then decide we’re off for some pre-show beers. We meet up with our hosts for tonight, Olivia and PJ, and by some minor miracle actually manage to get into Brassneck Brewery’s tasting room on a Friday evening. Morale is high and we celebrate with a round of “Whirley Whirley,” Brassneck’s take on the hazy IPA with loads of Vic Secret, Mosaic and Citra. The beer is a home run, as is everything this brewery comes out with. Now don’t get me wrong, I love hazy IPAs as much as the next person, but a part of me still longs for the dank, piney, Centennial and Chinook heavy IPAs of the 2000s. Luckily for me, Brassneck usually has a few options in this vein and I order myself a Brassneck Ale, their American pale ale, and toast the band’s health.
As much as eating and drinking all night seems like a great proposition, we do have an album release show to play and make our way to the venue. Tonight we’re at the SBC Restaurant, which many years ago was better known as the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret, a very iconic venue that hosted Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and many 1980s punk mainstays. Today, it has a skateboard ramp in it which doubles as the space where people watch the bands perform. We played with two fantastic local groups: Wrecked Beach, a jangly surf rock band; and Loans, who took the redeeming elements of 90s power pop and alternative and made them cool.
When the night was finally done, the high fives and the hugs sufficiently dolled out, we were all in search of some late night food and drink. While I am always partial to late night spots like the Congee Noodle House, the will of the majority takes us to Uncle Abe’s for their democratically named “Uncle Abe’s Lager”. At this point in the night beer semantics are out the window and we’re happy with a back-to-basics beverage. Cool Jared has now been up for close to 36 hours and can see through time. Soon enough it’s closing time at Uncle Abe’s and there’s only one thing left for us: Church’s Chicken. Let the greasy take-out walk of shame begin!
Saturday, May 4 – Kamloops
Tonight is our hometown show and we’re expecting a big one. While there are definitely many drawbacks to being a band in a mid-sized city, one tremendous positive is the tight-knit music community we have.
Jared, Cool Jared and I were all born and raised in Kamloops. Kamloops was a great place to grow up, albeit a slightly culturally stunted one. Many of us, myself as an example, left town for the bigger city to pursue university and/or work. There are also more and more folks, like me, who are choosing to return to Kamloops and plant roots due to the lower cost of living, accessibility of the outdoors and rapidly developing cosmopolitan culture. Just like the local craft breweries, we feel like our music holds up just fine to any big city band although we sometimes have to work a bit harder for people’s attention.
Our first stop when we get back to town is Iron Road Brewing, one of the more recent breweries to open in Kamloops. Contrary to what you may think, we actually had to stop in for a reason other than to drink a beer. On this tour we have a fill-in keyboard player, Alex, who also happens to be the cellarman at Iron Road. With the brewers and owners away in Toronto for the Canadian Brewing Awards, Alex has a few tanks to check in on. Since it would be rude to come to a brewery and not have a beer, I enjoy a pint with our bassist Stu while Alex works. My go-to beer at Iron Road is always the “Loopline IPA” as it is just a brilliant take on the style: a modern hop bomb with the requisite hazy complexion, but also full of resinous aromas and flavours from the late and dry hop additions. This beer does a great job of being in the hazy IPA spectrum but having some balance to its juiciness. Stu acquaints himself with the “Boomer,” a seasonal wild ale with huge grapefruit and citrus flavours. This is another great Iron Road beer, which won a gold at the BC Beer Awards last year. They have a barrel-aged version called “Boxcar Tourist,” which we would find out later that night took home a gold at the Canadian Brewing Awards.
The band would be remiss in our pre-show rituals if we did not make a stop at Red Collar Brewing next. Their amazing seasonal IPA “Alternative Facts” just went on tap and it’s a no-brainer to grab my first pint of it for the year. Red Collar is located smack dab in the middle of downtown Kamloops, conveniently within striking distance of the various music venues in the city. The brewery itself will often double as a music venue and was the site of At Mission Dolores’ first rehearsal back in May of 2016. During my tenure at Red Collar I not only took a great deal of pride in the exceptional beer we were making, but also in developing the tasting room into a cultural hub. I had seen first hand at Phillips how integral a brewery can become to the fabric of a city and a lot of my effort went into trying to replicate that in Kamloops. Beyond music, the brewery hosted art exhibits, trivia nights and a homebrew club. I think it’s important to note that the brewery often acts as a vehicle for so much more than just making beer.
