Combining a skiing adventure while exploring the Kootenay Rockies West Ale Trail from Penticton, we visited the Trail Beer Refinery along with a few other breweries nearby as we meandered to RED Mountain Resort.
The 13 local business partners who opened Trail’s first craft brewery (March 2017) thought the name should embrace the historic connection to mining, refining and smelting.
Brewmaster Sheri Konkin said, “Trail is a hard-working and friendly city. Our motto ‘Work hard. Play harder.’ reflects that.” Her husband Mike, Trail Beer Refinery CEO and spokesperson, was born and raised in the region. They returned 20 years ago to raise children. A former respiratory therapist, Sheri was mentored by brewmaster Andrew Anker, formerly of Mill Street Brewery, hired to assist startup. Sheri boosts brewing knowledge online through the Siebel Institute of Technology, Chicago.
Rich wood tones, industrial accents such as lights, beer taps and beer flight containers, and art accents by local Claude Mocci exude warmth. Rich aromas wafting from its complementary kitchen offering handcrafted pizzas, shares and small plates, soup, salad, sandwiches, burgers, desserts and daily specials such as fish-and-chips are tantalizing.
Easy drinking Silver City Lager and Trail Ale, popular with locals, was sampled plus Thunder Road IPA, Sixty-One Lager, Oh Bourbon and Dirty Secret Stout. Trail Beer also manufactures Zero Vodka Soda in various flavours. Good food, good beer. No wonder the place is packed especially on game nights for the Trail Smoke Eaters hockey team.
The oldest of these craft breweries, Rossland Beer Company was established in 2012 by Owners/Operators Petri Raito and Ryan Arnaud, brewmaster. It crams a lot of community love into a small space. Evident by a 15 to 20 per cent sales growth annually, Rossland Beer lives up to its slogan “Small in size but big in flavour” despite limited space.
With Petri we tasted Red Zeppelin Raspberry Wheat Ale (seasonal), Helter Smelter Amber Ale, Green Jacket Pale Ale, 4 on The Floor IPA, and the new Faulty Towers Pale Ale featuring New Zealand’s Nelson Sauvin Hops. Many brews are one offs and may not reappear. In the taproom, the gold medal Seven Summits Milk Stout was out-of-stock.
Rossland Beer sticks to its beer focus and offers light snacks only. Occasionally a food truck is onsite and a local bakery sometimes offers sandwiches. People are encouraged to bring in their food to pair with the beer.
Snow gods blessed RED with the most January snow days in over 15 years, making our drive more challenging. An hour added by wintry roads, we arrived at Tailout Brewing’s noon opening.
Beer tastes best in the summer – especially after scuba diving. Yet, the flight of finely made craft brews revived us completely. Open three months, Tailout Brewing is already a focal point. Without its own restaurant, it collaborates with local favourite The Grand Buddha Bistro conveniently located upstairs. Tailout specials include four items. Order take out to access the whole menu and bring it downstairs to eat with a beer. Thai food not your thing? Bring in other food.
Tailout’s owners are fishing enthusiasts. “Tailout” refers to that special shallow of water before it spills over into another riffle. Once monthly, the “Pint of Knowledge” evening includes topics like Alpine trout and Spey fishing in the Columbia. There are fly-tying nights, bingo, crib tournaments and concerts. When spring sweeps into the valley, Tailout will fling its garage door open and hopes to add a patio. “Another DIY project like inside,” noted Hedin Nelson-Chorney, owner/general manager, leading us through our flight of well-crafted Twin River Red; Bomb Blonde; Coffee Blonde (a limited-edition cold brew on nitro sourced from Seven Summits Coffee Company, Rossland); and Alpine Start Mocha Stout. We also tasted the flagship Single Spey IPA. Starting small, if pushed 10 brews could be produced monthly. Hedin added, “We all have an affinity for outdoor lifestyle including fishing. That’s why Castlegar is perfect. You can ski, bike or hike in the morning and fish in the afternoon. Who doesn’t need a beer to accompany that?”
Punctuating his comment, Mary Lusty, brewmaster, appeared after back-country skiing. For brewing training, Mary attended Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec. She worked at the Canmore Brewing Company and Hedin at Parks Canada when craft beer love and zeal for the outdoors united them. The brewery team includes Mike Davidson, Kent Kristensen, Bruce Watson and Travis Verbeek.
