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

Cowichan Valley writer Jennifer Manuel will headlining YakFest on March 1. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Cowichan Valley writer to headline next YakFest on March 1

YakFest is a B.C.-based monthly women’s event held online via Zoom

The North Island College campus in Port Alberni is located on Roger Street. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
North Island College plans tourism networking event

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on Vancouver Island’s tourism industry

Members of Alberni Valley Rescue Squad were at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020 to practice helicopter hover exit training with Ascent Helicopters out of Parksville. When executing a search in difficult terrain, it isn’t always possible to land a helicopter, so volunteer searchers must be certified in hover exits. (BILL MCLEOD/ Special to the AV News)
Alberni Valley Rescue Society receives much-needed $40K gaming grant

Bamfield volunteer fire department also funded

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

The current exhibit at the Rollin Art Centre features paintings from the Community Arts Council’s permanent collection. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
ARTS AROUND: Last chance to join Alberni Valley artist guide

The guide will include local artists and a map

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

Most Read