Our show goes down as one of the craziest Kamloops shows I have ever witnessed. The Kamloops Legion is packed wall-to-wall and we essentially feel like we’re caught up in a massive, singular group hug as the crowd surrounds us on the small stage. You always have to take hometown shows with a grain of salt as many of the people are your friends and they are going to support you regardless. That said, it’s still a really special feeling to see that many people genuinely enjoying themselves and the music you perform. Like most Legions today, the Kamloops chapter carries a few styles of craft beer, Red Collar at this particular location, saving us from the usual macro swill. A great show, tremendous people and some tasty beer make this night one to remember. The cherry on top? I get to sleep in my own bed when it’s all over.
Sunday, May 5th – Kelowna
To fully grasp the dynamic between Kamloops and Kelowna look no further than the relationship between Springfield and Shelbyville. Here we see the tale of two mid-sized cities forever locked in competition and comparison with perhaps a dash of insecurity mixed in for good measure. Kelowna lauds its beautiful lake and beaches, so Kamloops talks about the good life on the river. After a couple decades of competing university-colleges Kelowna went the route of having a satellite UBC campus while Kamloops received full university status with the inception of Thompson Rivers University. I’m not going to lie; the only WHL game I went to this year was when the Blazers hosted the Rockets in a single-game elimination tie breaker that an undisciplined Kelowna team lost handedly.
The reality of the situation, and one that I can openly admit as a Kamloopsian, is that for the most part Kelowna has slightly nicer things than Kamloops. This includes landscape, businesses and amenities; they’re all just a touch more developed and refined. Even in terms of music, Kelowna has exported groups like Yukon Blonde, Ladyhawk, and We Are The City. Up until just recently, however, craft beer was owned by Kamloops. The Noble Pig arrived on the scene in 2010 followed by Red Collar in 2014. Both projects were the visions of brewmaster David Beardsell and both were executed to modern standards. While Kelowna had a brewery and a brewpub of its own, it wasn’t until BNA opened in 2015 that the city truly arrived. This arrival, like all things in Kelowna, was done in the biggest way imaginable with three other great breweries opening in short order and in a one-block radius from each other, to boot. Today we’re playing at one of them, Kettle River Brewing.
We’ve got an afternoon show and the tasting room is absolutely packed. It’s a cosy space that holds 50-ish people with a roll up garage door leading to a patio. The room is a great blend of an industrial aesthetic contrasted against fantastic modern art, curated by local artist and resident bartender Ben Arcega. To top it all off, today happens to be the day that the Little TOKYO Ramen Trailer is on site. Given my favourite Kelowna spot, Wasabi Ramen and Izakaya, is closed on Sundays, this is a huge win. We round up some delicious pints of Belgian Pale Ale from Ben, which are the perfect blend of citrus aromas and spicy esters in a light-bodied beer, and play the hits. Afterwards, while we enjoy a ridiculously tasty bowl of Shoyu Ramen, hang out with our pals from the band Groceries, and enjoy the overall vibes of this beautiful afternoon I think to myself, “Kelowna, you’re not so bad after all… even if your hockey team has won 2 fewer Memorial Cups than ours.”
Thursday, May 9th – En Route to Edmonton
We’ve had a few days off to work and otherwise appear like everyday members of society, but now we’re back on the road with a few shows in Alberta before heading to the Kootenays. I hate to break it to you, Alberta, but you’re going to have to get your own Ale Trail if you want me to talk about you. Luckily for us, we get to stop in at the final frontier of BC craft beer before entering the void of Alberta, the criminally underrated Three Ranges Brewing in Valemount.