More Alike Than Different
Each brewery has distinct style yet shares craft beer passion and connection to the communities that drive their success. The beer names are creatively intentional whether on theme with fishing, history or lifestyle: Pull up a chair to hear the stories. Each brewery has a tap on rotation showcasing other breweries and other drinks such as sodas, local wine and cider. The cooperative spirit extends to Angry Hen Brewing (Kaslo), and Backroads Brewing Company, Nelson Brewing Company, Torchlight Brewing Co. (Nelson) and beyond.
An historic Inn and saloon in Rossland, The Flying Steamshovel is named from lore about a contraption built by Lou Gagnon to ferry gold ore off Red Mountain’s steep slopes, as told on the website’s ‘History’ tab. The gastropub with upstairs boutique rooms features an award-winning menu, 14 craft beer taps, BC-focused wines and handcrafted cocktails.
On stage every week in the neighbourhood pub venue are Canadian and International music artists. General Manager Dan D’Amour noted guest rooms are being renovated with plans underway for a basement expansion and the addition of six taps.
As part of Rossland’s upcoming Beer Goggles Craft Beer Festival, the Flying Steamshovel will host a tap takeover by Penticton’s Highway 97, Neighbourhood Brewing and Bad Tattoo Brewing. A special menu will utilize one beer from each of the breweries.
Drive about six minutes from Rossland to RED Mountain Resort – Powder Highway Canada’s first stop. RED identifies as “the last great, unspoiled resort” and delivers 3,850 acres of pristine skiing. Hilltop views are incredible. RED’s unique lure is in-bounds cat skiing ($10 per run).
On best lists by The New York Times, Powder and Skiing magazines, aside from the superb skiing and snowboarding, “RED boasts world-class cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat-biking and other activities all easily accessible” through the Get Lost Adventure Centre. For craft beer and other après action, Powder named Rafters Lounge “North America’s Best Ski Area Bar.” At Rafters for lunch we discovered Borscht with Sourdough and craft beer.
“Experience the true soul exhilaration of living for today,” invites The Josie Hotel, named by World Ski Awards as Canada’s Best Ski Boutique Hotel 2019. We were hosted at this genuine ski-in/ski-out property, steps from RED Mountain chairlifts. Fortified by The Velvet’s elevated breakfast, we were stoked to hit the slopes. The Josie’s Ski Concierge mountainside spoiled us with the extravagance of slipping into warm ski boots before strapping on gear and sliding easily over to the lift.
While our ski timing missed the best of powder, RED’s many lifts, varied terrain and vistas made for a memorable experience. Having skied RED last in the early seventies, the expansion blew me away!
Modern chic design yet cozy, The Josie is welcoming. We loved the repurposed chairlift seats in the front lobby! Guests have access to a premier fitness facility, spa and crackling fire pits. Fair warning: Cloud-like beds in beautiful rooms could seduce you into spending your après ski time tucked away.
Another seduction awaits in the locally inspired craft cooking of The Velvet Restaurant and Lounge. Executive Chef Marc-Andre Choquette created a French-influenced seasonal menu and locally inspired drink list. We began with the Seven Summits Milk Stout by Rossland Beer Company. We shared Bison Carpaccio, Salmon Tartare feature, Beef Tenderloin and Molten Chocolate Cake paired exquisitely with Bench 1775 Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah 2016.
In its 7th year, the annual Beer Goggles Craft Beer Festival returns to RED, March 27 and 28, 2020. The “finest craft breweries, thirstiest beer enthusiasts and hungriest powder fans” gather for a weekend of “fun and foam”. Open to ages 19+ with proper identification, buy tickets online or at RED guest services
“Beer Goggles is not simply a beer festival, but a celebration of the craft beer industry,” says Don Thompson, GM of RED Mountain Resort. “And RED is kind of the ‘craft beer’ of ski resorts: better taste, less filler! We really feel a common bond with many of these breweries and respect their daring independence and devotion to making people happy.”
Embrace the outdoor lifestyle of Kootenay Rockies and track the locals to the best local après ales.