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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

The Sprig of Heather restaurant at R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum features a 40-by-40 foot covered pavilion in the heart of the public garden. (Photo contributed)
Salmon Arm’s RJ Haney Heritage Village preps for opening of new attractions

No date set yet, new highlights will be Sprig of Heather restaurant, Children’s Discovery Centre

A topographic (3D) perspective captured from Google Earth, to create a perspective of the approximate proposed cut block outlines on Mount Ida in relation familiar local landmarks. (Alex Inselberg image)
Salmon Arm council’s concerns eased over Mount Ida logging

Fire chief explains proposed cut complements wildfire risk reduction efforts

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Dogs can understand some English

Your morning start for Wednesday, May 12, 2021

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

Followers of CBC reporter Justin McElroy’s twitter feed responded to his criticism of Salmon Arm’s new municipal flag by offering alternative design options. (Justin McElroy/Twitter)
Salmon Arm flag design flounders on internet

‘Business card’ design prompts creative alternatives

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

Vancouver court on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Defence lawyers call foul as Crown counsel granted access to COVID-19 vaccines

Defence attorneys are pushing the province to extend inoculation access to workers in courtrooms across B.C.

A 30-year-old Kelowna woman is facing potential charges after allegedly driving impaired before crashing into a Mugford Road residence and fleeing the scene on May 11. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Alleged impaired driver crashes into Kelowna home before fleeing on foot

The crash caused damages to the yard, the surrounding chain fence and the residence’s deck

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday April 13, 2018. Indigenous leaders are calling for an investigation into the conduct of Mounties on Vancouver Island after two police shootings of members of a small First Nations community in three months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Indigenous leaders call for clarity, investigation into RCMP after B.C. shooting

The RCMP declined to comment on the requests by Indigenous leaders

A property crime map for the month of March shows the hot spot for crimes is centered around the area where the Victory Church homeless shelter is located. (City Submitted)
B.C. Premier asked to intervene in Penticton homeless shelter dispute

Mayor sends letter urging premier to reconsider Eby’s use of paramountcy powers

Colleen Price, Vancouver Island University’s bachelor of science in nursing program chairperson, says she is impressed with how students have persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Next generation of B.C. nurses already showing resilience

University program head says learning had to be adjusted amidst pandemic

The Vernon Community Arts Centre is seeking member artist submissions for a summer exhibit called Enchanted: A World of Fantasy. Submissions are open until June 30, 2021. (VCAC photo)
Vernon artists’ fantasy worlds wanted for summer exhibit

Vernon Community Arts Centre is seeking submissions for Enchanted: A World of Fantasy

A woman is hoping that her dog Ginger ran away from the fire that erupted in her Osoyoos home Saturday night. The home caught fire twice in two days and is totally destroyed. (Contributed)
Dog missing after saving woman from huge house fire in Osoyoos

The woman escaped the burning home, but she hopes her dog Ginger ran away to safety

Most Read