Bart and Tracey Larson during their first year of operation in the mid-1990s. Within their first year, they produced the iconic Begbie Cream Ale, Tall Timber and High Country Kolsch. (Contributed)

Bart and Tracey Larson during their first year of operation in the mid-1990s. Within their first year, they produced the iconic Begbie Cream Ale, Tall Timber and High Country Kolsch. (Contributed)

The art of really good beer: Revelstoke brewery celebrates 25 years

Mt. Begbie Brewery owners Bart and Tracey Larson reflect on their company’s history

When Bart Larson was 16 years old, his dad bought a beer brewing book. The two decided to try a recipe for blacksmith’s beer. They brewed it in a large green garbage bin, not even using brewers yeast.

“It was horrible,” said Bart.

Bart continued to refine beer recipes during his studies at university on the nuclear spin transfer of helium 3. However, sometimes he would sneak away to Chicago to attend brewing classes.

Eventually, Bart had to make a decision. Either take a nuclear physicist job in New Mexico at Los Alamos, where the first atomic bomb was created or start a microbrewery in his home town of Revelstoke.

In the end, beer won.

Bart and Tracey Larson during their first year of operation in the mid-1990s. Within their first year, they produced the iconic Begbie Cream Ale, Tall Timber and High Country Kolsch. (Contributed)

Bart and his partner Tracey started Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. in 1996. The company is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

“It’s all gone by really fast,” said Tracey.

READ MORE: ‘People didn’t know that beer had flavour’: 23 years of brewery success

When the company started, there were only a handful of other breweries in the province. Back then, Budweiser was the drink of choice. Now, there are 167 breweries in B.C.

Because the bank would not support such a risky venture, the two got funding through Community Futures. To save money, Bart built his own fermenting tanks and his mom painted the tap handles.

“We could barely pay ourselves,” said Tracey.

The first keg the brewery produced — which was the Begbie Cream Ale — went to the Regent Hotel. Although the owner said he really liked it, he asked if its flavour could be taken down a notch or two next time.

As people’s taste buds have vastly changed in 25 years, the Begbie Cream Ale is the company’s lowest hopped beer and considered one of the easiest to drink.

“It’s crushable,” Tracey said.

One Tracey’s proudest beers the company has brewed is the High Country Kolsch. She said Mt. Begbie Brewing was one of the first Canadian companies to produce that style — a light, star coloured beer with a clean, dry finish.

“At first people were scared of it. It had a troublesome German sounding name,” she said. “But we stuck with it.”

The beer has since won 10 trophies, including one at the World Beer Awards in 2017.

Tracey said if people want to judge a brewery, try their lightest beer as it’s hard to hide mistakes in it.

Over the years, the company has moved three times. It first opened on Victoria Street, where Judy Designs in now located. A few years later it moved to the building that now houses Bighorn Auto. Lastly, it moved to a larger facility in 2016 near the Hill Crest Hotel in Johnson Heights.

READ MORE: Inside Mount Begbie Brewing’s new brewery

While the company produces cans of beer for distribution across B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, a significant portion of their revenue is draft beer for restaurants and pubs — a sector that has been severely hammered by COVID-19.

“We’ve had quite significant losses. It’s hard for us to pivot,” Tracey said.

COVID-19 is the longest and must uncertain challenge the company has faced.

“It’s hard to plan for the future. Do we hire or lay people off?” asked Bart.

Regardless, the company plans to release an anniversary beer this month with part of the proceeds going to charity. Other coming changes this year include a new modernized logo and no more plastic rings for six packs of beer.

“We strive to be better, not bigger,” said Bart.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com


 

@pointypeak701
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC Craft beerBusiness

 

Bart and Tracey Larson enjoying a Begbie Cream Ale. The couple have been together for 40 years. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)

Bart and Tracey Larson enjoying a Begbie Cream Ale. The couple have been together for 40 years. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)

Just Posted

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
Over 42,000 first doses of COVID-19 vaccine given to South Okanagan residents

That includes more than half of the residents in the Penticton local health area

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Police working to identify the two bodies found in Naramata

Expect big police presence in the area this week as the investigation continues

Keremeos RCMP reported May 12, 2021 that missing man Nathan Bell, 38, has been found safe. (Contributed)
Missing Keremeos man found safe

Nathan Bell, 38, was last seen April 29 before being located

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

Vernon’s Tanya Wick, human resources VP at Tolko Industries Ltd., has been named the 2021 HR Professional of the Year by the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of British Columbia and Yukon. (CPHR BC & Yukon photo)
Okanagan resident gets top provincial award for HR excellence

Tolko’s Tanya Wick has earned the title of 2021 HR Professional of the Year

The City of Vernon is taking a close look at six high-priority Okanagan Lake access points, including three sites along Tronson Road (pictured above) in May 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon council looking closely at Okanagan Lake access points

Six access points have been identified as ideal for recreation

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press Media file)
More than 40% of Central Okanagan residents have received 1st vaccine dose

Local clinics have administered 81,247 first doses to Central Okanagan residents

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)
Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Most Read