It’s a bit of a haul for our drive today, as we have to get to Edmonton early enough to accommodate an interview before our show, but brewer/owner Michael Lewis is kind enough to take a few minutes out of his brew day to make sure we have enough of his Tail Slap IPA to survive in the prairies. Michael and I go back a number of years from my time in the industry, but we actually have a cool, small world connection. Michael’s journey to opening a brewery began when he was living in Victoria and won Phillips’ annual home brewer competition with his Pilsner recipe. The winner’s recipe was brewed and bottled at Phillips, where I just so happened to be working at the time of Michael’s victory. Beyond an interesting coincidence, that whole story emphasizes a commonality between craft beer and music: amazing things happen when you can dream of something, turn it into a reality, and work hard enough to get people engaged with it.
With a few flats of Three Ranges cans on board we head onto the final stretch of our journey to the badlands. We’ll see you on the other side.
Saturday, May 11th – Nelson
I had planned on beginning this entry with a bunch of jokes about pipelines, trucks, and the UCP, but I’m going to pump the brakes and just admit that I think both Edmonton and Calgary are rad. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in both cities, although the big winner on the Alberta trip was a stop in Lacombe. It’s home to Blindman Brewing, who are putting out some amazing beers.
We make our way back into BC via Fernie so we can stop in at Fernie Brewing. Their head brewer, Jeff Demaniuk, and I worked together at Phillips, and seeing as I’m rarely in Fernie, a beer is as good excuse as any to catch up with him. Luckily for all of us, Jeff is up to give the band a tour of the brewery to boot.
It has been two years since I was last in Fernie and at that time they were in the process of renovating their tasting room. The finished product is absolutely stunning with a spacious patio attached to it. While in Vancouver you can hardly swing a cat without hitting a tasting room with the minimal, raw wood aesthetic, but at Fernie Brewing this look seems totally appropriate given there are steep, snow-capped mountains on the other side of the road.
It’s easy to forget that FBC has been around since 2003, sitting comfortably in the second wave of BC craft breweries. After a walk through their facility it is quite apparent this is one of the most established breweries in the province. I also believe Jeff’s time spent at Phillips has imparted an influence on the beers he’s brewing, as the majority of their offerings were west coast inspired. While he was quick to point out that their “Project 9 Pilsner” pays the bills around there, it’s some of the seasonals that are truly exciting. My personal favourite was the “Nighthawk Farmhouse IPA,” a Sorachi Ace and Hallertau Blanc hopped beer fermented with saison yeast. It was seriously exceptional.
We bid farewell to Jeff and we’re back on the road to Nelson. Despite living in the Interior, I have only travelled through the Kootenays a handful of times. It’s the first time out here for the rest of the band. Words can’t adequately describe how beautiful of an area it is. It feels as though you’re in the middle of Vancouver Island, or even Stanley Park, but with dry, 30-degree weather. You enter Nelson through this cinematic descent into a lakefront town surrounded by insanely beautiful mountains and you forget that you were cracking flat earth and chem-trail jokes at the expense of Albertans just a few hours prior.
We have two shows in Nelson, both with Calgary band Yvette, with the first being a stripped-down afternoon set at Torchlight Brewing. Torchlight have been on my radar since Day 1, mainly because they opened with a Cascadian Dark Ale as one of their first beers. It’s just the ultimate style, as far as I’m concerned, and I love the boldness of any brewery who puts out a CDA, let alone opening with one! Sadly there is no CDA on tap today, but they do have a lovely juice bomb pale ale called “The Big Squeezy,” which I enjoy throughout our set. They also serve really nice cocktails, which is a totally pleasant surprise for a brewery tasting room. The entire vibe is great, as the inside nailed the modern decor while the outside has a patio which looks out onto the lake and mountains. There are also a couple of classic ’90s arcade machines, one of which is Mortal Kombat 2. This is serendipity at its finest as one of our dumb, ongoing van jokes has been a bit on Scorpion’s “Get Over Here” quote being used as a tagline to market cities. Example: Nelson, BC – Where the Living’s Easy, Get Over Here! Hilarious, right?
