Tour de Suds
The BC Ale Trail leads, often indirectly, to the province's best breweries. Lucky for you, these happen to be in ski towns.
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The Powder Highway isn’t actually one highway, and British Columbia’s Ale Trail isn’t really a trail. Both meander their way up, down, and around the mountain ranges that define B.C.’s landscape. But since skiing and après-ski beer go together like a boot in a binding, it’s fitting that the Powder Highway and BC Ale Trail overlap. Fitting—and great fun (as long as your road trip has a sober driver). Just don’t expect to travel in a straight line.
Our powder-meets-ale tour starts in Revelstoke. A local with a Ph.D. in nuclear physics launched Mt. Begbie Brewery in 1996, more than a decade before the debut of Revelstoke Mountain Resort. In 2017, Mt. Begbie—now with a big new tasting room—was named Canadian Craft Brewery of the year, and its Kölsch won World Beer Awards gold.
Next, Canada’s eastbound Highway 1 goes up and over the Selkirks at Rogers Pass, slicing through Glacier National Park. In Golden, dry snow coats the ridgelines of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. At popular Whitetooth Brewing, a four-vessel system supports Belgian styles like witbier and dubbel plus West Coast microbrew standards like IPA and stout.
From Golden, Highway 93 follows the Columbia River southeast between the Purcells and Rockies. Near Panorama Mountain Resort, Arrowhead Brewing Company’s eclectic décor (vintage gas station meets Betty Boop) matches its pours (think blueberry tequila hefeweizen). From there, it’s southeast again then briefly north to Fernie, where Fernie Brewing Company has grown from a 2003 start-up in a family barn to one of B.C.’s biggest craft breweries. Après-ski here is loud, lively, and friendly, with bushy bearded barkeeps and a deep roster of brews, from straight-up pilsner to an array of hearty IPAs.
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The 200-mile route to Rossland wriggles south, north, and west, cresting beautiful Kootenay Pass at 5,820 feet. At Red Mountain, 4,200 acres of groomers, meadows, steeps, and trees pair well with downtown’s Rossland Beer Company. The locally-focused “nanobrewery” keeps prices low and five varieties flowing. One hour north is Nelson, where Nelson Brewing launched in 1991. Today, four craft breweries hold court in town while Whitewater’s signature mix of family-style and big mountain skiing reigns supreme some 5,000 feet above. From here, head north back to Revy to close the loop, or west over the Monashees to B.C.’s wine country. Either way, you really can’t go wrong.
SKI Magazine’s BC Ale Trail Cheat Sheet
There are 17 Ale Trail routes but we forged our own.
Mt. Begbie Brewery, Revelstoke
Try: High Country Kölsch [mt-begbie.com]
Whitetooth Brewing Company, Golden
Try: Truth Dare Consequence Nordic Imperial Stout [whitetoothbrewing.com]
Arrowhead Brewing Company, Invermere
Try: Black Jack Irish Stout [arrowheadbrewingcompany.ca]
Fernie Brewing Company, Fernie
Try: Slingshot Session IPA [ferniebrewing.com]
Rossland Beer Company, Rossland
Try: PayDirt Pale Ale [rosslandbeer.com]
Nelson Brewing, Nelson
Try: Harvest Moon Organic Hemp Ale [nelsonbrewing.com]
This article was originally published in the December 2018 print edition of SKI Magazine.