We take in all the sights of downtown Nelson and then head over to our night show at a venue called the Royal. We sense the crowd is on edge as we take the stage without a horn section, a member with dreadlocks or any Dave Matthews Band t-shirts. We call an audible and launch into an all-out epic space jam (not the Michael Jordan variety) to start the set, which is so insanely good it could only have been rivaled by Pink Floyd’s “Echoes.” The room erupts, and chalices of Nelson Brewing’s “Harvest Moon Organic Hemp Ale” are raised in our honour. At the conclusion of our set, a bearded gentleman stands up and decrees “You hipsters aren’t so bad after all! I’ve got a 6-man tent in my backyard. You guys can crash there tonight if you like.” And we did.
Friday, May 24th – Kelowna
We’re back in Kelowna again for a show. While we are making an effort to start to get out on the road for extended tours, we generally find ourselves quite busy with weekend shows. Being situated in the lower-centre quadrant of the province allows us to head out in a multitude of directions for quick one-offs.
We begin our time in Kelowna with a Staff Room Session at BNA Brewing (which you can watch here). I have a special affinity for this brewery as I was privy to seeing a lot of their initial build-out prior to opening. This brewery is a young crew from top to bottom. They remind me of my favourite times at Phillips Brewing, where there was always such excitement around chasing and building dreams, even when we felt like we were flying by the seat of our pants. Honestly, being in the BNA space is almost surreal as it is a physical manifestation of their dream.
We run into some familiar faces upon arriving. Owner Kyle Nixon is the first to greet us and is his usual charismatic self. He is the kind of guy who personally welcomes everyone into his establishment and who has a fantastic repertoire of 90s references. Kyle gives us some super casual directions to where we’re playing: “Just head up past the Bocce court and hang a hard right at the Airstream trailer. If you hit the bowling lanes you’ve gone too far.” Adult fantasy land, straight up. Next, we’re met by Jill, who has been part of the BNA team since Day 1. Jill has us performing a stripped-down set in their staff room, carefully adorned by all of Kyle’s vital ’90s nostalgia. The consummate professional, Jill sorts us out with a well-rounded selection of BNA beers, though I gravitate towards the Pilsner.
I should preface that Pilsner is my desert island beer. Yes, I read the Growler article about how all beer nerds start with Pilsners and meander their way through all the styles before returning to square one. I know I’m a cliche; eat my shorts. I am a long-standing fan of BNA’s beers, with their “Purple Reign” kettle sour being high up on my list of “Damn Good Beers,” but their “Supreme” Pilsner makes me feel as though I could lock myself into a lifetime subscription and call it quits on trying anything else again. It’s that good! As I mentioned, the Pilsner style Czechs off (XD) a lot of boxes for me but BNA’s version really scratches a modern itch. Hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Hallertau Blanc, the BNA take on the style has all the classic crispness one looks for paired with grape and berry aromas. We eat some exceptional food after our performance, highlighted by the superb “Mushrooms on Toast,” and then we’re off to the next stop.
Tonight we’re playing at the Film Factory, which is a production studio by day and venue for tonight only. It is also conveniently located in the Kelowna North brewery district and we are a single block from three awesome breweries. We were at Kettle River a few weeks ago, and elect to stop in at Vice & Virtue, the newest addition to the neighbourhood. The Vice & Virtue space is the polar opposite to the cavernous BNA location, with the brewery, kitchen and tasting room all crammed into one storefront. While the rest of the band dive into a round of “Homewrecker” hazy IPA (which is sensational), I dial up a pint of their “White Lie” Pilsner. It’s hopped with Loral and Saphir, which is an amazing contrast of a Noble-style hop against the citrus and spice of a modern breed. Much like BNA’s take, this has all the elements one would expect of a classic Pilsner but with a slight twist.
Our show goes amazingly. We re-use some banter about Springfield vs Shelbyville from our earlier set and the crowd loves it. Deceit, 90s references and Pilsners; they never get old.
Thank you for taking the time to read our tales! If you’re a vinyl enthusiast be sure to pick up a copy of our record at your local shop, including:
Victoria – Vinyl Envy
Vancouver – Neptoon Records
Kamloops – Barnacle Records
Kelowna – Milkcrate Records
We will be out and about on the road again throughout the summer. Some upcoming dates you can see us at are: